I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, May 23, 2019. 256 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 530 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calling for end to investigations, Trump storms out of meeting with Pelosi and Schumer
The top two Democrats in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), went to the White House on Wednesday for a meeting with President Donald Trump on infrastructure. The summit lasted all of three minutes.
Angered by Pelosi's accusation earlier in the day that he "is engaged in a cover-up," Trump stormed into the Cabinet Room and informed the Democratic leaders that he would not work with them on bipartisan legislation until they ended the investigations into him and his administration. The president then walked out and went to address the press in the Rose Garden, where a podium had already been set up with a sign proclaiming "No Collusion, No Obstruction."
"I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, 'I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. I'd be really good at it. That's what I do. But you know what? You can't do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with,'" he recounted to reporters.
"Let them play their games. We're going to go down one track at a time," he added later, saying Democrats would have to choose between investigating him and working with him on legislation.
After returning to Capitol Hill, Pelosi referred to the display as a "temper tantrum" (a characterization Trump took issue with on Twitter) and bluntly told reporters: "I pray for the president of the United States, and I pray for the United States of America."
Pelosi had spent the earlier part of the day in a meeting with her 235-member caucus, urging them to hold off on calls for Trump's impeachment, even as growing numbers of House Democrats are publicly splitting with her on the issue. But it was her "cover-up" comment that caught the president's attention, leading him to grouse in the Rose Garden: "Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that had just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don’t do cover-ups."
Meanwhile, Democrats celebrated later Wednesday when a federal judge cleared the way for Deutsche Bank and Capital One to hand over the president's financial records to House investigators, the second judge in as many days to side with congressional Democrats against an objection from President Trump. They also struck a deal with the Justice Department allowing members of the House Intelligence Committee to review a less redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report. And the New York state Assembly approved a bill, now headed to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk, which would give Congress access to the president's state tax returns.
Trump's blowup effectively ended any lingering hopes that the two parties could come together to draft a $2 trillion infrastructure package, after agreeing to a price tag in a meeting last month. It could also get in the way of other ongoing bipartisan discussions, including major budget talks and negotiations over a disaster aid package lawmakers had hoped to finish before leaving for Memorial Day recess on Friday.
The convening was not the first time a meeting between the president and Democratic leaders ended suddenly in the Trump era: he also stormed out of a meeting during the 35-day government shutdown in January, telling Pelosi and Schumer "bye-bye." Nor was it the first time that the White House has signaled plans to work on infrastructure legislation, only to see them fall through: jokes about the ever-doomed "Infrastructure Weeks" are now commonplace throughout Washington.
In comments after the meeting, Democrats speculated that the walk-out and subsequent press conference were staged so Trump could avoid finding a way to pay for an infrastructure bill. "I knew he was looking for a way out," Pelosi told reporters. "We were expecting this."
U.S. may send troops to the Middle East: "The Pentagon on Thursday will present plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, in a move to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats, U.S. officials said Wednesday."
"The officials said no final decision has been made yet, and it’s not clear if the White House would approve sending all or just some of the requested forces. Officials said the move is not in response to any new threat from Iran, but is aimed at reinforcing security in the region. They said the troops would be defensive forces, and the discussions include additional Patriot missile batteries, more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iran." (Associated Press)
Inside the Democratic Party: "[Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairwoman Cheri Bustos] on Wednesday canceled a planned fund-raiser for [anti-abortion Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski] that had prompted an outcry among progressives, raising the question of whether there is room left in the party for lawmakers who oppose abortion at a moment when numerous Republican-controlled states are trying to effectively outlaw the procedure." (New York Times)
Avenatti indicted: "A federal grand jury in Manhattan indicted celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti on Wednesday in two alleged schemes, charging him with fraud and aggravated identity theft involving his former client, Stormy Daniels, and with attempting to extort more than $20 million from sportswear giant Nike." (CNN)
White House schedule
--- At 11 a.m., President Trump meets with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. At 3:15 p.m., he delivers remarks on "supporting America's farmers and ranchers."
--- At 2:30 p.m., Vice President Mike Pence meets with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green.
--- The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. today. Votes are possible, but none are scheduled.
--- The House convenes at 9 a.m. today. The chamber will complete consideration of H.R. 1994, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, which would make it easier for small businesses to offer retirement plans.
Supreme Court schedule
--- The Supreme Court justices meet for their weekly conference today.
--- Five Democratic presidential candidates — Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) — will join McDonald's workers who are striking across the country today to demand union rights and a $15 minimum wage. Booker will participate in Des Moines, Iowa; Castro in Durham, North Carolina; de Blasio and Sanders in Dallas, Texas; and Inslee in Chicago, Illinois.
--- Booker will also participate in an MSNBC town hall in Des Moines moderated by "All In" host Chris Hayes. (The event will air at 8 p.m.)
--- Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) visits Iowa today. He will host meet and greets in Pocahontas and Ames, and tour Iowa Flood Cooperative in Des Moines.
--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson hosts a town hall in Brentwood, New Hampshire.
*All times Eastern