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Wake Up To Politics - October 22, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, October 22, 2019. 14 days until Election Day 2019. 104 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 378 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump calls for Republican unity as intraparty cracks appear

In wide-ranging remarks made at the opening of a Cabinet meeting on Monday, President Donald Trump spoke at length about many of the controversies currently dogging his administration, from criticism of his withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria to his recent decision (and then reversal) on holding the G-7 conference at his Florida resort to the rapidly-expanding impeachment inquiry into his actions toward Ukraine.

He also offered a prescription for improving his political standing: "Republicans have to get tougher and fight," he said. Later, when asked to elaborate on that comment, Trump reiterated his call for GOP unity. "I think [the Democrats are] lousy politicians," he said. "But two things they have: They're vicious and they stick together. They don't have Mitt Romney in their midst."

Romney, a Republican senator from Utah and the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, has been one of the Republican lawmakers most openly critical of Trump — but he isn't alone, as cracks continue to appear in the party's once-solid wall of support for the president. For his part, the Utahn made clear in recent interviews with "Axios on HBO" and the Atlantic that he would be open to voting for Trump's removal. "We certainly can't have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political value," he told Axios. "That is, after all, against the law."

He was joined on Friday by Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), who became the first House Republican to signal openness to voting for Trump's impeachment, criticizing Trump in comments to reporters and telling the Associated Press that he is "still thinking about" whether Trump's conduct is impeachable. A day later, Rooney announced his plans to retire from the House in 2020.

While most Republican lawmakers have remained on Trump's side in the impeachment battle (with varying degrees of zeal), members of the president's party have felt freer to criticize him over his decisions on Syria and the G-7. In both cases, rebukes from Republicans have led to at least partial reversals from the president: he announced on Saturday that he won't host the annual international G-7 summit at his Trump National Doral resort after all, while Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday that the U.S. is now considering leaving some troops in northeastern Syria despite Trump's withdrawal decision.

According to the Washington Post, Trump's reversals came after "a growing number of congressional Republicans expressed exasperation Friday over what they view as President Trump’s indefensible behavior." Signs of this exasperation included several GOP lawmakers reaching out to the White House "to urge Trump to reconsider his Doral decision" and an op-ed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who rarely rebukes the president, calling Trump's withdrawal of troops from Syria "a grave strategic mistake."

Trump's troubles have been compounded by his seemingly-rudderless White House, with acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in jeopardy after admitting in a press conference on Thursday that Trump had engaged in a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine, suspending military aid until the country launched an investigation into an unproven theory about the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Mulvaney soon walked back his remarks; he appeared on "Fox News Sunday" in an attempt to explain himself, but his repeated on-camera fumbles only served to turn his week "from bad to worse," according to Politico.

A number of Republican senators piled on the acting chief of staff in comments to reporters on Monday. Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said, "It's been a rough patch for Mulvaney," while Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) referred to him as "probably someone that didn't know what they were talking about."

"His two appearances were not helpful," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said. According to Reuters, President Trump is now considering potential replacements for Mulvaney, who has held the chief of staff role since January but only in an acting capacity.

At the Cabinet meeting on Monday, despite having faced widespread bipartisan pushback, Trump lamented moving away from hosting the G-7 at his own resort. "It would have been the greatest G-7 ever," he declared, dismissing criticism that he would have profited off of the summit. "You people with this phony Emoluments Clause," he said, referring to the constitutional prohibition on presidents accepting gifts or money from foreign governments, which many said his G-7 decision would have violated.

Although some warning signs have emerged in recent days, GOP loyalty to President Trump was proven on Monday as all 185 present House Republicans voted to advance a resolution censuring House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) for his role in the impeachment inquiry. The resolution was ultimately rejected — but President Trump was quick to praise the measure. "Thank you Republicans," he tweeted this morning. "185 out of 185 present voted for 'US' last night. Really good!"

In another tweet to start the day, Trump urged "all Republicans" to "remember what they are witnessing here," likening the impeachment inquiry to "a lynching."

--- Today in the impeachment probe: Bill Taylor, who has served as Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine since June, is expected to be deposed by the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs Committee. Taylor is known to have expressed concerns about the Trump administration's actions in Ukraine, messaging a colleague at one point in texts that have since been released: "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

--- New polling: "Half of Americans say President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, a new high in CNN polling on the topic and the first time that support for impeachment and removal has significantly outpaced opposition." (CNN)

--- Timeline: "Dems delay key impeachment witnesses for Cummings memorials" (Politico)

The Rundown

2020 Central: "With doubts rising about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s ability to finance a multistate primary campaign, persistent questions about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s viability in the general election and skepticism that Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Ind., can broaden his appeal beyond white voters, Democratic leaders are engaging in a familiar rite: fretting about who is in the race and longing for a white knight to enter the contest at the last minute." Names mentioned: Michael Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, John Kerry, Deval Patrick... (New York Times)

--- "Think Warren’s too liberal? Biden’s old news? Midwesterners Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar want to talk to you" (Los Angeles Times)

Inside the White House: "The White House personnel office chief has told President Trump that his top two picks to fill the Homeland Security secretary job [on an acting basis] aren’t eligible under a federal law dictating who can fill the role without Senate confirmation, said people familiar with the matter." (Wall Street Journal)

World desk: "Justin Trudeau has won a second term as Canada’s prime minister after the country’s federal election [on Monday], but his narrow victory means he will lead a minority government that will be forced to depend on other parties to govern." (The Guardian)

--- "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that he had failed to form a majority government in parliament, marking a major setback for the embattled Israeli leader that plunges the country into a new period of political uncertainty." (Associated Press)

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Today at the White House

--- At 12 p.m., President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing. At 12:45 p.m., he has lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Today in Congress

--- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. At 12 p.m., the chamber will vote on ratification of a treaty adding North Macedonia to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), followed by a cloture vote advancing the nomination of Andrew Bremberg to be U.S. Representative to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. Earlier in the Trump administration, Bremberg served as Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

From 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., the Senate will recess for weekly caucus meetings. After returning from the caucus meetings, the chamber is likely to vote on confirmation of the Bremberg nomination.

--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to consider nine pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 2513 - Corporate Transparency Act of 2019
  2. H.R. 835 – Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act of 2019, as amended
  3. H.R. 2426 – CASE Act of 2019, as amended
  4. S. 693 – National POW/MIA Flag Act
  5. H.R. 724 – PACT Act, as amended
  6. H.R. 1123 – Divisional Realignment for the Eastern District of Arkansas Act of 2019
  7. H.R. 598 – Georgia Support Act, as amended
  8. H.Res. 552 – Calling on the Government of the Russian Federation to provide evidence of wrongdoing or to release United States citizen Paul Whelan
  9. H.Con.Res. 32 – Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the execution-style murders of United States citizens Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi in the Republic of Serbia in July 1999

Today at the Supreme Court

--- The Supreme Court has no oral arguments or conferences scheduled today.

Today on the trail

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden attends a fundraisier in Exeter, Pennsylvania.

--- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg holds a rally and speaks at a fundraiser for Battle Born Progress in Las Vegas, Nevada.

--- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) campaigns in Iowa, hosting a "Women for Kamala House Party" in Cedar Rapids, a "Mamas for Kamala Play Date" in Vinton, and a town hall in Iowa City.

--- Former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) continues his "Kids, We’re Bankrupt and We Didn’t Even Know It" cross-country bus tour, making a stop at the landmark "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign.

--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) attends events hosted by local Democrats in Hollis and Dunbarton, New Hampshire.

--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) visits teachers on strike in Chicago, Ilinois, with American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten, then travels to Iowa, where she will participate in a small business walking tour in Waterloo and hold a town hall in Cedar Falls.

--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson continues her "Spirit of America" bus tour through Iowa, delivering speeches at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Cornell College in Mt. Vernon and holding a meet and greet in Mount Vernon.

--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang speaks at a fundraiser for local Democrats in Hollis, New Hampshire.

*All times Eastern