Wake Up To Politics - October 1, 2019
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, October 1, 2019. 35 days until Election Day 2019. 125 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 399 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy October, and L'Shana Tova to those of you who celebrated Rosh Hashanah on Monday!
More details of Trump's contacts with foreign leaders emerge as House impeachment probe accelerates
Two new stories emerged on Monday about President Donald Trump and his advisers asking foreign governments for help with investigations they hope will hurt domestic adversaries:
- The New York Times reported on a recent phone call during which President Trump pushed Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Attorney General William Barr gather information for a Justice Department probe into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. (The FBI's inquiry into Trump campaign ties to Russia, which Mueller later picked up, was opened after a tip from an Australian diplomat.)
- The Washington Post reported on a series of private meetings Attorney General Barr has held overseas seeking help from foreign intelligence officials with the Justice Department review of U.S. intelligence agencies' investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Barr has already made overtures to British and Italian intelligence officials. (One of the topics being pursued by the DOJ is European academic Joseph Mifsud's role in the FBI's Trump probe. Misfud has ties to both Italy and the United Kingdom.)
These new reports came in the week after details surrounding a series of President Trump's conversations with foreign leaders first emerged, including his July phone call pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election (which was revealed by a whistleblower complaint which sparked an impeachment inquiry into the president) and his 2017 meeting with Russian officials in which he expressed indifference towards Moscow's interference in the 2016 election (which was first reported by The Washington Post on Friday evening).
Records of Trump's calls with Prime Minister Morrison and President Zelensky, as well as his meeting with the Russian officials (and additional calls to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to CNN), were all restricted to a smaller circle of White House aides than is normal for presidential communications with foreign leaders. The Trump administration's classification of records relating to the president's contacts with foreign officials is a central part of the House Democrats' newly opened impeachment inquiry, following the whistleblower's allegation that the White House attempted to "lock down" access to the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call.
As The Times wrote, the new reports continue to display a pattern of President Trump "using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests" and show the extent to which Trump views Attorney General Barr "as a crucial partner" in his attempts to discredit the Mueller probe and pursue politically-motivated investigations. According to a reconstructed transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president, Trump also named Barr as being a key figure pushing for the investigations into Biden and the 2016 campaign, along with the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Meanwhile, the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump has continued to accelerate rapidly in recent days, as lawmakers announced the investigation's first round of subpoenas. The chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight Committees issued subpoenas to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday and to Giuliani on Monday, demanding both Trump advisers turn over documents related to contracts with Ukraine. (Giuliani was the central figure in the pressure campaign to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden; Pompeo also played a role in the efforts and, according to The Wall Street Journal, participated in Trump's call to Zelensky.)
"Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House's impeachment inquiry," the House chairmen wrote in both document requests.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has been designated as the Democratic point man on impeachment, has also announced a series of depositions set to take place while the House is on recess in October, including with State Department officials like Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, and Kurt Volker, who resigned as Special Envoy for Ukraine on Friday.
With the impeachment inquiry intensifying, President Trump has also continued to lash out at its leaders. In one tweet on Monday, he suggested that Schiff should be arrested for "treason" because the California Democrat recited an exaggerated version of Trump's call to Zelensky at a hearing last week.
In other missives, Trump also attacked the Ukraine whistleblower, the unidentified person inside the U.S. intelligence community whose complaint initiated the greatest threat to Trump's presidency yet. "The Fake Whistleblower complaint is not holding up," the president tweeted, although much of the complaint has been confirmed by the White House and proven accurate.
Trump told reporters later Monday that "we're trying to find out" the identity of the whistleblower, claiming that he deserved "to meet my accuser," despite federal statutes protecting whistleblowers.
Chris Collins resigns: "Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., has sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office stating that he is resigning from his House seat, a source familiar with the matter tells NBC News."
"Collins' resignation comes ahead of his expected guilty plea Tuesday to charges relating to insider trading, according to documents filed in federal court Monday. His resignation will become effective once his letter is read on the House floor during Tuesday’s pro-forma session." (NBC News)
--- "Number of House Republicans heading for the exits grows to 20 with Thornberry retirement, Collins resignation" (The Washington Post)
Q3 fundraising reports: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders's campaign on Tuesday "announced raising a whopping $25.3 million in Q3 -- the largest quarter for any Democratic candidate this year, and a number that, on its own, eclipses Sen. Elizabeth Warren's entire first and second quarters' total."
"The Sanders campaign's latest massive third quarter total shows his continued grassroots fundraising power despite recent polling that shows his campaign losing ground to Warren and continuing to trail Joe Biden."
..."Meanwhile, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's campaign announced Tuesday morning that the campaign raised $19.1 million in the third quarter, falling short of his $24.8 million second quarter haul that had placed him on top of the Democratic field in the fundraising race." (ABC News)
--- As of this publication, no other candidates have announced their fundraising totals for the third quarter, which ended at midnight Monday. Candidates are required to report their totals to the Federal Election Commission by October 15.
Trump investigations: "Lawyers for the House of Representatives revealed on Monday that they have reason to believe that the grand-jury redactions in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report show that President Donald Trump lied about his knowledge of his campaign’s contacts with WikiLeaks."
"The attorneys made the stunning suggestion in a court filing as part of the House Judiciary Committee’s bid for Mueller’s grand-jury materials, which have remained secret by law." (Politico)
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Today at the White House
At 2 p.m., President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing. At 4 p.m., he meets with Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Today in Congress
The House and Senate both meet today for brief pro forma sessions, where no business will be conducted. Both chambers will next conduct legislative business on October 15.
Today at the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court justices will meet for their first conference of the October term today. The court will return for oral arguments on October 7.
Today on the trail
--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) visits New Hampshire, holding town halls in Nashua and Londonderry.
--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) campaigns in New Hampshire, attending town meetings organized by local Democrats in Portsmouth, Raymond, and Hampton.
*All times Eastern