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Wake Up To Politics - October 24, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, October 24, 2019. 12 days until Election Day 2019. 102 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 376 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Republicans storm Pentagon official's deposition, delaying impeachment proceedings

About two dozen House Republicans stormed a closed-door deposition on Wednesday, delaying the Democratic-led impeachment proceedings by about five hours.

The group of Republicans, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), chanted "Let us in! Let us in!" as they staged a protest outside of the deposition, railing against the secretive nature of the impeachment interviews so far. They then pushed their way past Capitol Police officers to enter the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) where the deposition of Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper was just underway.

The GOP lawmakers remained in the secure area for several hours, delaying Cooper's deposition as they demanded that it be opened for all members of Congress to attend. Many of the protesting congressmen brought cell phones with them into the SCIF despite reprimands from the House sergeant-at-arms and security personnel; no electronic devices are typically allowed into the secure area.

The Republicans eventually left around 2 p.m. to attend House votes, and the deposition begin at around 3 p.m. (a five-hour delay), after the space had been "swept for potential security breaches," according to Politico, to ensure nothing had been compromised by the electronics brought into it.

Thus far, the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has deposed seven witnesses; each deposition has taken place behind closed doors, open only to the members of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight Committees (of both parties). In response to Republican calls for the proceedings to be opened, the Democratic investigators have said that they will eventually release the transcripts of the depositions and that the private interviews are necessary to ensure that witnesses can't coordinate their testimonies.

According to the Washington Post, House Democrats are planning to hold public hearings as part of the impeachment probe as soon as mid-November.

Cooper was the first Defense Department official to testify in the probe, complying with a subpoena in defiance of orders from the Pentagon; current and former State Department and White House aides have also participated in the inquiry.

The GOP protest on Wednesday came one day after the testimony of Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, whose leaked opening statement included some of the most explosive revalations in the inquiry yet, describing President Trump's efforts to withhold military aid for Ukraine until the country's leader agreed to publicly announce investigations into Trump's political rivals.

While the protest showed that most House Republicans were sticking by Trump's side after the Taylor testimony — heeding the president's call on Monday for GOP lawmakers to "get tougher" in defending him — a different reaction played out on the Senate side of the Capitol.

As Politico notes, senators from both parties have increasingly cited "their role as possible jurors in an impeachment trial" to avoid questions about the latest revelations. But the comments that some Senate Republicans have given to reporters have not all been positive for the president: including the top two members of the conference.

"The picture coming out of [Taylor's testimony], based on the reported we've seen, is, I would say is not a good one," Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said on Wednesday.

Thune's comments were preceded by an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to distance himself from President Trump the day before, denying to CBS News that he called Trump's call with the president of Ukraine "innocent," as Trump had claimed.

No depositions will be held as part of the impeachment inquiry today or tomorrow, out of respect for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who led one of the investigating committees until his death last week. The proceedings will then resume on Saturday with a deposition from Acting Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker.

The Impeachment Rundown

Here's what else you need to today about the ongoing Trump impeachment inquiry today...

New reporting on the timeline of Trump's Ukraine pressure campaign:

--- Ukrainian officials were aware of President Trump's decision to freeze $391 million in military aid to their country in early August, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, undermining claims by Trump and his allies that no quid pro quo could have taken place because the Ukrainians didn't knew their assistance had been suspended.

--- The president of Ukraine "was already worried about pressure from [Trump] to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden" just after being elected, more than two months before the infamous phone call that sparked the impeachment inquiry, the Associated Press reported.

--- White House aides feared that President Trump had an additional back channel to Ukraine crated by National Security Council official Kashyap Patel, in addition to the efforts led by Giuliani, according to the New York Times. As an aide to then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), Patel penned an attention-grabbing memo that sought to discredit the Russia investigation.

--- "The Trump administration has sought repeatedly to cut foreign aid programs tasked with combating corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere overseas, White House budget documents show, despite recent claims from President Trump and his administration that they have been singularly concerned with fighting corruption in Ukraine." (Washington Post)

The latest on Giulaini's indicted associates:

--- Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, two associates of Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani who helped him investigate Joe Biden, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges they violated campaign finance regulations and conspired to use foreign money to buy political influence. An attorney for Parnas tied their plight to President Trump during the court proceedings, asserting that some of the evidence gathered in the case could be protected by executive privilege, because of the work Parnas and Fruman assisted Giuliani with on the president's behalf. (However, executive privilege can only be invoked by the president and does not typically cover interactions involving non-governmental officials, such as Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman.)

--- More on Parnas and Fruman, via CNN: "How two businessmen hustled to profit from access to Rudy Giuliani and the Trump administration"

Meanwhile, in other Trump investigations:

--- "Even if President Donald Trump shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, New York authorities could not punish him while he is in office, the president's lawyers argued Wednesday." (Politico)

The Rundown

--- "The House Ethics Committee has opened an investigation into freshman congresswoman Katie Hill over allegations that she had an inappropriate relationship with a staffer."

"The California Democrat admitted to having a relationship with someone on her campaign in a statement Wednesday but denied having an affair with a member of her staff after her election." (NBC News)

--- A Quinnipiac poll released this morning found Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) leading the Democratic primary race by seven percentage points, receiving 28 percent of the vote to former Vice President Joe Biden's 21 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took 15%, followed by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 10%, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) at 5%, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) at 3%. The survey found starkly different results than a CNN/SSRS poll released Wednesday, which found Biden leading the primary field by 15 percentage points.

--- Happening today: The late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who died last week after a 23-year career in Congress, will lie in state at the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Top House and Senate leaders of both parties will speak at a ceremony honoring the lawmaker. Cummings is the first African-American known to have lain in state at the Capitol.

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Today at the White House

--- At 11:30 a.m., President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing. At 1:45 p.m., he participates in a ceremonial lighting of the Diya to mark Diwali. At 4:30 p.m., he presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Roger Penske, a former professional race car driver turned rare car team owner. Penske is the 13th individual to by awarded the nation's highest civilian honor by President Trump; eight of them have been onetime professional athletes.

--- Vice President Mike Pence delivers the Wilson Center's inaugural Frederic V. Malek Public Service Leadership Lecture on the relationship between the U.S. and China.

Today in Congress

--- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will recess from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., while Cummings lies in state at the U.S. Capitol. At 12 p.m., the Senate will hold a cloture vote advancing the nomination of Justin Reed Walker to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Kentucky. The chamber will vote on confirmation of Walker, a Louisville attorney who was rated "not qualified" by the American Bar Association (ABA), at 1:45 p.m.

--- The House meets in a pro forma session, holding no votes in honor of Cummings' lying in state.

Today at the Supreme Court

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

Today on the trail

--- Three Democratic presidential candidates participate in a forum hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Des Moines, Iowa: former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden attends the funeral of Sonia “Sonny” Sloan, a prominent Democratic activist and longtime supporter of his campaigns, in Wilmington, Delaware.

--- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) attends fundraisers in Little Rock, Arkansas.

--- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg holds a town hall meeting with SEA/SEIU Local 1984 in Concord, New Hampshire.

--- Castro also holds a meet and greet at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and addresses volunteers at a canvass kickoff in Des Moines.

--- O'Rourke also holds a roundtable at the Iowa Harm and Reduction Coalition office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

--- Sanders also holds a town hall on ending corporate greed in Marshalltown, Iowa.

--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) addresses town meetings organized by local Democrats in Chester and Derry, New Hampshire.

--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) holds town halls in Hanover and Newport, New Hampshire.

--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang holds a meet and greet in Berlin, New Hampshire.

*All times Eastern