House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Attorney General William Barr lied to Congress, the Wall Street Journal reports. Said Pelosi: “What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime. … He lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general.” She added that President Trump’s statement that he will not honor any subpoenas from Congress is obstruction of justice.
Politico: “Pelosi also told her colleagues at the caucus meeting that she couldn’t sleep Wednesday night after watching Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Attorney General William Barr refused to show up for a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday morning. New York Times: “The challenge for Mr. Nadler and other House committee leaders is now figuring out how to navigate to secure the material they need for their work. The Judiciary Committee could authorize another subpoena for Mr. Barr’s testimony.”
“But it then has different paths to escalating its case. Some lawmakers are arguing for opening an impeachment inquiry, which grants the House clearer powers to command information from the executive branch. Others want to hold Mr. Barr in contempt of Congress, a threat that could cajole him into voluntarily giving up more. They could also go to court to try to enforce their subpoenas. Each option has limitations and could slow Congress’s work substantially.”
NBC News: “Under the doctrine of ‘inherent contempt,’ the House or Senate could send members of its security force to arrest and detain the witness. There is precedent for this in U.S. history, but not recent precedent — it hasn’t been used since 1935.” “In the modern world, the House sergeant-at-arms isn’t going to be able to arrest the attorney general, who is protected by an armed FBI security detail.”
The White House accused special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in a five-page letter “of playing politics with the investigation and wildly straying from their mission in a letter sent to Attorney General William Barr last month,” CNN reports. “White House lawyer Emmet Flood raised several concerns with the substance and format of Mueller’s report, which did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and the Russians but did unearth substantial evidence of obstruction by Trump, but without saying if the President should be prosecuted.”
“Flood slammed Mueller’s approach to the obstruction investigation. Even though current Justice Department guidelines say a sitting president cannot be charged, Flood wrote that Mueller needed to ‘either ask the grand jury to return an indictment or decline to charge the case.’” Wrote Flood: “The special counsel instead produced a prosecutorial curiosity — part ‘truth commission’ report and part law school exam paper.”
The Trump administration offered its first full argument Wednesday for its reversal on the Affordable Care Act, arguing in new court filings that the entire law “should not be allowed to remain in effect,” CNN reports.
“The government argues that the so-called ‘individual mandate’ requiring Americans to have coverage is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law should therefore also be struck down, even if the government ‘might support some individual provisions as a policy matter.’”
Benjamin Wittes: “It has been catastrophic. Not in my memory has a sitting attorney general more diminished the credibility of his department on any subject. It is a kind of trope of political opposition in every administration that the attorney general—whoever he or she is—is politicizing the Justice Department and acting as a defense lawyer for the president. In this case it is true.”
“Barr has consistently sought to spin his department’s work in a highly political fashion, and he has done so to cast the president’s conduct in the most favorable possible light. Trump serially complained that Jeff Sessions didn’t act to ‘protect’ him. Matthew Whitaker never had the stature or internal clout to do so effectively. In Barr, Trump has found his man.”
Playbook: “It’s bad for democracy to have an administration ignore the will of a co-equal branch of government. Barr opposes answering questions from a staff attorney, but — as Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York says — it cannot be up to the administration to decide how Congress conducts its business. This is all a mess.”
President Trump tweeted that Stephen Moore “has decided to withdraw from the Fed process… I’ve asked Steve to work with me toward future economic growth in our country.” Moore had just told Bloomberg: “My biggest ally is the president. He’s full speed ahead.”
I am not one that says Democrats should reestablish the norms and traditions and what is a crime when we take back the Senate and the White House. I follow the rule that whatever the Republicans do is now established precedent and that means the Democrats can do it when they are in power. So that means no Democratic President can ever obstruct justice, and they can collude with China all they want. Filibuster, gone. National Emergencies for guns and climate change are coming. Hillary is talking in hypotheticals. I am not.
Washington Post: “Trump has repeatedly told White House aides that he won in 2016 because he was the strongest candidate on immigration — and that no chant at his rallies is louder than ‘Build the wall!’ When he is underscoring his immigration stance and contrasting it with Democrats, current and former aides and associates said, Trump thinks he has the advantage.”
Jonathan Chait: “Trump has always demanded an attorney general who will act as his personal sword and shield. In Trump’s highly transparent mind, the two roles are inextricably linked. He is almost incapable of proclaiming his own innocence without immediately segueing to the alleged guilt of his enemies. He must be cleared, and his rivals must be investigated.”
“The Republican Party has embraced wholesale the president’s claim that he has been vindicated on his alliance with Russia and his efforts to block the probe thereof. What reason does Trump have to doubt that they will stand behind him if his loyal AG turns the federal prosecutorial apparatus against his enemies?”
Brian Beutler: “Trump associates have been unusually frank, without seeming coy, about their concern that Biden could defeat Trump in the general election, and they would apparently like to neutralize the threat by embroiling Biden in a politically motivated criminal investigation.”
“This isn’t a clever strategy, but it is blunt and chilling, and, if successful, can and will be repeated to hobble whichever Democrat Trump fears second most, and ultimately on whichever Democrat wins the party’s 2020 presidential nomination.”
New York Times: “President Trump’s top advisers woke up Tuesday believing that a rebellion in the Venezuelan military that day would galvanize a popular uprising and topple a leader they have described as a reviled despot who must be replaced. But at day’s end, President Nicolás Maduro was still in power and Mr. Trump’s advisers were left to blame Cuba, Russia and three influential Venezuelan officials, who failed to switch sides, for frustrating their plans.”
“The decision of the Venezuelans to stand with Mr. Maduro — either because they were intimidated, got cold feet or never planned to defect — raised questions about whether the United States had faulty intelligence about the ability of the opposition to peel away members of his government.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that the committee is eyeing May 15 as the date for special counsel Robert Mueller himself to testify, Politico reports. Attorney General William Barr “has said he does not oppose allowing Mueller to testify, but Nadler told reporters that the committee is still negotiating with the Justice Department.”
Neil Katyal: “Many who watched Attorney General William Barr’s testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which followed the revelation that the special counsel Robert Mueller had expressed misgivings about Mr. Barr’s characterization of his report, are despairing about the rule of law. I am not among them. I think the system is working, and inching, however slowly, toward justice.”
“When it comes to investigating a president, the special counsel regulations I had the privilege of drafting in 1998-99 say that such inquiries have one ultimate destination: Congress. That is where this process is going, and has to go. We are in the fifth inning, and we should celebrate a system in which our own government can uncover so much evidence against a sitting president.”
“On the same day the Trump administration said it would reunite thousands of migrant families it had separated at the border with the help of a ‘central database,’ an official was admitting privately the government only had enough information to reconnect 60 parents with their kids,” according to emails obtained by NBC News. Said one official: “In short, no, we do not have any linkages from parents to children, save for a handful,”
“As the 2020 Democratic presidential field began to form earlier this year, Trump campaign officials received a directive from the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner: Don’t meddle in primary politics,” Politico reports. “Targeting specific Democratic presidential hopefuls was at best a waste of time—and could even be counterproductive, Kushner warned.”
“One school of thought holds that an early front-runner like Biden … must be attacked early and often. Another argues that engaging Biden gives the Democrat exactly what he wants in a 20-candidate primary field: the image that he is already waging a head-to-head battle with a rattled incumbent.”
Reuters: “Biden’s rapid emergence as front-runner in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination has caught the attention of President Donald Trump and unnerved some of his allies, who believe Biden is a potentially dangerous rival.”
Facebook said it has permanently banned several far-right and anti-Semitic figures and organizations, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Infowars host Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer, for being “dangerous,” the Washington Post reports.
“Facebook had removed the accounts, fan pages, and groups affiliated with these individuals after it reevaluated the content that they had posted previously, or had reexamined their activities outside of Facebook, the company said. The removal also pertains to at least one of the organizations run by these people, Jones’ Infowars.”