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Wake Up To Politics - October 7, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, October 7, 2019. 29 days until Election Day 2019. 119 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 393 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Second whistleblower comes forward in Trump-Ukraine saga

A second whistleblower from inside the intelligence community has come forward to share information about President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

Mark Zaid, who is one of the attorneys representing the first whistleblower (whose seven-page complaint first raised questions about the Trump administration's interactions with Ukraine and triggered an impeachment inquiry into the president) along with Andrew Bakaj, told ABC News on Sunday that the same legal team is representing the second whistleblower as well. Zaid said that the second person, who is also an intelligence official, has "firsthand knowledge" of some of the allegations outlined in the original complaint.
The second whistleblower has not filed a formal complaint, but they have been interviewed by the intelligence community's inspector general and secured legal protections intended to shield whistleblowers from retaliation.  

"I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers," Bakaj said in a tweet on Sunday without specifying how many intelligence officials that included.

Although the substance of the new whistleblower's protected disclosures have yet to be revealed, President Trump has already begun attacking the second official. "Democrat lawyer is same for both Whistleblowers? All support Obama and Crooked Hillary," he tweeted on Sunday evening. "Witch Hunt!" Zaid and Bakaj have previously represented whistleblowers hailing from both major political parties.

The revelation that the second whistleblower shared "firsthand information" related to Ukraine threatened to undermine a central chord of Trump's attacks against the first whistleblower: that the official had not witnessed any of the incidents he reported in his complaint himself. The first whistleblower alleged that President Trump pressured Ukraine's president to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the 2016 U.S. election in a July phone call and that the White House sought to "lock down" internal records of the conversation. His accusations have been confirmed by news reports and a partial transcript of the call released by the White House.

With President Trump effectively operating as a "one-man war room," congressional Republicans have struggled to settle on a response to the growing scandal. Multiple GOP lawmakers who were were pressed on the Sunday news shows about Trump's public request for China and Ukraine to investigate Biden attempted to argue that Trump was merely joking.

"I doubt if the China comment was serious," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said on CBS' "Face the Nation," adding: "I know he loves to bait the press." Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) echoed that message on ABC's "This Week," saying: "You really think he was serious? ... I think he's getting the press all spun up about this."

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), long an outspoken Trump critic, has been one of the few congressional Republicans to rebuke the president for his comments. "By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling," he tweeted on Friday.

In response, President Trump repeatedly attacked Romney on Twitter over the weekend, referring to him as a "pompous 'ass' who has been fighting me from the beginning." Trump also called for Romney's impeachment from the Senate; in additional tweets later in the weekend, he also called for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) to be impeached as well.

There is no constitutional mechanism for members of Congress to be impeached.

--- "As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic."

"Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans." (The Associated Press)

--- "Inside the Republican reckoning over Trump’s possible impeachment" (The Washington Post)

--- "Three top House Democrats subpoenaed the White House on Friday night seeking documents related to President Donald Trump's efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials to target his political rivals, a dramatic escalation of the impeachment fight with the president." (Politico)

U.S. withdraws troops from northern Syria, backing Turkish invasion

From The New York Times:

"In a major shift in United States military policy in Syria, the White House said on Sunday that President Trump had given his endorsement for a Turkish military operation that would sweep away American-backed Kurdish forces near the border in Syria."

"Turkey considers the Kurdish forces to be a terrorist insurgency, and has long sought to end American support for the group. But the Kurdish fighters, which are part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., have been the United States’ most reliable partner in fighting the Islamic State in a strategic corner of northern Syria."

"Now, Mr. Trump’s decision goes against the recommendations of top officials in the Pentagon and the State Department who have sought to keep a small troop presence in northeast Syria to continue operations against the Islamic State, or ISIS, and to act as a critical counterweight to Iran and Russia."

"Administration officials said that Mr. Trump spoke directly with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on the issue on Sunday. And the officials indicated that the 100 to 150 United States military personnel deployed to that area would be pulled back in advance of any Turkish operation but that they would not be completely withdrawn from Syria."

..."It was unclear how extensive the Turkish operation would be, or whether Turkish forces would clash with the American-backed Kurds, a development that could jeopardize many of the counterterrorism gains achieved by the American military in the fight against ISIS."

"Last December, Mr. Trump called for a complete United States withdrawal from Syria, but ultimately reversed himself after a backlash from Pentagon, diplomatic and intelligence officials [including then-Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned over the matter], as well as important allies in Europe and the Middle East.

WaPo: "Uncertainty takes over the lead in the Democratic presidential race"

From The Washington Post:

"The top fundraiser in the Democratic presidential field was hospitalized for a heart attack, the longtime polling leader and his son sit at the center of an impeachment inquiry, and the one candidate with clear momentum faces persistent doubts among some party leaders that she is too liberal to win the general election."

"With breathtaking speed, the events of the past two weeks have created huge uncertainty for the candidates who have dominated the Democratic nomination race, shaking a party desperate to defeat President Trump next year and deeply fearful of any misstep that risks reelecting a president many Democrats see as dangerously unfit for office."

"Concerns have risen in recent days that the potential Democratic slate has been weakened by events largely out of the candidates’ control. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) promised a speedy return to the campaign trail after leaving the hospital Friday, but it was unclear whether the 78-year-old would be able to replicate his previously frenetic travel schedule. Former vice president Joe Biden, who has spent most of the race as the leader in the polls, has faced daily attacks from Trump over largely unfounded allegations about his son Hunter’s foreign business dealings, highlighting a potential vulnerability for the candidate many saw as the best hope for beating Trump."

--- Related: "Biden Faced His Biggest Challenge, and Struggled to Form a Response" (The New York Times)

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Today at the White House

At 12:30 p.m., President Trump has lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. At 6 p.m., he participates in a briefing with senior military leaders. At 7:15 p.m., the president and first lady participate in a social dinner with senior military leaders and their spouses.

--- Vice President Mike Pence travels to Nashville, Tennesse, today. At 1:55 p.m., he tours a Tyson Foods plant. At 1:30 p.m., he delivers remarks on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the president's proposed replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). At 6 p.m., he delivers remarks at a Trump campaign fundraising dinner. He will then return to Washington, D.C.

--- At 11 a.m., First Lady Melania Trump delivers remarks at the National Red Ribbon Rally at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) headquarters. Red Ribbon Week, which begins on October 23, is an annual drug awareness and prevention campaign.

Today in Congress

The House and Senate are on recess through October 15.

Today at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court kicks off a new term today with oral arguments in three cases:

  • Kahler v. Kansas (At issue: "Whether the Eighth and 14th Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense.")
  • Peter v. NantKwest Inc. (At issue: "Whether the phrase '[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings' in 35 U.S.C. § 145 encompasses the personnel expenses the United States Patent and Trademark Office incurs when its employees, including attorneys, defend the agency in Section 145 litigation.")
  • Ramos v. Louisiana (At issue: "Whether the 14th Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict.")

A look ahead to the new term: "U.S. Supreme Court to tackle gay rights, guns, abortion and Trump" (Reuters)

Today on the trail

--- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) participates in a health policy roundtable hosted by the New Hampshire Medical Society in Manchester, New Hampshire.

--- Sen. Cory Booker continues a campaign swing through Iowa, attending a house party in Charles City hosted by state House Minority Leader Todd Prichard (D-IA), touring an urban farm and participating in a climate forum in Cedar Rapids, and holding a "Conversation with Cory" event in Iowa City. Booker will be joined in Cedar Rapids by state Sen. Rob Hogg (D-IA), who has hosted a number of 2020 candidates for climate-focused events.

--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro will cross the border into Matamoros, Mexico, where he will meet with LGBTQ and disabled refugees and join them as they petition for asylum.

-- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) holds a town hall in Fairfield, Iowa.

--- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) visits Iowa, joining kindergarten "story time" and meeting with teachers at a Des Moines elementary school, meeting with Moms Demand Action gun control activists in Ames, and holding a town hall in Ankeny.

--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) campaigns in New Hampshire, holding a health services event in Portsmouth, attending a meeting of local Democrats in Bedford, and holding a town hall in Brentwood.

--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson holds events in Claremont and Warner, New Hampshire.

*All times Eastern