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Wake Up To Politics - October 16, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, October 16, 2019. 20 days until Election Day 2019. 110 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 384 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Rivals pile on Warren in fourth Democratic debate

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) faced sharp criticism from several of her rivals at the fourth Democratic debate in Ohio on Tuesday evening, a reflection of her newfound status in the presidential primary: frontrunner.

Candidates such as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang all went after Warren over various issues — a marked change from the months of positive attention she had received for her detailed policy proposals.

"Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything. Except this," Buttigieg said, hammering Warren for her refusal to definitively answer whether she would raise middle-class taxes to pay for "Medicare for all," the sweeping government-run insurance plan backed by her and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

"I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle-class families," Warren responded, referring to Buttigieg's "Medicare for all who want it" plan — which would allow people to choose between joining a government-run health care system or keeping their private insurance — as "Medicare for all who can afford it." But she still did not acknowledge whether a tax increase would be needed for her proposal, unlike Sanders.

"At least Bernie's being honest here and saying how he's going to pay for this and that taxes are going to go up," Klobuchar said. "And I'm sorry, Elizabeth, but you have not said that, and I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we're going to send the invoice." The Minnesotan later likened Warren's health care plan to a "pipe dream" that would never be able to "actually get done."

Even as attacks came at her from all sides, Warren mostly held her own, responding by continue to outline the broader vision of "big, structural change" that has gained her plaudits from many in the Democratic electorate. The Massachusetts senator had by far the most speaking time in the crowded 12-person debate — 22 minutes and 47 seconds, six minutes more than the second-most-talkative candidate — as she went on the defensive after weeks of taking slight leads in many polls (both nationally and in the early states) and gaining momentum in the race.

Meanwhile, Biden — who had previously been the main target of attacks at earlier debates as the polling leader for much of the campaign — receded to a much less visible position. Even as he maintained his position at the center of the stage (with Warren and Sanders flanking him on either side), the former vice president stayed out of the fray during many of the policy squabbles that took place around him.

He did, however, receive an opportunity to tamp down concerns from some Democrats about his response to attacks from President Donald Trump over his son Hunter's work abroad — a line of inquiry which sparked the impeachment inquiry Trump now faces.

The moderators, CNN anchors Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper and New York Times national editor Marc Lacey, opened the debate by asking each candidate about the ongoing impeachment process. When it was Biden's turn, he forcefully defended himself against unproven allegations that he pushed for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor in order to boost his son's business interests.

"My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong," Biden declared. "I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine. And that's what we should be focusing on."

In the last closing portion of the debate, Biden did tangle somewhat with Warren and Sanders, accusing the two progressive standard-bearers of "being vague on the issue of Medicare for all" and saying that he was "the only one on this stage that has gotten anything really big done."

Sanders shot back that Biden "got the disastrous war in Iraq done," "got a bankruptcy bill, which is hurting middle-class families all over this country," and "got trade agreements, like NAFTA and PNTR, with China done, which have cost us 4 million jobs."

When Warren responded by citing her experience in the Obama administration, setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Biden sought to take some of the credit: "I went on the floor and got you votes. I got votes for that bill."

Warren replied by pointedly thanking former President Barack Obama for his support of the legislation, but not Biden. "I am deeply grateful to President Obama," she said.

Each of the three top-tier candidates (septuagenarians all) also faced questions about their health on Tuesday night. The debate marked Sanders's return to the campaign trail after a two-week absence following a heart attack. "I'm healthy. I'm feeling great," the Vermont senator said, promising to mount "a vigorous campaign all over this country" and promoting a rally in New York on Saturday which aides later revealed would feature an endorsement from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the prominent left-wing freshman.

Biden responded to a question about his age by citing his "wisdom" and experience ("I will not need any on-the-job training the day I take office") while Warren retorted with a shot at the incumbent president: "I will out-work, out-organize, and outlast anyone, and that includes Donald Trump, Mike Pence, or whoever the Republicans get stuck with."

Beyond the higher-polling candidates, contenders who emerged as stronger presences on-stage included Buttigieg and Klobuchar. Both drew on their Midwestern roots and the former repeatedly cited his military experience in exchanges with O'Rourke over gun control ("I don't need lessons from you on courage, political or personal) and Gabbard over Syria ("You take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next.")

But it remains to be seen whether the debate will do anything to change the dynamics of the race for those contenders seeking a route into the top tier. Previous debates have had little lasting impact on the campaign, as candidates continued to linger in low single-digits in the polls despite viral moments.

Of the twelve candidates who were on stage Tuesday night (the most crowded presidential debate in U.S. history), only eight have qualified for the next debate, which will take place in Georgia on November 20: Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren, Yang, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), and businessman Tom Steyer.

Impeachment: The latest

President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, continues to face more and more legal scrutiny over his activities in Ukraine. A sampling:

    --- "Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are examining Rudy Giuliani’s business dealings in Ukraine, including his finances, meetings and work for a city mayor there, according to people familiar with the matter. Investigators also have examined Mr. Giuliani’s bank records, according to the people. Witnesses have been questioned about Mr. Giuliani since at least August by investigators, who also want to know more about Mr. Giuliani’s role in an alleged conspiracy involving two of his business associates, the people said." (Wall Street Journal)

    --- "President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was paid $500,000 for work he did for a company co-founded by the Ukrainian-American businessman arrested last week on campaign finance charges, Giuliani told Reuters on Monday." (Reuters)

    --- "Rudy Giuliani won't comply with a congressional subpoena as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, an attorney for Giuliani told House investigators in a letter on Tuesday." (NBC News)

    --- "Giuliani is also now parting ways with his personal attorney Jon Sale who has represented him in impeachment matters, Giuliani told CNN... People close to Giuliani are advising him to hire a criminal lawyer as questions linger about his connections to two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Furman, who were indicted last week for campaign-finance violations. Giuliani, who is President Donald Trump's personal attorney, has been resisting that advice, according to those people." (CNN)

    --- "Rudolph W. Giuliani privately urged President Trump in 2017 to extradite a Turkish cleric living in exile in the United States, a top priority of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to multiple former administration officials familiar with the discussions... [These efforts] represent another instance in which he appears to have been pushing a shadow foreign policy from his perch outside government," in addition to his Ukraine pressure campaign. (Washington Post)

Giuliani is not the only target of the House impeachment inquiry who announced their refusal to cooperate on Tuesday: Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought did so as well. In his letter to the House committees, Giuliani's (now-former) lawyer referred to the impeachment probe as "unconstitutional, baseless, and illegitimate." At a press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that Trump administration officials ignoring subpoenas would only bolster Democrats' case for impeachment. "The evidence of obstruction of Congress continues to mount."

At the press conference, Pelosi also announced that Democrats would not be holding a full House vote to formally open an impeachment inquiry "at this time," despite claims from President Trump and congressional Republicans that the ongoing probe lacks legitimacy without one. "There's no requirement that we have a vote," Pelosi stated.

What else happened yesterday: "A senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy told impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he was all but cut out of decisions regarding the country after a May meeting organized by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, describing his sidelining by President Trump’s inner circle as 'wrong,' according to a lawmaker who heard the testimony."

"The revelation from George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, emerged as he submitted to hours of closed-door testimony to the House committees investigating how President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals."

..."After the May 23 meeting called by Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Kent told investigators, he and others whose portfolios included Ukraine were edged out by Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union; Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine; and Rick Perry, the energy secretary, who 'declared themselves the three people now responsible for Ukraine policy,' [Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry] Connolly said." (New York Times)

Happening today: Michael McKinley, who resigned as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just last week, will testify before the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry.

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Today at the White House

--- President Trump hosts President Sergio Mattarella of Italy at the White House today. The two presidents will meet at 10:25 a.m. in the Oval Office and at 11:05 a.m. in the Cabinet Room, and then participate in a joint press conference at 12 p.m. in the East Room. At 6:30 p.m., President Trump will host  Mattarella at a reception celebrating Italian-American heritage.

According to the White House, the two presidents "will discuss ways to further grow the United States and Italy’s longstanding relationship and how to address common security challenges and promote shared economic prosperity."

Also today: At 12:45 p.m., the president has lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. At 3 p.m., he meets with congressional leadership from both parties on the situation in Syria.

--- Vice President Mike Pence travels to Ankara, Turkey, today in an attempt to negotiate a ceasefire between the Turkish government and the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. He will be joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien.

Today in Congress

--- The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. today. At 11 a.m., the chamber will hold cloture votes advancing four district judge nominees: Frank Volk (Southern District of West Virginia), Charles Eskridge (Southern District of Texas), David Novak (Eastern District of Virginia), Rachel Kovner (Eastern District of New York). The chamber will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings. At 4:15 p.m., the Senate will vote on confirmation of those four district court nominees, as well as on Barbara Barrett's nomination to be Secretary of the Air Force.

--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to consider H.J.Res. 77, a bipartisan resolution "opposing the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria," as well as 15 other pieces of legislation (most of them renaming post offices):

  1. H.R. 3889 – ONDCP Technical Corrections Act of 2019, as amended
  2. H.R. 1496 – Presidential Allowance Modernization Act of 2019, as amended
  3. H.R. 1252 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 6531 Van Nuys Boulevard in Van Nuys, California, as the "Marilyn Monroe Post Office"
  4. H.R. 1253 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 13507 Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima, California, as the "Ritchie Valens Post Office Building"
  5. H.R. 1833 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 35 Tulip Avenue in Floral Park, New York, as the "Lieutenant Michael R. Davidson Post Office Building"
  6. H.R. 2151 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 7722 South Main Street in Pine Plains, New York, as the "Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon M. Kent Post Office"
  7. H.R. 2451 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 575 Dexter Street in Central Falls, Rhode Island, as the "Elizabeth Buffum Chace Post Office"
  8. H.R. 3144 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 8520 Michigan Avenue in Whittier, California, as the "Jose Ramos Post Office Building"
  9. H.R. 3152 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 456 North Meridian Street in Indianapolis, Indiana, as the "Richard G. Lugar Post Office"
  10. H.R. 3207 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 114 Mill Street in Hookstown, Pennsylvania, as the "Staff Sergeant Dylan Elchin Post Office Building", as amended
  11. H.R. 3314 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1750 McCulloch Boulevard North in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, as the "Lake Havasu City Combat Veterans Memorial Post Office Building"
  12. H.R. 3329 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 5186 Benito Street in Montclair, California, as the "Paul Eaton Post Office Building"
  13. H.R. 1972 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1100 West Kent Avenue in Missoula, Montana, as the "Jeannette Rankin Post Office Building"
  14. H.R. 887 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 877 East 1200 South in Orem, Utah, as the "Jerry C. Washburn Post Office Building"
  15. S. 1196 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1715 Linnerud Drive in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, as the "Fire Captain Cory Barr Post Office Building"

Today at the Supreme Court

--- The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in three cases today: Kansas v. Garcia, Rotkiske v. Klemm, and Mathena v. Malvo.

Today on the trail

--- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) campaigns in New Hampshire, participating in a forum on the economy in Portsmouth and attending two meet and greets in Dover.

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden tours the IBEW Electrical Trades Center in Columbus, Ohio, and attends a community event in Davenport, Iowa.

--- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) attends fundraisers in New York.

--- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg holds a town hall in Ames, Iowa.

--- Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) attends a house party in West Des Moines, Iowa.

--- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) visits the Wendt Regional Cancer Center for an event highlighting Brest Cancer Awareness Month and holds a town hall in Dubuque, Iowa.

--- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) kicks off her "For All of America" tour in New Hampshire, visiting Keene State College in Keene, touring Claremont Center for Recovery Resources in Claremont, holding a town hall in Londonderry, and visiting a diner in Manchester.

--- Former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) kicks off his "Kids, We're Bankrupt and We Didn't Even Know It" tour at Independence National Historical Park and Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) continues his walk across New Hampshire, holding an event on small busineses and jobs in Derry, holding an event on health care in New Boston, and attending a town meeting organized by local Democrats in Bow.

*All times Eastern