8 min read

Wake Up To Politics - November 8, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, November 8, 2019. 87 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 361 days until Election Day 2020. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com!

Also, it's my 18th birthday! 🎉

Michael Bloomberg reconsidering 2020 presidential bid

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is "actively preparing to enter the Democratic presidential primary," the New York Times reports.

Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman, took himself out of contention for the 2020 presidential race in March, penning an op-ed in his eponymous news organization. "I believe I would defeat Donald Trump in a general election," he wrote. "But I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field." Bloomberg continued, writing that "for now, the best way for me to help our country is by rolling up my sleeves and continuing to get work done."

However, Bloomberg's longtime adviser Howard Wolfson confirmed in a statement posted on Twitter on Thursday that the former mayor is "increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned" to defeat President Donald Trump and is now reconsidering whether to throw his hat in the ring.

A spokesperson also confirmed to Wake Up To Politics that Bloomberg is "gathering signatures in Alabama to qualify for the primary." The Yellowhammer State has the earliest filing deadline of any 2020 primary state: today. She cautioned that Bloomberg hasn't made a final decision yet, but is "doing what has to be done to keep his options open."

As the Washington Post reported, Bloomberg's potential entrance into the 2020 race is "a reflection of anxiety among party elites about the unsettled field of current contenders," as former Vice President Joe Biden has made a series of stumbles on the campaign trail and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), his top two challengers, are seen by some as too liberal to compete against President Trump in the general election.

However, despite worries in some establishment circles, polls have consistently found that Democrats are satisfied with their 2020 presidential field, which is the largest in U.S. history. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last month found that 85% of Democratic primary voters were "somewhat" or "very satisfied" with their candidates," while a Gallup poll found that 75% of Democrats are "generally pleased" with the field, "among the highest levels of satisfaction with candidates for the Democratic nomination Gallup has measured since it first asked the question in 1992."

Jason Schechter, the chief communications officer at Bloomberg LP, told Wake Up To Politics in February — when Bloomberg was actively considering a 2020 campaign the first time — that if the billionaire ex-mayor were to run, he would do so as a "strong moderate," likely seeking the ideological lane currently occupied by Biden. Schechter also hinted at a possible late entry for Bloomberg, saying that the businessman wasn't "driven by the same timeline as some of the other candidates" because "he's got the good fortune to have his own resources and to be self-funded and he's got his own stuff."

With an estimated net worth of around $52 billion, Bloomberg is currently the eighth-richest person in America. Still, he would face numerous roadblocks if he sought to enter the presidential race this late, including the challenge of qualifying for the upcoming debates, which requires increased poll numbers and quickly mobilizing small-dollar donors.

Bloomberg is reportedly not the only high-profile Democrat who is taking a second look at a presidential bid, with less than 100 days to go until the Iowa caucuses: according to the Associated Press, former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) have had conversations with supporters about potential campaigns as well.

Both Sanders and Warren were quick to welcome Bloomberg, a Republican-turned Independent-turned Democrat, to the 2020 field with messages on Twitter. If he were to join the race, Bloomberg would likely act as a prominent billionaire foil for both contenders' progressive agendas.

--- Another angle to consider: Bloomberg's potential presidential campaign also causes problems for the journalists at Bloomberg News, who are now forced to reckon with how to cover their own boss fairly. Kathy Kiely, a longtime journalist who resigned in protest as Washington bureau chief at Bloomberg Politics when the ex-mayor was considering a presidential bid in 2016, told Wake Up To Politics: "I've said all this before but since Mayor Mike is making me, I'll say it again: This is not good news for my friends and former colleagues. Why would a smart man invest in a great reporting team and then deliberately undermine it?"

Impeachment: The latest

A transcript of the closed-door testimony of George Kent, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, was released by House Democrats on Thursday. In his deposition, Kent joined other officials in describing the push by President Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for Ukraine to open investigations into Trump's political rivals.

Kent testified that he was told by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and a central figure in the Ukraine saga, that Trump "wanted nothing less than President Zelensky [of Ukraine] to go to [a] microphone and say 'investigations, Biden, and Clinton,'" referring to the president's potential 2020 opponent and 2016 opponent, respectively.

He also described Giuliani's push for investigations as "injurious to the rule of law" and accused the attorney of leading a "campaign of lies" and "slander" against Marie Yovanovitch, who would eventually be ousted as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.

Kent told lawmakers that he repeatedly expressed concerns about the Trump administration's pushing Ukraine to launch politically-charged investigations. He recalled telling a fellow State Department official in August: "If you' re asking me, have we ever gone to the Ukrainians and asked them to investigate or prosecute individuals for political reasons, the answer is, I hope we haven't, and we shouldn't because that goes against everything that we are trying to promote in post Soviet states for the last 28 years, which is the promotion of the rule of law."

Kent will be one of the witnesses at the first televised House impeachment hearing, which is scheduled for November 13; William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, is also slated to testify.

More impeachment news...

--- "An aide to Vice President Mike Pence who listened to the call between President Donald Trump and the Ukrainian President told impeachment inquiry investigators on Thursday that she found the conversation to be unusual because it was political in nature, according to two sources familiar with the testimony." (CNN)

--- "House Republicans’ latest plan to shield President Trump from impeachment is to focus on at least three deputies — U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, and possibly acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney — who they say could have acted on their own to influence Ukraine policy." (Washington Post)

--- "The Government Accountability Office is reviewing the Trump administration’s hold on nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine after a Democratic senator asked if the freeze violated appropriations law." (Wall Street Journal)

--- Recommended read: "Ukraine’s Zelensky Bowed to Trump’s Demands, Until Luck Spared Him" (New York Times)

--- Happening today: House Democrats issued a subpoena on Thursday for acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to testify in a closed-door deposition today. Mulvaney is still not expected to appear, now is Office of Management and Budget Associate Director for National Security Programs Mark Sandy, whose testimony has also been requested for today.

The Rundown

Early look at "Anonymous" book: "Senior Trump administration officials considered resigning en masse last year in a 'midnight self-massacre' to sound a public alarm about President Trump’s conduct, but rejected the idea because they believed it would further destabilize an already teetering government, according to a new book by an unnamed author."

"In 'A Warning' by Anonymous, obtained by The Washington Post ahead of its release, a writer described only as 'a senior official in the Trump administration' paints a chilling portrait of the president as cruel, inept and a danger to the nation he was elected to lead." (Washington Post)

Sessions announces Senate bid: "Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday that he is jumping into the race for his old Senate seat in Alabama — despite warnings from allies of President Donald Trump that he should sit out the election."

"Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Trump's campaign, suffered a huge falling out with the president over his decision to recuse himself from the federal probe into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. Trump has said naming Sessions as attorney general was the 'biggest mistake' of his presidency, and he has called his leadership of the Justice Department 'a total joke.'" (NBC News)

Trump ordered to pay $2 million over misuse of foundation: "A state judge ordered President Trump to pay $2 million in damages to nonprofit groups on Thursday after the president admitted misusing money raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to promote his presidential bid, pay off business debts and purchase a portrait of himself for one of his hotels."

"The damage award brought an end to a protracted legal battle over the foundation, whose giving patterns and management became a flash point during Mr. Trump’s run for office in 2016. New York’s attorney general had filed suit last year accusing Mr. Trump and his family of using the foundation as an extension of his businesses and his presidential campaign." (New York Times)

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Today at the White House

--- President Trump travels to Atlanta, Georgia, today. At 12:45 p.m., he participates in a roundtable with supporters. At 1:25 p.m., he delivers remarks at a fundraising committee luncheon. At 3 p.m., he delivers remarks at a launch event for the Black Voices for Trump Coalition. The president will then return to Washington, D.C.

--- At 9 a.m., Vice President Pence participates in a moon tree planting at the vice presidential residence. Pence will then travel to Atlanta to join the president at the Black Voices for Trump Coalition rollout, addressing the event at 2:40 p.m. The vice president will then return to Washington, D.C.

--- At 9 a.m., Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie holds a press briefing from the White House briefing room.

Today in Congress

--- The Senate convenes at 8 a.m. for a pro forma session, with no business slated to be conducted.

--- The House is on recess this week.

Today at the Supreme Court

--- The Supreme Court justices meet for their weekly conference today.

Today on the trail

--- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) holds an education discussion and a meet and greet in Sioux City, Iowa.

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden travels to New Hampshire today. He will formally file for the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary at the State House in Concord, attends a roundtable discussion on the Violence Against Women Act in Concord, and holds a town hall in Franklin.

--- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) visits South Carolina, participating in an event at a church in Florence, speaking at the College of Charleston in Charleston, visiting with participants of the Turning Leaf Project in North Charleston, and participating in the National Black Legislative Caucus Environmental Justice Forum in Orangeburg.

--- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg kicks off a four-day bus tour across New Hampshire, holding events in Manchester, Stratham, and Salem.

--- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) holds fundraisers in Los Angeles, California.

--- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) participates in a town hall hosted by the labor union UNITE HERE in Las Vegas, Nevada.

--- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) campaigns in Iowa, holding meet and greets in Ankeny and Pocahontas and events in Fort Dodge and Sioux Center.

--- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a rally with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

--- Former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) holds a meet and greet in North Conway, New Hampshire.

--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren visits South Carolina, participating in a Mijente Latinx Town Hall and a forum on environmental justice in Orangeburg.

--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson participates in the environmental justice forum in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang will be in New Hampshire, filing for the state's primary and holding a rally at the State House in Concord and holding town halls in Henniker and Littleton.

*All times Eastern