I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, May 9, 2019. 270 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 544 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com.
House panel holds Barr in contempt as Trump asserts executive privilege over Mueller report
The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, hours after President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege over special counsel Robert Mueller's full report and underlying evidence — two landmark moments in the escalating oversight battle between the executive and legislative branches.
"We are now in a constitutional crisis," House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) declared in comments to reporters.
The Judiciary Committee voted 24-16, along party lines, to recommend Barr be held in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena to turn over Mueller's full, unredacted report. The contempt citation now moves to the full House, which must approve the measure for it to go into effect. Barr would be the first Trump administration official to be held in contempt of Congress, which would allow the House to file a civil lawsuit to go to the courts over access to the special counsel's report. According to the Washington Post, the final House vote could come as early as next week.
Earlier Wednesday, President Trump formally moved to block the Mueller report from being publicly released, claiming executive privilege, a power that allows the president to protect executive branch documents from being subpoenaed by Congress. "Faced with Chairman Nadler's blatant abuse of power, and at the attorney general's request, the president has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Kerri Kupec, also went after Nadler in a statement, labeling the contempt vote as "politically motivated and unnecessary" and accusing the chairman of forcing Trump to assert executive privilege.
Nadler, meanwhile, defended his actions. "Our fight is not just about the Mueller report — although we must have access to the Mueller report,” the New York Democrat said during the Judiciary Committee's hours-long debate over the contempt resolution. "Our fight is about defending the rights of Congress, as an independent branch, to hold the president, any president, accountable."
Attorney General Barr released a redacted version of Mueller's 448-page report last month. According to CNN, about 8% of the report was blacked out. Barr said that he removed four types of information: grand jury material, classified intelligence information, material tied to ongoing investigations, and information that could harm the privacy of "peripheral" figures.
The contempt vote and assertion of executive privilege came as the clash between Congress and the White House escalated in other areas as well. According to Politico, House Democrats are expected to decide today whether to go straight to court to obtain President Trump's tax returns, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin formally rejected their request. In a Wednesday court filing, the president's lawyers urged a federal judge to block a separate House Oversight Committee subpoena for Trump's financial information, calling the request "unconstitutional." In addition, lawmakers moved closer to being able to see the president's state tax returns, with the New York State Senate passing a bill that would allow the U.S. House to obtain the returns.
Also on Wednesday, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)'s call for the congressional Russia investigations to end — "case closed," he declared — Axios and other news outlets reported that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee had subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to answer questions about his previous testimony before Senate investigators in relation to the Russia investigation. This was the first reported instance of one of President Trump's children being subpoenaed by a congressional committee.
As tensions between the two sides of Pennsylvania Avenue run higher, the possibility of House Democrats opening impeachment proceedings into the president is increasing. "He's becoming self-impeachable in terms of some of the things he's doing," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a live interview with the Washington Post on Wednesday, referring to his efforts to fight congressional subpoenas. Earlier this week, Pelosi said that "Trump is goading us to impeach him."
Breaking: North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles this morning, the South Korean military said, the second such launch from the North in less than a week.
China talks: "President Donald Trump declared [at a Florida campaign rally on Wednesday] that China’s leaders 'broke the deal' he was negotiating with them on trade, ratcheting up his rhetoric ahead of fresh talks already clouded by imminent tariff increases and Beijing’s threats of retaliation." (Bloomberg)
Venezuela policy: "President Trump is questioning his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela following the failure of a U.S.-backed effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro, complaining he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman with a young opposition figure, according to administration officials and White House advisers." (Washington Post)
2020 Central: "Joe Biden predicted Wednesday that the field of Democratic presidential candidates would be 'winnowed out pretty quickly' next year, dismissing concerns that a lengthy and contentious primary could weaken the party’s nominee. (Politico)
--- Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) announced the hiring of Jeff Berman as Senior Advisor for Delegate Strategy this morning. As Barack Obama's national delegate director in 2008, Berman was widely seen as key to the future president's success in the Democratic primaries... Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) has hired Marie Harf as his Deputy Campaign Manager for Policy and Communications, the Daily Beast reported. Harf, a former spokeswoman for then-Secretary of State John Kerry, most recently co-hosted a show on Fox News Radio.
--- Two interesting reads going inside the candidates' personal lives, via the Washington Post: "Beto + Sasha," an essay from O'Rourke's college girlfriend on watching him explode into celebrity... and "Amy Klobuchar's complicated political inheritance," on the Minnesota senator's father, a journalist who has written extensively on his struggles with alcoholism.
White House schedule
--- At 11:45 a.m., President Trump delivers remarks on ending surprise medical billing. At 1:45 p.m., he receives his intelligence briefing. At 3:45 p.m., he welcomes the Boston Red Sox, the 2018 World Series champions, to the White House for a celebratory event. According to the Associated Press, nearly a dozen players (along with team manager Alex Cora) will skip the event.
--- Vice President Mike Pence travels to North Dakota and Minnesota today. At 1:05 p.m., he visits R&J Johnson Farms in Fargo, North Dakota. At 4:45 p.m., he tours Gerdau Ameristeel in St. Paul, Minnesota, delivering remarks there at 5:25 p.m. The events in both states will focus on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the Trump administration's proposed NAFTA replacement.
--- The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. today. The chamber votes at 1:45 p.m. on confirmation of Michael H. Park to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit. If confirmed, he would be the 39th circuit court judge and 104th federal judge overall approved by the Senate since President Trump took office.
--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will vote on H.R. 986, the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019, which would block the Trump administration from allowing states to waive certain Obamacare requirements.
Supreme Court schedule
--- The justices meet today for their weekly conference.
--- Former Vice President Joe Biden attends a fundraiser in Los Angeles, California.
--- South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg holds an event in Los Angeles with the city's mayor, Eric Garcetti, in support of a local ballot question on education. In addition, according to Variety, Buttigieg will attend a fundraiser in Los Angeles co-hosted by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, actor Bradley Whitford, and other top Hollywood figures.
--- Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) visits New Hampshire, holding two meet and greets in Tilton and one in Somersworth.
--- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks at the San Francisco Sun-Reporter's 75th annual anniversary gala in San Francisco, California.
--- Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke holds a house party in Salem, New Hampshire.
--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson holds a town hall in Las Vegas, Nevada.
*All times Eastern