What Now?! – 5/18/2019

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday refused to comply with a subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee seeking President Donald Trump’s 2013-2018 tax returns, further escalating the fight for the president’s documents that will likely lead to a battle in the courts.

The House has passed the Equality Act, historic civil rights legislation that bans discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Democrats unanimously voted in favor, and eight Republicans joined them.

The legislation would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding through contracts or assistance, financial credit, and the jury system. Thirty states still lack protections for LGBTQ Americans and a federal law would extend protections nationally.

Andrew Sullivan: “Elizabeth Warren is not afraid. Today, she set out a proposal to integrate Roe v. Wade’s provisions for access to abortion into federal law. She even framed her proposal this way: Congress Can Protect Choice. And she’s right. Congress can legislate on abortion; the matter can be settled through politics, rather than through a strained parsing of the Constitution by the courts. Political arguments can be made, and countered. Voters can go to the polls to support candidates who will vote for such a law, which will make any previous Supreme Court ruling irrelevant.”

“This is the process called politics. And America, for 46 years, has tried to keep abortion out of it. It’s encouraging to see Warren jump into the fray to bring legislative politics back to the subject — and to call the right’s bluff on taking that approach. It’s amazing it has taken this long.”

“Every other major democracy treats abortion this way: through the legislative branch hammering out a compromise.”

“Drawing jeers from abortion rights activists seated in the Missouri House, lawmakers on Friday approved a sweeping piece of anti-abortion legislation, a bill that would ban most abortions in the state of Missouri,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. “The final vote was 110-44, and the proposal now heads to Gov. Mike Parson (R) who is expected to sign the measure.”

“The bill bans abortions in the state of Missouri at eight weeks of pregnancy, except when the life of the mother is threatened. There are no exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking.”

Missouri state Rep. Barry Hovis (R) said the majority of sexual assaults are either “date rapes or consensual rapes” during a debate in the state house over a bill that would ban abortion at eight weeks, the Washington Post reports. He later told a reporter from the Kansas City Star that he misspoke, and that “there is no such thing as consensual rape.”

“China is sending signals that it’s in no hurry to resume trade negotiations with the U.S. Trade talks between the two nations abruptly broke off last Friday after the U.S. raised tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports,” CBS News reports.

“This week, China retaliated by imposing tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods, and the White House banned Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei on national security grounds.”

“The U.S. is poised to lift steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico in favor of stronger enforcement actions… in a move that helps clear the way for USMCA ratification,” Bloomberg reports.

Eli Lake: “If there’s one thing Democrats and ayatollahs agree on these days, it’s that John Bolton is trying to start a war with Iran. President Trump has said that he is open to negotiations and does not want a war, but his mustachioed national security adviser will not abide.”

“Popular as it may be in Washington, this theory has it backwards. Bolton’s antipathy toward Iran is well-known and longstanding, but the current administration strategy is not aimed at starting a war with Iran. It’s designed to avoid one.”

“This is where Bolton comes in: He’s kind of a one-man psychological warfare operation. If Iran’s leaders believe Trump’s advisers are trying to constrain him, they may assess they can get away with a proxy attack on U.S. positions. If they think Trump is trying to constrain his national security adviser, they may decide not to.”

New York Times: “Mr. Bolton, several of the officials said, has quietly voiced frustration with the president, viewing him as unwilling to push for changes in a region that he has long seen as a quagmire. … Mr. Bolton’s independence has rankled the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and has even prompted rumors that his job might be in jeopardy — something the White House denies.”

“But Mr. Trump has poked fun at Mr. Bolton’s reputation for hawkishness, joking in meetings with him. ‘If it was up to John, we’d be in four wars now,’ one of the senior officials recalled Mr. Trump as saying.”

Wall Street Journal: “The House Judiciary Committee and Mr. Mueller’s team have been in negotiations for days about the contours of the special counsel’s eagerly-awaited testimony about his 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and episodes in which President Trump allegedly sought to influence the investigation.”

“Legal questions on how Mr. Trump’s assertion of executive privilege would affect Mr. Mueller’s testimony are central to the continuing negotiations, said the people familiar with the matter. The privilege claim could prevent him from discussing details involving Mr. Trump and his advisers beyond what is in the redacted report, the people added. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel is weighing the questions and is expected to provide guidance, officials said.”

A bombshell report from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of Austria’s right-wing populist FPÖ party, met with a purported Russian multimillionaire in July 2017 where she offered him campaign support in exchange for public contracts.”

“What he didn’t know was that the entire exchange was being recorded by hidden cameras.”

Attorney General William Barr told Fox News that he is trying to get to the bottom of whether or not “government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale” during the early stages of the Russia probe.

Said Barr: “I’ve been trying to get answers to the questions and I’ve found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together, in a sense I have more questions today than when I first started.”

He added: “People have to find out what the government was doing during that period. If we’re worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason we should be worried about whether government officials abuse their power and put their thumb on the scale.”

Barr was even stronger in a Wall Street Journal interview: “Government power was used to spy on American citizens. I can’t imagine any world where we wouldn’t take a look and make sure that was done properly.”

“Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson broke the law when he failed to report an order for a $31,561 dining room table set for his office as well as the installation of an $8,000 dishwasher in the office kitchen, the Government Accountability Office found in a report published Thursday,” Politico reports.

“The national Republican Party has accepted nearly $400,000 in donations from disgraced ex-casino mogul Steve Wynn — a move that comes just over a year after he was accused of sexually harassing or assaulting employees over a decade-long period,” Politico reports.

“Wynn gave $248,500 to the Republican National Committee and $150,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in April… The donations are set to be disclosed publicly later this month.”

Susan Glasser: “We may still be guessing about Trump, but one thing this week’s Iran-war scare has shown is the extent to which the Trump Presidency has blown up the old way of American foreign policymaking, which makes the risk of a miscalculation higher than ever.”

“Consider the damage done to the alliance between the United States and its traditional partners in Europe, who remain outraged about Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal they negotiated with the United States and are deeply skeptical of his latest moves. Not only is Europe not inclined to offer a helping hand, but even the old habits and inclinations to consult with each other before major foreign-policy moves have been all but abandoned—and with them, of course, another constraint on the Trump Presidency.”

“The removal of constraints on Trump, domestically and internationally, is what is so striking at this moment when we are all trying to figure out what’s actually happening with American policy in the Middle East. Trump has already shown himself to be unbound by old fears of abandoning political norms… He doesn’t worry about cozying up to dictators or flip-flopping on core principles. He doesn’t care about creating international coalitions or whether his actions are consistent. And with all the turnover on his staff, a normal decision-making process on national-security matters seems to have been abandoned, too.”

“Instead, amazingly enough, we are now at a moment in the Trump Presidency when the capricious President himself is being touted as the possible constraint on his hawkish advisers like Bolton.”

“States passing restrictive abortion legislation have the lowest rates of women represented in politics,” The Hill reports.

“Alabama, which passed a measure this week that would ban almost all abortions, with exceptions only to save the life of the mother, has a female governor but only four female state senators, putting it in 47th place in a ranking of states by female representation.”

“In addition to Alabama, two other states that recently passed restrictive abortion laws ranked in the bottom 10 for representation of women in the state legislature: Mississippi, at 13.8%, and Kentucky, at 22.5%. Ohio, which recently passed a so-called heartbeat bill banning abortions after six weeks, is ranked 30th for representation. Just over a quarter, 26.2%, of the state legislature are women. Georgia, which also passed a heartbeat bill, is the only state in the top half of the rankings, at number 20 with 15 of 56 woman state senators and 57 of 180 woman House members.”

Axios: Where each state stands if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

“Abortion rights are at risk at the Supreme Court, but the short-term threat may not come from extreme measures like the one passed by Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday,” the New York Times reports..

“The court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is more likely to chip away at the constitutional right to abortion established in 1973 in Roe v. Wade than to overturn it outright. It will have plenty of opportunities to do so.”

Politico: How 12 court cases could challenge abortion access under Roe vs. Wade.

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

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