What Now?! – 5/17/2019

filing unsealed in federal court says an unnamed person “connected to Congress” allegedly attempted to influence former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, Politico reports. Meanwhile, CNN reports there’s a voicemail recording of a member of the Trump administration reaching out to Flynn and his lawyers while he was cooperating with Mueller.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that House Democrats could always open an impeachment inquiry to pry free documents and testimony from stonewalling Trump administration officials — a sharp response to the White House’s blanket claim that House requests served no ‘legitimate’ legislative purpose,” the New York Times reports.

Said Pelosi: “The courts would respect it if you said we need this information to carry out our oversight responsibilities — and among them is impeachment. It doesn’t mean you’re going on an impeachment path, but it means if you had the information you might. It’s about impeachment as a purpose.”

“Her threat was the first time Ms. Pelosi suggested using impeachment as an information-gathering tool, although she had made the suggestion in private before.” Pelosi also blasted the White House for asserting that it would not comply with a range of requests from the House Judiciary Committee, NBC News reports. Said Pelosi: “The letter that came from the White House yesterday was completely outrageous.” She added: “That letter that came from the White House was a joke, beneath the dignity of the presidency of the United States, in defiance of our Constitution. Shame on them.”

“President Trump has told his acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want to go to war with Iran… in a message to his hawkish aides that an intensifying American pressure campaign against the clerical-led government in Tehran must not escalate into open conflict,” the New York Times reports.

“No new information was presented to the president at the meeting that argued for further engagement with Iran, according to a person in the room. But Mr. Trump was firm in saying he did not want a military clash with the Iranians.”

New York Times: “Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a White House adviser, spent months working on the plan, which will serve as a central part of Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign message. Working with him was Stephen Miller, the president’s top immigration adviser, but the plan falls short of the more extreme measures that Mr. Miller has long pressed the president to adopt and that have long been opposed by Democrats in Congress.”

Playbook: “Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years, you’d know that Democrats would summarily dismiss any immigration proposal that doesn’t include language to provide some sort of legal status for Dreamers. Kushner’s proposal does not include that. So, he’s lost Democrats. And this doesn’t bring down immigration into the U.S. — which many Republicans have demanded.”

“This thing is deader than a doornail. The White House keeps saying it’s supposed to be a conversation-starter. The only conversation this will start in the Capitol is one about how goofy it is to believe this plan was even released in the first place.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that President Trump’s new immigration plan is “dead on arrival” and “not a remotely serious proposal,” The Hill reports.

“Ukraine’s prosecutor general said in an interview that he had no evidence of wrongdoing by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden or his son, despite a swirl of allegations by President Trump’s lawyer,” Bloomberg reports.

“The barrier that President Trump wants to build along the Mexico border will be a steel bollard fence, not a concrete wall as he long promised, and the president is fine with that. He has a few other things he would like to change, though,” the Washington Post reports.

“The bollards or ‘slats,’ as he prefers to call them, should be painted ‘flat black,’ a dark hue that would absorb heat in the summer, making the metal too hot for climbers to scale.”

“And the tips of the bollards should be pointed, not round, the president insists, describing in graphic terms the potential injuries that border-crossers might receive.”

“Attorney General William Barr denied he is standing in the way of special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress, after the chairman of the House panel seeking his appearance accused the Justice Department of being unwilling to set a date,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Said Barr: “It’s Bob’s call whether he wants to testify.”

“Missouri’s Republican-led Senate has now passed a bill to ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy,” the AP reports. “Senators approved the legislation 24-10 early Thursday with just hours left before a Friday deadline to pass bills. It needs at least one more vote of approval in the GOP-led House before it can go to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who voiced support for it on Wednesday.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that he opposes a new Alabama law that outlaws virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, arguing that it “goes further than I believe,” the Washington Post reports. Said McCarthy: “I believe in exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, and that’s what I’ve voted on.”

“The intelligence that caused the White House to escalate its warnings about a threat from Iran came from photographs of missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf that were put on board by Iranian paramilitary forces,” the New York Times reports.

“Overhead imagery showed fully assembled missiles, stoking fears that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps would fire them at United States naval ships. Additional pieces of intelligence picked up threats against commercial shipping and potential attacks by Arab militias with Iran ties on American troops in Iraq.”

Aaron Blake: “President Trump’s pardons were self-serving before, and they became even more so Wednesday night, after he pardoned two prominent conservatives who had already completed their sentences.”

“That these pardons went to two Trump allies who said things he likes, and whose pardons could send signals to other Trump allies, doesn’t seem like a coincidence. Trump has now pardoned 10 people in his two-plus years in office. Of the nine living ones, eight are either conservatives or further Trump’s political narrative in some way.”

Joshua Green: “Unlike immigration, the Chinese retaliatory tariffs were felt acutely by some of Trump’s most fervent supporters. Take farmers. As I documented last spring, the 30 congressional districts most reliant on soybeans for economic activity all voted for Trump in 2016. Since then, their pain has only intensified. This week, soybean prices fell to the lowest level in 12 years.”

“But if Trump follows through on his threat to impose a broad new round of tariffs, the number of Americans affected would grow dramatically. The initial wave of $250 billion focused on intermediate or capital goods: the sorts of materials businesses use to make finished products. The next round will focus on $300 billion of consumer goods, everything from iPhones to golf clubs to coffee makers to t-shirts and sweaters. As Bloomberg News put it on Monday, anyone who shops at a mall will become a victim of the trade war. One estimate puts the annual cost at $500 per U.S. family.”

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson told the BBC that he plans to stand to replace British prime minister Theresa May once she fulfills her pledge to step down after a deal on Brexit is reached. Said Johnson: “Of course I’m going to go for it.”

Axios: “Of course, May hasn’t stepped down — and her pledge to do so was contingent on her Brexit deal getting through Parliament. Some members of the Conservative Party are worried she may have gotten cold feet.”

“Maine’s lawmakers passed a bill that would give the state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who won the national popular vote, taking a step toward becoming the 15th state to enact such a law,” CNNreports.

“The Maine Senate voted 19-16 Tuesday to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would give all committed states’ electoral votes to the winning popular vote candidate should the group accrue the 270 votes necessary for a majority.”

“Maine is currently one of two states, along with Nebraska, that splits its electoral college votes instead of adhering to the winner-takes-all policy most states follow. Should the Maine House pass and Gov. Janet Mills sign the bill, Maine would contribute another four votes towards the 270.”

The EPA’s inspector general recommended recovering nearly $124,000 in improper travel expenses by former EPA chief Scott Pruitt, the Washington Post reports. “The findings, issued nearly a year after Pruitt resigned amid controversy over his spending, travel and ties to lobbyists and outside groups, highlight the fiscal impact of his penchant for high-end travel and accommodations.”

“President Trump, who is refusing to cooperate with more than 20 congressional investigations, instructed current and former aides Wednesday to ignore a House committee’s request for documents in the latest act of defiance that has prompted Democrats to declare the nation is facing a constitutional crisis,” the Washington Post reports.

“But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told Democrats in a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning to stick to their policy agenda ahead of the 2020 election rather than initiate impeachment proceedings. And not a single lawmaker challenged her.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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