What Now?! – 5/22/19

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House communications director Hope Hicks for documents and testimony related to its investigation into possible obstruction of justice and public corruption by the Trump administration, Axios reports.

Meanwhile, “former White House Counsel Don McGahn defied a congressional subpoena Tuesday by declining to testify before the House Judiciary Committee at the direction of the White House,” Bloomberg  reports. “The hearing room chair reserved for McGahn sat empty behind microphones, as committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York opened the scheduled hearing.” Said Nadler: “This conduct is not remotely acceptable. Let me be clear: This committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it.”

“President Trump’s appeal of a subpoena from House Democrats to turn over his financial records will be heard by a court where snubbed Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland is the chief judge,” The Hill reports. “Garland serves as the chief judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Trump’s lawyers are asking that court to review a federal judge’s order allowing House Oversight and Reform COmmittee’s subpoena to move forward.”

“Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was spotted entering a congressional office building on Tuesday morning for what a committee aide told the Daily Beast was a meeting with the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs committee and relevant staff about his time working in the Trump administration.”

“Tillerson’s appearance took place as virtually every other Trumpworld luminary has been stonewalling congressional oversight efforts.”

“Tillerson’s arrival at the Capitol was handled with extreme secrecy. No media advisories or press releases were sent out announcing his appearance. And he took a little noticed route into the building in order to avoid being seen by members of the media.”

“The Republican National Committee spent about $2.2 million last month on legal fees, new financial filings show, boosting the overall tab for lawyers paid by the party, the Trump campaign and a legal defense fund to about $17 million since President Trump took office,” the Wall Street Journal  reports.

“The legal bills are far higher than they were for former President Obama and the Democratic National Committee, as well as for previous years at the RNC… The RNC and Mr. Trump’s campaign paid about eight times more between January 2017 and last month than the $2 million the Obama campaign and the DNC paid in a similar time period of his first term.”

“Robert Mueller and House Democrats have been unable to reach an agreement on how much of the special counsel’s expected congressional testimony would be public, and how much would take place in private,” the Washington Post reports. “The special counsel’s office has been quietly negotiating with the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), has been eager to have Mueller testify as soon as possible.”

“Mueller… would like for any discussions beyond the public contents of his report to be conducted in private. Democrats want to press Mueller in a nationally-televised hearing about a host of issues, including whether he thought President Trump could or should be charged with obstruction if he were not the president, and whether Mueller agreed with Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the investigation’s findings.”

CNN: “The special counsel’s team has expressed the notion that Mueller does not want to appear political after staying behind the scenes for two years and not speaking as he conducted his investigation into President Trump.”

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) asked Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson about REOs — or “real estate owned” — which refers to a kind of property owned by a lender, like a bank, after a foreclosure. Carson thought she was referring to a popular chocolate sandwich cookie.

USA Today: “The tense exchange came during a hearing about oversight of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has also been met with criticism over recent proposals to scale back housing subsidies for lower-income Americans.”

“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) blocked a bipartisan attempt to limit Chinese companies from contracting with U.S. transit systems, a move that benefited a Chinese government-backed manufacturer with a plant in his district,” the Washington Post reports.

“His behind-the-scenes intervention came as Congress was trying this year to craft a spending compromise to avert another government shutdown. McCarthy pressed lawmakers to strip out language that could have prevented the company in his district, BYD Motors, from winning federal contracts, and they relented because they feared imperiling the bill.”

A federal judge in Jackson, Mississippi said that the state’s controversial “fetal heartbeat” law “smacks of defiance” after hearing arguments seeking to temporarily block the anti-abortion legislation, WJTV reports.

“Judge Carlton Reeves, an Obama-appointed federal judge, heard arguments from the Center for Reproductive Rights which challenged the state’s recently-passed ban, which would outlaw abortions after about six weeks. The new law was signed by the governor on March 21 and is scheduled to be implemented on July 1. Reeves is the same judge who struck down Mississippi’s 15-week ban late last year.”

Darren Samuelsohn: “It’s impossible to know how Mueller will respond to questions Democratic and GOP lawmakers are teeing up for him. But when it comes to the character at the center of the drama, there’s actually some evidence for how it’s going to go. Over his most recent 12 years in public life, as the FBI director under two presidential administrations, Mueller testified more than 50 times before Congress… They’re all archived on C-SPAN—more than 140 hours of video footage starring the man Americans have been waiting to hear from.”

“I watched more than 20 hours of that footage, a representative sample of big and small hearings on a range of issues spanning the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, before both friendly and hostile lawmakers.”

HuffPost: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has on occasion conducted government business through her personal email accounts, and she hasn’t always saved the messages properly, federal investigators said in a report released Monday.”

Washington Post: “Banning rape victims from getting abortions is a step too far for Republican Party leaders, who have publicly cringed at Alabama’s sweeping new law criminalizing abortion in nearly every case.”

“President Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel have all said over the past week they support long-standing exemptions from abortion restrictions: if a woman’s pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or if the woman’s life is at risk. The Alabama law contains only the third exemption.”

“Their statements — coming as state-level Republicans advance stricter abortion regulations — lay bare an underlying rift within the party and among antiabortion activists over whether certain circumstances make it okay to end a pregnancy.”

“President Trump is expected to name Kenneth Cuccinelli, a former attorney general of Virginia and an immigration hard-liner, as his choice to coordinate the administration’s immigration policies,” the New York Times reports. “The specifics of the role — including the title and the scope of duties — are still being hashed out, according to the official. But Mr. Cuccinelli is expected to be based in the Department of Homeland Security, not in the White House.”

“The abortion ban could be postponed while it makes its way to the nation’s highest court, but local prosecutors are preparing for the possibility that House Bill 481 will take effect. The district attorneys for Georgia’s four most populous counties — Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb — all told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they would not, or could not, prosecute women under the new law.”

“House Democratic leaders sparred internally on Monday over whether to begin an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies rejecting the call to move forward for now,” Politico reports.

Washington Post: “At least five members of Pelosi’s leadership team — four who also sit on the House Judiciary Committee with jurisdiction over impeachment — pressed Pelosi to allow the panel to start the inquiry, which they argued would help investigators attain documents and testimony Trump has blocked.” “The meeting underscores the first time Pelosi’s rank-and-file members — including members of her leadership team — have lobbied her to change her long-held position on impeachment.”

“Russians who were linked to interference in the 2016 U.S. election discussed ambitious plans to stoke unrest and even violence inside the U.S. as recently as 2018,” according to documents reviewed by NBC News.

“The documents — communications between associates of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin-linked oligarch indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for previous influence operations against the U.S. — laid out a new plot to manipulate and radicalize African-Americans. The plans show that Prigozhin’s circle has sought to exploit racial tensions well beyond Russia’s social media and misinformation efforts tied to the 2016 election.”

The four congressional leaders are meeting with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, acting OMB Director Ross Vought and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney Tuesday morning at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office to talk budget.

The task on the table? Agree on spending caps and lift the debt limit, per Politico. If the two sides can’t play ball, punishing spending cuts known as a “sequester” kick in during early 2020. As usual, Republicans want to beef up military spending while Democrats want parity between military and domestic funding. If they can’t come to an agreement, they can kick the can down the road until December. And based on the utter lack of cooperation over smaller legislation this session, like the disaster relief bill, the odds don’t look great.

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

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