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Wake Up To Politics - May 8, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, May 8, 2019. 271 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 545 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

House committee to vote on holding Barr in contempt

The House Judiciary Committee will meet at 10 a.m. today to vote on a resolution holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with the panel's requests for a full, unredacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

If the resolution is approved by the Democratic-led committee, it will advance to the full House, which does not need Senate approval to hold Barr in contempt. He would be the first Trump administration official to be hit with a contempt citation — although he is not the only one staring down the possibility.

The White House stepped in on Tuesday to block former White House counsel Donald McGahn from complying with a Judiciary Committee subpoena for documents related to the special counsel's investigation, "because they implicate significant executive branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege." In a letter to McGahn's attorney, Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) responded: "I fully expect that the Committee will hold Mr. McGahn in contempt if he fails to appear before the Committee, unless the White House secures a court order directing otherwise."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could also potentially vote a contempt citation, following his refusal on Monday to comply with a Ways and Means Committee request to hand over six years of President Donald Trump's personal and business tax returns.

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes negotiations took place Tuesday between committee staff and Justice Department employees, a last-minute attempt to head off the Barr contempt vote. According to Politico, the DOJ offered to allow the 12 senior lawmakers (six Republicans and six Democrats) who are already able to see a minimally redacted report to bring two staff members along with them (increased from one), and to allow them to keep any notes they took on the report.

Chairman Nadler then proposed a counter-offer: access to the less-redacted report would be expanded to all members of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees in both the House and Senate, and the lawmakers should be able to bring three staffers.

But the talks came to an abrupt halt late Tuesday, when the Justice Department announced in a letter to Nadler that Attorney General Barr would request Trump invoke executive privilege over Mueller's entire report and underlying evidence if the Democrats move forward with the contempt vote.  

"In the face of the committee’s threatened contempt vote, the attorney general will be compelled to request that the president invoke executive privilege with respect to the material subject to the subpoenas," Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote. "I hereby request that the committee hold the subpoena in abeyance and delay any vote on whether to recommend a citation of contempt for noncompliance with the subpoena, pending the president’s determination of this question."

Nadler told reporters after the DOJ threat was made public that his committee would still move forward with the contempt vote. "This is, of course, not how executive privilege works," the New York Democrat said in a statement. "The White House waived these privileges long ago, and the Department seemed open to sharing these materials with us earlier today. The Department’s legal arguments are without credibility, merit, or legal or factual basis."

The House could vote to hold Barr in any of three types of contempt: civil (a lawsuit brought by the chamber), criminal (a referral to the U.S. attorney in D.C.), or inherent (arrest by the Sergeant-at-Arms). It is unclear which route Democrats will opt to take against Barr, the nation's top law enforcement officer, although the third type has not been used since 1934. When Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress in 2012, the Republican majority opted to invoke both criminal and civil contempt.

The Judiciary Committee is not the only panel attempting to receive access to the Mueller materials. House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and ranking member Devin Nunes (R-CA) joined forces late last month to demand that the DOJ turn over the special counsel's counterintelligence evidence. According to the Wall Street Journal, which was one of the outlets to report on the bipartisan request on Tuesday, the Intelligence Committee will "soon" consider a subpoena if the Justice Department doesn't initiate negotiations on fulfilling their request.

But as lawmakers continued to clash with the executive branch over questions of oversight powers relating to the Mueller report, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to decry the continued focus on the special counsel's now-completed investigation.

"Case closed," he declared.

NYT: Trump lost more than $1 billion in a decade

Via the New York Times:

"By the time his master-of-the-universe memoir 'Trump: The Art of the Deal' hit bookstores in 1987, Donald J. Trump was already in deep financial distress, losing tens of millions of dollars on troubled business deals, according to previously unrevealed figures from his federal income tax returns."

"Mr. Trump was propelled to the presidency, in part, by a self-spun narrative of business success and of setbacks triumphantly overcome. He has attributed his first run of reversals and bankruptcies to the recession that took hold in 1990. But 10 years of tax information obtained by The New York Times paints a different, and far bleaker, picture of his deal-making abilities and financial condition."

"The data — printouts from Mr. Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes, information he has kept from public view. Though the information does not cover the tax years at the center of an escalating battle between the Trump administration and Congress, it traces the most tumultuous chapter in a long business career — an era of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse."

"The numbers show that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade."

"In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners. His core business losses in 1990 and 1991 — more than $250 million each year — were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years."

"Over all, Mr. Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years. It is not known whether the I.R.S. later required changes after audits."

--- Trump responds via Twitter this morning: "Real estate developers in the 1980’s & 1990’s, more than 30 years ago, were entitled to massive write offs and depreciation which would, if one was actively building, show losses and tax losses in almost all cases. Much was non monetary. Sometimes considered 'tax shelter,'.... you would get it by building, or even buying. You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes....almost all real estate developers did - and often re-negotiate with banks, it was sport. Additionally, the very old information put out is a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!"

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White House schedule

--- At 11:30 a.m., President Trump leads a Cabinet meeting. The president will then depart for Florida. At 6:15 p.m., he tours areas impacted by Hurricane Michael. At 8 p.m., he holds a rally for his re-election campaign in Panama City Beach. He will arrive back at the White House at 12:20 a.m.

--- Vice President Mike Pence joins the president for the 11:30 a.m. Cabinet meeting. In addition, at 4 p.m., he addresses the Federalist Society's 7th annual Executive Branch Review Conference.

Congress schedule

--- The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to vote on confirmation of five executive nominees: Joseph Bianco, to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit; Kimberly Reed, to be president of the Export-Import Bank; Spencer Bachus III and Judith DelZoppo Pryor, to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank; and Janet Dhillon, to be a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Senate will also hold a cloture vote on the nomination of Michael Park to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit.

--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to vote on five pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 1520 – Purple Book Continuity Act
  2. H.R. 1503 – Orange Book Transparency Act of 2019
  3. H.R. 1328 – ACCESS BROADBAND Act, as amended
  4. H.R. 312 – Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act
  5. H.R. 375 – To amend the Act of June 18, 1934, to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian Tribes, and for other purposes

Supreme Court schedule

--- The Supreme Court has no oral arguments or conference scheduled today.

2020 schedules

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden attends two fundraisers in Hollywood, as well as a public event with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, according to Variety.

--- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) headlines a Fox News town hall at 6:30 p.m. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, becoming the second Democratic presidential candidate to participate in an event on the network. The town hall will be moderated by Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

--- Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) holds a town hall in Mason City, Iowa, followed by a meet and greet in Lakeville, Minnesota, and a town hall in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

*All times Eastern