I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, October 2, 2019. 34 days until Election Day 2019. 124 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 398 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com.
State Department officials to cooperate with impeachment probe, defying Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo penned a fiery letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) on Tuesday, pushing back against Democratic lawmakers' request to interview five current or former State Department officials as part of the House impeachment inquiry.
"I am concerned with aspects of your request ... that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career Foreign Service Officers, whom the committee is now targeting," Pompeo wrote.
But despite the secretary's effort, a number of State Department officials have still signaled plans to cooperate with the impeachment investigation. Most notably, shortly after Pompeo's letter, State Department inspector general Steve Linick (who operates independently of the secretary) requested to brief Congress on an "urgent" matter tied to the inquiry. According to ABC News, Linick will meet with staffers from several House and Senate committees this afternoon to discuss "documents obtained from the department's Office of the Legal Adviser related to the State Department and Ukraine." Little additional information is known about the briefing.
Other former officials who are planning to defy Pompeo's demands include Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine in May, and Kurt Volker, who served as Special Envoy to Ukraine until resigning on Friday. The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that Pompeo "forced out" Volker in an attempt to blame the growing Ukraine scandal on him. Volker is scheduled to appear before the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight Committees on Thursday; Yovanovitch will do so on October 11.
Engel, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings (D-MD) responded to Pompeo's letter with a joint statement refusing to back down from seeking State Department testimony. "Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress—including State Department employees—is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry," the three chairmen warned.
They also wrote a letter to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, asserting that Pompeo has "an obvious conflict of interest" and "should not be making any decisions regarding witness testimony or document production" in the impeachment inquiry because he is a "fact witness" in the probe, since he was on the July telephone call between President Donald Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that sparked the investigation.
Pompeo admitted this morning that he was on the July call, despite feigning surprise at the contents of the conversation in an interview last month.
More impeachment news:
--- President Trump on Tuesday continued to focus on the anonymous intelligence community whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry, asking in a tweet why he isn't "entitled to interview & learn everything about" the person, despite federal laws protecting whistleblowers. In another tweet on Tuesday, Trump referred to the impeachment inquiry as a "COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People."
More: "As Impeachment Moves Forward, Trump’s Language Turns Darker" (The New York Times)
--- The longest-serving Republican in the Senate broke with President Trump on Tuesday, defending the whistleblower and implicitly rebuking Trump's provocations. "This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said in a statement, adding: "No one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts. Uninformed speculation wielded by politicians or media commentators as a partisan weapon is counterproductive and doesn’t serve the country."
--- A growing number of Trump administration officials have found themselves engulfed in the Ukraine affair, from Pompeo to Vice President Mike Pence to Attorney General Bill Barr. Now add Energy Secretary Rick Perry to the list of officials facing scrutiny...
--- A succession of new polls have found growing public support for the House impeachment inquiry. In a Politico/Morning Consult poll released this morning, 46% of voters said Congress should initiate impeachment proceedings vs. 43% who said they should not. Other recent surveys showing similar results include polls from CBS News (55% supported the impeachment inquiry vs. 45% who opposed), Quinnipiac University (52% support vs. 45% oppose), Monmouth University (49% vs. 43%), CNN (47% vs. 45%), and Reuters/Ispos (45% vs. 41%).
For most of those polling outfits, it was the first time they found plurality support for an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
--- Happening today: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will hold a joint press conference with Schiff at 10:45 a.m.
--- Recommended reads: "‘A presidency of one’: Key federal agencies increasingly compelled to benefit Trump" (The Washington Post)... "Tense Relationship Between Barr and Giuliani Complicates Trump Impeachment Defense" (The Wall Street Journal)
Trump and immigration: The New York Times published an excerpt from a forthcoming book by two of the newspaper's reporters on President Trump's immigration policy. Key line: "Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him." (The New York Times)
--- "Acting homeland security chief frustrated and isolated — even as he delivers what Trump wants at the border" (The Washington Post)
More Q3 fundraising numbers: The third fundraising quarter ended at midnight Monday and 2020 presidential candidates are beginning to announce how much they raised in the past three months. Here's what we know so far... President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee: $125 million... Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders: $25.3 million... South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg: $19.1 million... California Sen. Kamala Harris: $11.6 million... New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker: $6 million.
Race to 218: "Former Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions appears poised to make a comeback attempt — but not in his old Dallas-based district."
"Sessions, who lost reelection last year, plans to announce Thursday he's running for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, according to McLennan County GOP Chairman Jon R. Ker. The announcement will be at the county party headquarters in Waco, added Ker, who said he spoke with Sessions on Tuesday." (The Texas Tribune)
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Today at the White House
--- President Trump hosts President Sauli Niinistö of Finland at the White House today. At 12 p.m., he participates in Niinistö's arrival. At 12:10 p.m., the two presidents meet in the Oval Office. At 12:45 p.m., they participate in an expanded working luncheon in the Cabinet Room. At 2 p.m., Presidents Trump and Niinistö participate in a joint press conference in the East Room.
According to a White House statement, Trump and Niinistö "will discuss enhancing cooperation between the United States and Finland, including opportunities to promote European and Arctic security" and "will also reaffirm their shared interest in commercial and technological cooperation."
--- Vice President Mike Pence travels to Phoenix, Arizona, today. At 9:05 p.m., he participates in a fundraiser for Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ).
Today in Congress
The House and Senate are on recess through October 15.
Today at the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court's October sitting begins next week.
Today on the trail
--- 10 Democratic presidential candidates participate in a forum on gun violence co-hosted by March For Our Lives and Giffords, the group founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), who survived a gunshot wound in 2012. The forum, which will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, one day after the 2nd anniversary of the shooting in the city that killed 58 people, will be streamed on MSNBC's website and air in part on the network.
The participating candidates (in the order they are scheduled to appear) are: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (1 p.m.), former HUD Secretary Julián Castro (1:30 p.m.), New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (2 p.m.), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (2:30 p.m.), former Vice President Joe Biden (4 p.m.), former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke (4:30 p.m.), Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (5 p.m.), Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (5:45 p.m.), entrepreneur Andrew Yang (6:15 p.m.), and California Sen. Kamala Harris (6:45 p.m.).
--- Biden also holds a community event in Reno, Nevada.
--- Booker will also participate in an event on gun violence with Las Vegas students and join a Cory for Nevada phone bank.
--- Buttigieg will also tour a Las Vegas hospital and hold a roundtable discussion there.
--- While in Las Vegas, Castro will also participate in a Hispanic in Politics breakfast meeting, speak at a University of Nevada Las Vegas political science class, participate in a town hall hosted by the American Federation of Teachers, and attend a voter registration rally hosted by And Justice For All.
--- Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) speaks about foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs in Chicago, Illinois.
--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) campaigns in New Hampshire, holding town halls in Laconia and Raymond and visiting nursing home workers seeking to unionize in Brentwood.
--- Harris will also visit with first responders from the 2017 shooting, participate in an event hosted by Supermajority in Las Vegas, and host a "Dude Gotta Go" organizing event in East Las Vegas.
--- O'Rourke will also attend a roundtable on gun violence and trauma hosted by @ThisIsOurLine in Las Vegas and hold a town hall in North Las Vegas.
--- While in Las Vegas, Sanders will also hold a town hall on health care and attend a community meeting with state Assemblyman Alexander Assefa.
--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) attends a town hall in Weare, New Hampshire.
--- Billionaire and activist Tom Steyer visits Iowa, holding meet and greets in Sioux City, Storm Lake, and Manila.
--- Warren also holds a town hall in Carson City, Nevada.
--- Yang will also hold a town hall in Las Vegas.
*All times Eastern