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Wake Up To Politics - September 24, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, September 24, 2019. 42 days until Election Day 2019. 132 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 406 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Whistleblower complaint pushes Pelosi, House Democrats toward Trump impeachment

President Donald Trump's July phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he pressured the foreign leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, has emerged as a turning point in Democrats' months-long deliberations over whether to move forward with impeachment proceedings against Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has urged caution about impeaching Trump in the past, "has been quietly sounding out top allies and lawmakers about whether the time has come" to initiate such a process, according to The Washington Post. Per Politico, she is "more open to the idea of an impeachment investigation than ever before."

Pelosi's evolution reflects the shift in opinion on impeachment that her caucus has undergone amid reports about Trump's Ukraine call, which first came to light due to a whistleblower complaint from a U.S. intelligence official. Seven freshman House Democrats with national security experience, many of whom represent vulnerable districts, penned an op-ed in The Washington Post on Monday calling for their fellow lawmakers to "consider the use" of "impeachment hearings" and other mechanisms "to address these new allegations" about Trump and Ukraine.

"To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election," the Democratic freshmen wrote. "If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense."

(The Washington Post and other news outlets reported Monday that President Trump ordered a hold on almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine at least a week before his phone call to the country's president. It is unclear whether Trump explicitly tied the aid to his demands that Biden be investigated, but he did suggest that the two matters were connected in comments at the United Nations on Monday.)

Of the seven freshmen who co-authored the Post piece — Democratic Reps. Gil Cisneros (CA), Jason Crow (CO), Chrissy Houlahan (PA), Elaine Luria (VA), Mikie Sherrill (NJ), Elissa Slotkin (MI), and Abigail Spanberger (VA) — only Crow had previously endorsed impeachment.

Other moderate Democratic freshmen, including Minnesota Reps. Angie Craig and Dean Phillips, also changed their stances on impeachment on Monday, as did close Pelosi allies like Reps. Rosa DeLauro and John Larson of Connecticut and Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan.

According to Politico, Pelosi is set to meet with the six committee chairmen investigating Trump this afternoon to discuss their next steps, followed by a 4 p.m. caucus meeting on the same topic. She is "expected to make a statement" on the investigations at some point today.

Discussions continue among Democrats over how impeachment proceedings would be conducted. One idea under consideration is "the possibility of a special select committee that would combine House Judiciary with other panels such as Intelligence," The Post reported, a body that would be reminiscent of the Senate Select Committee on Watergate in the 1970s. House leaders are also "planning to hold a vote on a resolution to either condemn Trump’s actions or express the sense of the House that the administration turn over the whistleblower complaint," according to The Post.

A number of lawmakers have pointed to Thursday, when Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, as a key moment for the Democratic investigations. Pelosi has called on Maguire to turn over the full Trump-Ukraine whistleblower complaint by then, warning that his failure to do so would constitute "a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation."

145 House Democrats (more than half of the caucus) now support launching an impeachment inquiry in Trump, according to a CNN whip count.

--- Inside Trump's response: "Trump uses U.N. meeting to wage domestic political attack on Biden" (The Washington Post)... "Instead of ‘No Collusion!’ Trump Now Seems to Be Saying, So What if I Did?" (The New York Times)

2020 Central

Debate qualification: The Democratic National Committee is increasing the polling and fundraising requirements for presidential candidates to qualify for the primary campaign’s fifth debate in November."

..."To make the November debate, candidates must have at least 165,000 unique donors, with at least 600 each in at least 20 states. That’s up from 130,000 donors — with 400 donors each in at least 20 states — for September and October.

"Candidates also must hit 3% in at least four national or early state polls — or hit 5% in two early state polls. That separate early state threshold is a new polling pathway that DNC officials say is meant to reward candidates who may be generating enthusiasm in states like Iowa or New Hampshire even if similar support isn’t registering in national polls." (The Associated Press)

Buttigieg bus tour: "Driving along a wide-open stretch of Iowa highway, Pete Buttigieg told a clutch of reporters that beef jerky was his favorite road snack, he misses his two dogs, Buddy and Truman, and that he packed four white, button-down shirts — which he ironed himself — and one pair of jeans for this four-day swing across eastern Iowa."

..."The South Bend mayor’s bus tour — leaning into the ultimate press access that fueled his early rise last spring and propelled him into the middle of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary — is more of a Live Tweet Express than its original inspiration, John McCain’s 2000-era Straight Talk Express. Entering the fall months outside the top three spots in the polls, Buttigieg’s campaign is betting again on that transparency, and a rush of headlines and social media posts from reporters transcribing all of his on-the-bus musings, to boost him in Iowa and draw a strong contrast with other candidates less inclined to engage the media." (Politico)

Recommended read: "With Beto O’Rourke on the Couldn’t-Care-Less Campaign Trail" (The New York Times)

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Today at the White House

--- President Donald Trump continues his stay in New York City for the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. At 10:15 a.m., President Trump addresses the General Assembly. At 11:15 a.m., he meets with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kindom, who was dealt a major blow by the British Supreme Court this morning. At 12:15 p.m., he meets with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At 1 p.m., Trump participates in a pull-aside with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. At 1:20 p.m., he participates in a luncheon hosted by Guterres.

At 3 p.m., he participates in a pull-aside with the President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria. At 3:30 p.m., he meets with President Barham Salih of Iraq. At 4 p.m., he participates in a meeting of the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA). At 7:15 p.m., President and First Lady Trump attend a diplomatic reception. They will spend the night at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Today in Congress

--- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. At 11:30 a.m., the chamber will hold a series of procedural votes to advance the nominations of Joseph Cella (to be Ambassador to Fiji, Nauru, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Kiribati), Daniel Jorjani (to be Solicitor of the Department of the Interior), and David Fabian Black (to be Deputy Commissioner of Social Security). The chamber will then recess until 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings. At 3:30 p.m., the Senate will vote on confirmation of Brian McGuire to be Deputy Under Secretary of the Treasury for Legislative Affairs, followed by confirmation votes for Cella, Jorjani, and Black.

--- The House convenes at 12 p.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to vote on six pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 2229 - First Responders Passport Act of 2019, as amended
  2. H.R. 1632 - Southeast Asia Strategy Act, as amended
  3. H.R. 2327 - Burma Political Prisoners Assistance Act, as amended
  4. H.R. 3190 - BURMA Act of 2019, as amended
  5. H.Res. 127 - Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives on the importance and vitality of the United States alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea, and our trilateral cooperation in the pursuit of shared interests, as amended
  6. H.Res. 444 - Reaffirming the importance of the United States to promote the safety, health, and well-being of refugees and displaced persons, as amended

Today on the trail

--- Two of President Trump's challengers for the Republican presidential nomination — former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) and former Gov. Bill Weld (R-MA) — will participate in a debate hosted by Business Insider. The debate, which will take place at Business Insider's New York City headquarters, will stream from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Facebook. President Trump and former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) declined invitations to participate.

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden attends a fundraiser in Baltimore, Maryland.

--- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg continues his bus tour through Iowa, holding a meet and greet in Clinton and attending a forum in Davenport.

--- Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) campaigns in Ohio, joining a United Automobile Workers (UAW) strike in West Chester, attending a community meeting in Dayton, and holding a town hall in Columbus.

--- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) continues his "Bernie Beats Trump" Tour through Iowa, holding a press conference on "workplace democracy" in Davenport and a "Unidos Con Bernie" event in West Liberty. Later this evening, he will head to Chicago, Illinois, to join the Chicago Teachers Union strike authorization vote rally.


--- In Friday's newsletter, longtime Iowa political journalist David Yepsen's name was misspelled. My thanks to everyone who caught it: I deeply regret the error.

--- President Trump met on Monday with Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, not the country's president, Arif Alvi, as reported in Monday's newsletter. The presidential schedule released by the White House indicated that the meeting would be with the Pakistani president.

*All times Eastern