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On The Hill

ON THE RECORD: Republican senators up for reelection in 2020 face a major loyalty test to President Trump when they must decide later this week whether to embrace or reject the president's signature issue on the Senate floor.

Whether to support Trump's wall by backing his emergency declaration at the border is a tough call for the 22 Republicans who will be on the ballot — along with the president — next year. And Trump has urged them to “STAY UNITED!”

Some legal scholars are still debating the ramifications of the Senate disapproving of the emergency resolution, even without a veto-proof majority. (The “non-delegation doctrine” has been thrown around which prevents Congress from delegating legislative authority to the president). But for the most part, constitutional scholars like Yale professor of law and political science, Akhil Reed Amar, have deemed the vote to be judicially insignificant. 

  • “Unless you get the president to sign this thing or there is a veto override, the vote is symbolic,” Amar told Power Up. “And once you know that, that plays into what the vote really means. Mitch McConnell might whip his caucus and react a whole lot differently if this vote mattered except as a testing vote to get people on the record for the 2020 election.” 

Of the GOP senators who face competitive races in swing states:

  • Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) are both planning to buck the president by helping pass the disapproval resolution.
  • Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) have not yet announced how they plan to vote.
  • Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) told Politico's James Arkin and Burgess Everett that he's not planning on breaking with Trump on the emergency declaration, or anything else for that matter. 

But Trump has boxed several of his Hill allies into a lose-lose situation that could spark a primary opponent and/or a bruising campaign either way, even in solidly red areas: 

  • Take Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who may face a big name Democrat in his 2020 reelect like Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), who is still mulling a bid. Cornyn plans to support Trump in this battle, but building the wall in his Texas could attract all kinds of controversy, including eminent domain battles against the government to retain control over private property. 
  • “It could be a career test for him because there's a lot of pressure on him from Texas...and he's already said that he's going to support it,” a Democratic Texas lawmaker told Power Up, referring to the possibility of hundreds of eminent domain seizures.
  • The Trump administration has thus  far "sent letters requesting the right to survey nearly 600 private propertise set to fall in the fence's path -- step one in the eminent domain process that allows the govenrment to seize private land," according to the Texas Tribune. 
  • Eminent domain battles ahead: " . . . as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on the declaration — and Trump readies his veto pen — legal experts say that even if the president gets his way, a variety of legal issues could delay wall construction for years and even derail it entirely,” the Texas Tribune's Kiah Collier and Arya Sundaram reportEven under an emergency declaration, they say, a president doesn't have free rein to take land for a border wall — partly because, according to several experts, the declaration makes the legal questions surrounding land seizures even murkier.”

McConnell told reporters last week there could be changes to the disapproval resolution before it hits the floor, likely later this week. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is "spearheading legislation that would amend the 1976 law Trump has invoked for his national emergency, mandating that such a declaration would automatically expire after 30 days unless both chambers of Congress vote to approve it," according to my colleagues Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim. 

  • Andrew Boyle, a counsel with the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told us he hopes the next big push in Congress will be to overhaul the National Emergencies Act that has enabled Trump to act to begin with. 
  • “There is a lot of scaremongering out there from both sides about a future president doing this or that and more levelheaded people on both sides realize that this is no way to run a government,” Boyle told us. “Congress has it’s own interest, too. They don’t like an executive to go around them so we see enough bipartisan support coming off of this.” 
  • “Will Supreme Court hear this issue? I suspect so — and that will be true no matter how the vote goes,” Amar told us of how he foresees this playing out. 

"NOT WORTH IT”: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw down a controversial marker in an interview with my colleague Joe Heim in an interview for The Post magazine:  she's not for impeaching Trump, even though the speaker believes he is unfit to serve as president. 

  • “This is news,” declared Pelosi (D-Calif.). “I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this, impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.” 
  • Is Trump fit to be POTUS?: “Are we talking ethically? Intellectually? Politically? What are we talking here? . . . All of the above. No. No. I don’t think he is,” Pelsoi said. “I mean, ethically unfit. Intellectually unfit. Curiosity-wise unfit. No, I don’t think he’s fit to be president of the United States.”

Mixed bag: The comment quickly drew criticism from rank-and-file liberals eager to begin impeachment proceedings but also from Democrats on investigative committees who were "surprised that the speaker would all but rule out impeachment just as they were starting their investigations," my colleagues Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade report. 

  • “I don’t think it’s something we decide whether or not it's ‘worth it,’ ” House Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told them. “If [our investigations show] a consistent pattern of abuse of power, of obstruction of justice . . . then that to me seems like it will be impeachable.”
  • House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) had previously said about impeachment that the facts would have to be “so stark, the deed so terrible, that you believe that once it’s all laid out, then you will be able to get an appreciable fraction” of support from the general public.
  • “If the facts require us to initiate removing the president, we are obligated to do it. If the facts don't support it, we won't,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who sits on Judiciary and is a leadership member, told Politico.
  • From Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), on Judiciary and the House Oversight Committee: “We can’t get so frustrated with Donald Trump that we impeach him just for being Donald Trump, but we can’t get so frustrated with Donald Trump that we don’t impeach him because he’s Donald Trump.”

"Moderate Democrats, however, welcomed what they considered a politically pragmatic response, especially with no bipartisan support for impeachment and Republicans controlling the Senate, which would have to convict Trump to remove him from office,” per DeBonis and Bade. 

  • Key: “Democrats also recognize that moving toward impeachment would energize core GOP voters ahead of the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. Pelosi’s comments come as Republicans are seeking to portray Democrats as radicals beholden to the far left, unwilling to respect democratic norms.” 

  • Kicker: “We’ve got 31 Democrats who serve in districts that Donald Trump won, and I’m one of them,” Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said. “When I go home, I don’t have people asking me about impeaching him. That is just not something that I hear. They consistently ask about health care and rebuilding our country and figuring out how to work together.”

 

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The Investigations

DRIP, DRIP, DRIP: The New York attorney general's office issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank on Monday evening “for records relating to the financing of four major Trump Organization projects and a failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League in 2014,” the New York Times's William Rashbaum and Danny Hakim report

  • “The inquiry opens a new front in the scrutiny of Deutsche Bank, one of the few lenders willing to do business with Donald J. Trump in recent years. The bank is already the subject of two congressional investigations and was examined last year by New York banking regulators, who took no action,” they report. 
  • Cohen strikes again: “The new inquiry, by the office of the attorney general, Letitia James, was prompted by the congressional testimony last month of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, the person briefed on the subpoenas said. Mr. Cohen testified under oath that Mr. Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements, and Mr. Cohen provided copies of statements he said had been submitted to Deutsche Bank.”
  • The focus of the inquiry is unclear, though, as it's part of a civil investigation and not a criminal one: “The request to Deutsche Bank sought loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit and other financing transactions in connection with the Trump International Hotel in Washington; the Trump National Doral outside Miami; and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago,” a source told the Times.

At the White House

POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES: Trump's budget might be “dead on arrival,” per most Hill sources who texted me about it, but the president's proposal to slash Medicare has political implications ahead of 2020. 

The move, which flies in the face of Trump's 2016 campaign promise to not cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, is a sharp contrast to the pitch from Democrats who are chanting Medicare-for-all.  My colleagues Toluse Olorunnipa and Sean Sullivan call out the potential problems Trump might face within voters in trying to explain "$845 billion in reductions for Medicare, aiming to cut 'waste, fraud and abuse' in the federal program that gives insurance to older Americans.”

  • Industry view: “The impact on care for seniors would be devastating,” Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said in a statement to The Post. “Hospitals are less and less able to cover the cost of care for Medicare patients, it is no time to gut Medicare.”

  • “On one hand, you don’t like handing the other side a potential campaign message at any point, and Democrats will inevitably try to make this into a ‘Trump wants to cut your Medicare’ argument,” Republican pollster Chris Wilson said.

  • But Wilson argued the plan probably would not reverberate in the same way as the Obamacare repeal push. “A proposed cut to entitlements in a budget proposal that has no chance of passing the House just isn’t going to enter the public consciousness in the same way,” he added.

  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted: “One party wants to expand Medicare and Medicaid and the other wants to cut them. That’s the end of my tweet.”

The People

MILWAUKEEIZING: The Democratic National Committee announced its 2020 convention will be held in Milwaukee. It was minutes before the GOP issued dire warnings: “No city in America has stronger ties to socialism than Milwaukee,” said Mark Jefferson, director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, in a statement. “And with the rise of Bernie Sanders and the embrace of socialism by its newest leaders, the American left has come full circle. It’s only fitting the Democrats would come to Milwaukee.” 

So, our old friend Reis Thebault decided to dig into Milwaukee's socialist roots

  • “John Gurda, a Milwaukee historian, fact-checked Jefferson’s claim. And yes, he said in an interview, that’s mostly true — especially when it comes to socialists in the mayor’s office. Milwaukee has had three, more than any other major American city. But, Gurda said, today’s Republican Party and Milwaukee’s ex-mayors probably would have a very different definition of socialism,” according to Reis. 
  • “For the first half of the 20th century, Milwaukee was a bastion of socialism, so much so that aspiring leaders elsewhere verbified the Wisconsin city, running on platforms of “Milwaukeeizing” their own hometowns.”

In other 2020 news . . .

BIDEN: NBC News's Mike Memoli reports that Joe Biden will headline two political events this week “as a final test drive of the message he could take into the 2020 campaign, one advisers say balances a bold agenda focused on reviving the middle class with an appeal for moving beyond the smallness in our politics. Underlying Biden’s pitch is the urgency of defeating a president that he feels has governed at odds with America’s values — framing the next election as a ‘battle for the soul of America,’ as he has put it.” 

Biden advisers insisted to Memoli the former veep still hasn’t made a decision about whether to run. But here are some proposals he's considering if he does:

  • A tax code overhaul to treat investment income as earned income to help pay for free community college.
  • A $15 per hour minimum wage.
  • Free tuition at public colleges and universities.
  • A major “American Renewal Project” to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

BETO: “Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke is heading to the early presidential voting state of Iowa this weekend, fueling speculation that the Democrat is poised to enter the White House race,” per Reuters's Tim Reid. “In an announcement posted on Twitter, Eric Giddens, an Iowa Democrat who is running in a special election for a state senate seat, said his campaign workers and O’Rourke will be urging students this Saturday at the University of Northern Iowa to vote in his election race.”

ABRAMS 2020?: “Stacey Abrams said Monday that a 2020 presidential run is ‘definitely on the table,’ clarifying earlier remarks that seemed to rule one out,” NBC News’s Alex Seitz Wald reports:

  • “The Georgia Democrat, who narrowly lost a gubernatorial bid last year, suggested earlier in the day that she wouldn't be ready to consider a presidential campaign until 2028. But later, she said on Twitter that a White House bid in the current election cycle was still under consideration.”

WARREN: “Facebook removed several ads placed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign that called for the breakup of Facebook and other tech giants,” reports Politico's Cristiano Lima. “But the social network later reversed course after Politico reported on the takedown, with the company saying it wanted to allow for 'robust debate.”

  • “Curious why I think FB has too much power? Let's start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power,” Warren tweeted in response. “Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn't dominated by a single censor.”

BOOKER: The New Jersey senator is staffing up. And he hired Julie McClain, the senior director of campaign communications for Emily's List who is seven-months pregnant, as national director of state communications.

  • CNN's Rebecca Berg reports that Booker has also hired Sabrina Singh, the former deputy communications director for the DNC, to serve as his national press secretary along with two state communications directors in New Hampshire and Nevada, Chris Moyer and Vanessa Valdivia. 

Viral

In the Media

New video of Fox host Tucker Carlson using "racist and homophobic language to describe Iraqi people, African Americans, gay people and immigrants while speaking on a radio program between 2006 and 2011," according to Media Matters.