Trump Administration, Week 122: Friday, 17 May – Thursday, 23 May 2019 (Days 848-854)


Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are usually my emphasis, though not always. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently during the day. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.


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Friday, 17 May 2019, Day 848:


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Refuses to Comply With Subpoena for Trump’s Tax ReturnsThe New York Times, Alan Rappeport and Nicholas Fandos, Friday, 17 May 2019: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday refused to comply with a congressional subpoena to hand over President Trump’s tax returns, a move that is likely to be the final step before the matter heads to the courts. For more than a month, the Treasury Department and House Democrats have exchanged letters about the request, which was initiated in April by Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.” See also, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejects Democrats’ subpoena for Trump’s tax returnsThe Washington Post, Jeff Stein, Friday, 17 May 2019: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday rejected a subpoena from House Democrats demanding President Trump’s tax returns, setting the stage for a court battle over the documents.” See also, Trump administration rejects subpoena for Trump’s tax returns, upping stakes in Battle with DemocratsPolitico, Brian Faler, Friday, 17 May 2019.

No Mueller, no McGahn and stalled investigations leave House Democrats frustratedThe Washington Post, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, Friday, 17 May 2019: “An increasing number of House Democrats are frustrated by their stalled investigations into President Trump, with an uncooperative chief executive, their own leader’s reluctance about impeachment and courts that could be slow to resolve the standoff. Democrats have yet to hear from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who led the nearly two-year investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election and possible involvement with the Trump campaign. Even with negotiations, the earliest Mueller could testify would be next month. And any hopes of former White house counsel Donald McGahn facing a congressional panel on Tuesday are slim, as the White House moves to block all current and former aides  from cooperating with congressional inquiries. Weighing all options, Democrats have raised the specter of imposing fines or jailing people who ignore subpoenas, extreme measures that have prompted some legal experts to wonder whether Democrats have a strategy for this constitutional conflict. A group of House Judiciary Committee Democrats privately have discussed ways to increase pressure on leadership to bring impeachment proceedings despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s wariness, according to several Democrats who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss the plan.”

House passes bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identityThe Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Friday, 17 May 2019: “The House passed sweeping legislation Friday to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity after an emotional debate that underscored the divide between the two parties. Democrats cast the decades-in-the-making move to change the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a historic step to extend protections to LGBTQ Americans, with several gay and bisexual lawmakers emphasizing the need for the bill called the Equality Act. Republicans warned of the threat to religious freedom and argued that the measure could undermine women’s rights, with men who identify as women taking spots on women’s sports teams and denying them athletics scholarships. The bill would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, jury service and federal financing, protecting people from being fired or harassed for their sexuality or gender identity. As Democrats cheered and applauded, the bill passed 236-to-173, with eight Republicans breaking ranks and joining all Democrats in backing the measure. It is unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-led Senate, and the White House has signaled President Trump would veto the measure if it ever reached his desk.” See also, House Equality Act Extends Civil Rights Protections to Gay and Transgender PeopleThe New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Friday, 17 May 2019: “The House passed sweeping legislation on Friday that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill, passed 236-173, comes as departments across the Trump administration have dismantled policies friendly to gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, like barring transgender recruits from serving in the military or formally rejecting complaints filed by transgender students who are barred from restrooms that match their gender identity.”

Continue reading Week 122, Friday, 17 May – Thursday, 23 May 2019 (Days 848-854)

Trump’s Financial Disclosure Form: Five TakeawaysThe New York Times, Eric Lipton and Steve Eder, Friday, 17 May 2019: “When Donald J. Trump became president, he left his eldest sons in charge of his company, with a mandate to continue expanding the family’s business and brand — which they said at the time was ‘the hottest it has ever been.’ Now, more than two years into his presidency, there is growing evidence that the Trump brand is cooling off. The latest indication was in Mr. Trump’s financial disclosure report, made public on Thursday, which showed that revenues across the president’s businesses in 2018 were down about 4 percent from the previous year. Many of his biggest revenue generators, like his Doral resort and Washington hotel, had only tiny increases, while revenues from his famed club, Mar-a-Lago, dropped nearly 10 percent. The New York Times dug through the numbers for clues about how Mr. Trump’s businesses are faring just past the midway point of his term in office.”

Many Trump judicial nominees won’t affirm the Brown v. Board ruling. And that concerns some legal experts. The Washington Post, Eugene Scott, Friday, 17 May 2019: “The Supreme Court decision 65 years ago ruling that segregating schools by race was unconstitutional is widely viewed as settled to many Americans. But there is concern among some in the legal community that that might not exactly be the case. More than two dozen of President Trump’s judicial nominees have declined to answer whether Brown v. Board of Education was properly decided, and legal experts said that that could have real implications on education and race in the United States…. Casting doubt on this landmark ruling is like an earthquake under equal protection jurisprudence. Brown embodies the legal foundation on which all other desegregation decisions were based and the principle on which our federal civil rights laws were premised.”


Saturday, 18 May 2019, Day 849:


Representative Justin Amash (Republican-Michigan) says Trump’s conduct meets ‘threshold for impeachment,’ The Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Saturday, 18 May 2019: “Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a critic of President Trump who has entertained a run against him in 2020, became the first Republican congressman to say the president ‘engaged in impeachable conduct’ based on the Mueller report. The Michigan lawmaker, often the lone Trump dissenter on his side of the House aisle, shared his conclusions in a lengthy Twitter thread Saturday after reviewing the full report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Amash wrote that after reading the 448-page report, he had concluded that not only did Mueller’s team show Trump attempting to obstruct justice, but that Attorney General William P. Barr had ‘deliberately misrepresented’ the findings. He added that ‘few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report.'” See also, Breaking With His Party, Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, Says Trump’s Conduct Reaches ‘Threshold of Impeachment,’ The New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Saturday 18 May 2019: “Representative Justin Amash, an iconoclastic Republican of Michigan who has considered a run against President Trump in 2020, became the first member of his party serving in Congress to publicly suggest that the president’s conduct had reached the ‘threshold of impeachment.’ Mr. Amash, 39, used Mr. Trump’s favorite medium — Twitter — to join a groundswell of Democrats who have concluded that the president’s behavior, including instances of potential obstruction of justice laid out in the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, meets the constitutional threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors.” See also, Trump Calls Representative Justin Amash a ‘Loser’ Over Impeachment TalkThe New York Times, Glenn Thrush, published on Sunday, 19 May 2019.

‘It’s entirely inappropriate’: Trump shot a political video on Air Force OneThe Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Saturday, 18 May 2019: “Seated behind a desk on Air Force One, the presidential seal over his left shoulder, President Trump shot a short video Thursday, blasting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s entry into the 2020 race. ‘If you like high taxes and if you like crime, you can vote for him — but most people aren’t into that,’ the president said to the camera. Trump’s use of taxpayer-funded transportation to post a political message raises some legal and ethics questions. But possibly the greatest crime, some experts say, is the breakdown of norms. ‘It’s entirely inappropriate, and it is against historical norms for a president to be campaigning from Air Force One,’ said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group. ‘Most presidents have had enough respect for the office to try to separate campaigning from formal duties. Donald Trump is not such a president.'”


Sunday, 19 May 2019, Day 850:


Deutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner AccountsThe New York Times, David Enrich, Sunday, 19 May 2019: “Anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes. But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.”

The Republican National Committee Accepts Money From Steve Wynn, Mogul Accused of Sexual MisconductThe New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, Sunday, 19 May 2019: “President Trump has generally bucked the #MeToo movement, siding instead with the men who deny accusations of sexual assault or misconduct. Now, the Republican National Committee appears to be following his lead. Steve Wynn, the billionaire former casino mogul who resigned as chairman of Wynn Resorts and as finance chairman of the R.N.C. last year after The Wall Street Journal revealed allegations of sexual assault and harassment spanning decades, has recently donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the committee.”

Trump tweets threat: ‘If Iran wants to fight, that will be the end of Iran,’ The Guardian, Ed Pilkington and Martin Pengelly, Sunday, 19 May 2019: “Donald Trump has issued one of his most direct threats yet to Tehran, warning that ‘if Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.’ The US president emerged from his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, on Sunday to tweet belligerently at around 4.30pm, thereby risking a quickening of tension that is already rising.”


Monday, 20 May 2019, Day 851:


Environmental Protection Agency Plans to Get Thousands of Deaths Off the Books by Changing Its MathThe New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Monday, 20 May 2019: “The Environmental Protection Agency plans to change the way it calculates the health risks of air pollution, a shift that would make it easier to roll back a key climate change rule because it would result in far fewer predicted deaths from pollution, according to five people with knowledge of the agency’s plans. The E.P.A. had originally forecast that eliminating the Obama-era rule, the Clean Power Plan, and replacing it with a new measure would have resulted in an additional 1,400 premature deaths per year. The new analytical model would significantly reduce that number and would most likely be used by the Trump administration to defend further rollbacks of air pollution rules if it is formally adopted.”

Trump blocks former counsel Donald McGahn from testifying to CongressThe Washington Post, Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey, and Devlin Barrett, Monday, 20 May 2019: “The White House on Monday blocked former counsel Donald McGahn from testifying to Congress, the latest act of defiance in the ongoing war between House Democrats and President Trump. McGahn, who Democrats hoped would become a star witness in their investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice, was subpoenaed to testify Tuesday morning. The former White House counsel delivered critical testimony in several instances of potential obstruction by Trump detailed in special counsel Robert. S. Mueller III’s report.”

Judge rules against Trump in fight over president’s financial recordsThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu, Rachael Bade, and Josh Dawsey, Monday, 20 May 2019: “President Trump on Monday lost an early round of his court fight with Democrats after a federal judge ruled the president’s accounting firm must turn over his financial records to Congress as lawmakers seek to assert their oversight authority. Trump called the 41-page ruling from U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta of the District of Columbia ‘crazy’ and said he would appeal, adding: ‘We think it’s totally the wrong decision by, obviously, an Obama-appointed judge.’ Lawyers for the president are fighting document and witness subpoenas on multiple fronts, and Mehta’s ruling came hours after former White House counsel Donald McGahn was directed not to appear before a congressional committee seeking testimony about his conversations with Trump.” See also, Accountants Must Turn Over Trump’s Financial Records, Lower-Court Judge RulesThe New York Times, Charlie Savage, Monday, 20 May 2019. See also, The Fight Over Trump’s Systematic Stonewalling of Congress Escalates as a Federal Judge Rules for Congress in Early TestThe New York Times, Charlie Savage and Nicholas Fandos, Monday, 20 May 2019: “The fight over President Trump’s systematic stonewalling of Congress escalated on two fronts on Monday, as a federal judge upheld a subpoena for his financial records even as the White House instructed its former top lawyer to defy a subpoena to testify before lawmakers. In the first court test of Mr. Trump’s vow to resist ‘all’ subpoenas by House Democrats, a judge ruled that his accounting firm, Mazars USA, must turn over his financial records to Congress — rejecting his lawyers’ argument that lawmakers had no legitimate power to demand the files. Mr. Trump separately moved to block Congress from receiving testimony by the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, denying House Democrats one of the most important eyewitnesses to Mr. Trump’s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation. Mr. McGahn will not appear, his lawyer said later. The fights raise separate but overlapping issues: how far Congress’s power to subpoena information extends, what Mr. Trump can apply executive privilege to in order to keep secret, and whether a president’s senior aides are ‘absolutely immune’ from subpoenas, meaning they do not even have to show up when ordered to appear before lawmakers.”

Attorney General William Barr Says He Is Fighting for the Presidency, Not for TrumpThe Wall Street Journal, Sadie Gurman, Monday, 20 May 2019: “As President Trump’s attorney general, William Barr has come under criticism from Democrats and some Republicans who say he is acting more like the president’s personal lawyer than the nation’s top law-enforcement officer. But Mr. Barr, who as a private citizen bristled at the barrage of legal and other challenges Mr. Trump faced during his first two years in office, said his long-held belief in executive power is more about protecting the presidency than the current officeholder. ‘I felt the rules were being changed to hurt Trump, and I thought it was damaging for the presidency over the long haul,’ Mr. Barr said.”

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former longtime personal attorney, told lawmakers Trump attorney Jay Sekulow encouraged him to falsely claim Moscow project ended in January 2016The Washington Post, Tom Hamburger, Ellen Nakashima, and Karoun Demirjian, Monday, 20 May 2019: “Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former longtime personal attorney, told a House panel during closed-door hearings earlier this year that he had been encouraged by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow to falsely claim in a 2017 statement to Congress that negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January 2016, according to transcripts of his testimony released Monday evening. In fact, Cohen later admitted, discussions on the Moscow tower continued into June of the presidential election year, after it was clear Trump would be the GOP nominee. Cohen is serving three years in prison for lying to Congress, financial crimes and campaign finance violations. House Democrats are now scrutinizing whether Sekulow or other Trump attorneys played a role in shaping Cohen’s 2017 testimony to Congress. Cohen has said he made the false statement to help hide the fact that Trump had potentially hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in a possible Russian project while he was running for president.” See also, Michael Cohen says Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, asked him to falsely testify to CongressPolitico, Andrew Desiderio, Natasha Bertrand, and Darren Samuelsohn, Monday, 20 May 2019: “Michael Cohen told lawmakers earlier this year that one of Donald Trump’s personal attorneys asked him to falsely testify to Congress and told him the president was considering granting him a pardon to ‘shut down’ the Russia investigation, according to transcripts released Monday of Cohen’s two private interviews with the House Intelligence Committee. Cohen said lawyer Jay Sekulow requested he falsely tell Congress that negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow ended on Jan. 31, 2016, nearly six months before they actually fizzled. Trump’s former fixer also testified during one of those closed-door sessions in February that the president was considering pardons for him and others to ‘shut down, you know, this investigation.'”

Fifth migrant child dies after arriving at the US border from Guatemala since DecemberCNN, Priscilla Alvarez and Geneva Sands, Monday, 20 May 2019: “A 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died in government custody Monday morning, Customs and Border Protection said. The teen, identified by a CBP official as Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, was apprehended and processed near Hidalgo, Texas, on May 13 before being transferred to the Weslaco Border Patrol Station Sunday, the agency said in a statement. He was found unresponsive Monday morning. The cause of death is unknown, the agency said.” See also, Guatemalan Boy Dies at Border Station While Awaiting Move to a ShelterThe New York Times, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Monday, 20 May 2019.

Global sea level rise could be bigger than expectedBBC, Matt McGrath, Monday, 20 May 2019: “Scientists believe that global sea levels could rise far more than predicted, due to accelerating melting in Greenland and Antarctica. The long-held view has been that the world’s seas would rise by a maximum of just under a metre by 2100. This new study, based on expert opinions, projects that the real level may be around double that figure. This could lead to the displacement of hundreds of millions of people, the authors say.”


Tuesday, 21 May 2019, Day 852:


Democratic Calls for Impeachment Inquiry Grow as Leaders Instead Vow to Toughen TacticsThe New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “A bloc of liberal Democrats began pressing on Tuesday for an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, underscoring party divisions and the growing difficulties that Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces as she tries to chart a more methodical course. Mr. Trump’s latest defiance of congressional oversight demands precipitated the break among Democrats. The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II, who had been called to testify on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee about the president’s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation, skipped the scheduled hearing after Mr. Trump ordered him to ignore lawmakers’ subpoena. Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee chairman, promised to hold Mr. McGahn in contempt of Congress and warned other potential witnesses to expect new hardball tactics — like changing House rules to allow fines for people held in contempt — but he stopped short of publicly endorsing impeachment. He later issued subpoenas for testimony to Mr. McGahn’s former chief of staff, Annie Donaldson, and Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, both key figures in the special counsel investigation.” See also, Calls for impeachment intensify in House of Representatives, dividing DemocratsThe Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Rachael Bade, and John Wagner, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “A growing number of House Democrats are publicly calling for a formal inquiry into President Trump’s impeachment amid continued stonewalling from his administration, applying new pressure to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders who have been determined to stick to a methodical course of investigation and litigation. While a handful of lawmakers have agitated for impeachment for months, Tuesday’s no-show of former White House counsel Donald McGahn at a House hearing and the uncertain prospects for public testimony from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III have prompted a larger number of Democrats to speak out. On Monday and Tuesday, 25 House Democrats publicly called for an impeachment inquiry. Leading the charge are members of the House Judiciary Committee who have been increasingly frustrated with the Trump administration’s blanket refusal to cooperate with congressional requests for documents and testimony. Some confronted Pelosi at a private meeting of the House leadership Monday, seeking to convince her that an impeachment probe would be the most effective way to hold Trump to account, even if he is never formally impeached.”

Confidential draft IRS memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless president invokes executive privilegeThe Washington Post, Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “A confidential Internal Revenue Service legal memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president takes the rare step of asserting executive privilege, according to a copy of the memo obtained by The Washington Post. The memo contradicts the Trump administration’s justification for denying lawmakers’ request for President Trump’s tax returns, exposing fissures in the executive branch. Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns but has not invoked executive privilege. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instead denied the returns by arguing there is no legislative purpose for demanding them. But according to the IRS memo, which has not been previously reported, the disclosure of tax returns to the committee ‘is mandatory, requiring the Secretary to disclose returns, and return information, requested by the tax-writing Chairs.'” See also, I.R.S. Memo Undercuts Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Withholding Trump’s Tax ReturnsThe New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “The Internal Revenue Service has no choice but to honor congressional requests for President Trump’s tax returns unless he invokes executive privilege to protect them, according to a draft legal memo written by agency staff members. The memo appears to undercut the reasoning offered by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has refused to comply with Democrats’ requests because they lack a ‘legitimate legislative purpose.’ Mr. Mnuchin said he made his decision after consulting with lawyers from the Treasury Department, the I.R.S. and the Justice Department. But the I.R.S. memo says the Treasury secretary does not have the authority to deny tax-writing committees’ requests for taxpayer returns.”

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Secretly Meets With House Foreign Affairs Committee to Talk TrumpThe Daily Beast, Erin Banco, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson spoke with the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs committee on Tuesday in a lengthy session that, an aide said, touched on his time working in the Trump administration, the frictions he had with the president’s son-in-law, and efforts to tackle issues like Russian interference in the 2016 election. Tillerson’s appearance, first reported by The Daily Beast, took place as virtually every other Trumpworld luminary has been stonewalling congressional oversight efforts. At the same time the former secretary of state was speaking before lawmakers, former White House counsel Don McGahn was ignoring a subpoena to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee. 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. Tillerson reached out to the committee and expressed a willingness to meet, a committee aide said. In a more than six-hour meeting, he told members and staffers that the Trump administration actively avoided confronting Russia about allegations of interference in the election in an effort to develop a solid relationship with the Kremlin, a committee aide told The Daily Beast.”

Thousands rally across the US against abortion bans–in picturesThe Guardian, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “About 400 events were set to take place across all 50 US states in defense of abortion rights.” Across the US, Protesters Rally to Stop States’ Abortion BansNPR, Laurel Wamsley, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “Abortion-rights advocates are holding rallies across the country Tuesday, protesting a wave of laws passed by states in recent weeks to severely restrict access to abortions. Organizers include the ACLU, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. More than 400 events were planned for a national day of action outside statehouses and courts, united under the #StopTheBans moniker.”

Vermont Moves to Protect Abortion Rights as Other States Impose BansThe New York Times, Kate Taylor and Julie Turkewitz, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “A district attorney in Utah is refusing to enforce a new law banning abortions after 18 weeks. In Colorado, the secretary of state is barring her staff from taking work-related trips to Alabama, a protest against that state’s decision last week to set the strictest abortion limits in the country. And in Vermont, Democrats have approved a measure meant to protect abortion rights, and supporters have pleaded with the state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, to sign it. The Vermont bill, aimed at providing some of the strongest protections for abortion rights in the nation, came as crowds of supporters for such rights gathered on Tuesday outside state houses and on the steps of the Supreme Court to protest abortion bans like Alabama’s. In Vermont, the bill would prohibit the government from interfering in any way with the right to have an abortion. It would not change the status quo in Vermont, where there currently are no legal limits on when or under what circumstances a woman can decide to end a pregnancy. But supporters say that the bill sends a resonant message to the nation about Vermont’s views on abortion rights just as other states are sending far different signals.”

Two dozen states, municipalities, sue over Trump’s new federal rule that gives health-care providers, insurers, and employers greater latitude to refuse to provide or pay for medical services that they say violate their religious or moral beliefs, The Washington Post, Amy Goldstein, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “A group of mostly Democratic states filed lawsuits against the Trump administration on Tuesday, challenging a new federal rule that gives health-care providers, insurers and employers greater latitude to refuse to provide or pay for medical services that they say violate their religious or moral beliefs. A lawsuit by a coalition of nearly two dozen states and cities, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, alleges that the rule illegally favors the personal views of health-care workers over the needs of patients — ‘at a dangerous price’ of hobbling the ability of state-run health-care facilities to provide effective care. A separate suit, brought by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, alleges that the rule ‘impedes access to basic care’ and ‘encourages discrimination against vulnerable patients,’ including women and LGBTQ individuals.”

Albany Closes a Loophole for Trump Pardons. Next Up: Trump’s Taxes. The New York Times, Jesse McKinley, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “The New York State Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday that would allow state prosecutors to pursue charges against any individual granted a presidential pardon for similar federal crimes, closing a loophole that lawmakers said could be exploited by President Trump in a bid to indemnify former associates. The bill, which has already passed the State Senate and has the support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, would exempt the state’s so-called double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons, something supporters say is necessary to stave off a possible abuse of Mr. Trump’s pardon power. On Wednesday, the Legislature — controlled by Democrats — is expected to pass a separate bill that would allow three congressional committees to seek Mr. Trump’s state tax returns; that bill also has the support of Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat in his third term.”

Trump Shifts Gears on Infrastructure, Demanding Trade Come FirstThe New York Times, Peter Baker, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “President Trump effectively blew up negotiations with Democratic leaders over a plan to rebuild the nation’s highways, airports and other infrastructure on Tuesday night, insisting that they put the idea aside until Congress approves a new trade pact with Mexico and Canada. The surprise demand came on the eve of a White House meeting scheduled for Wednesday at which Mr. Trump was to host Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, to discuss a construction package he has targeted at as high as $2 trillion.”

Conservative activist Leonard Leo’s behind-the-scenes campaign to remake the nation’s courtsThe Washington Post, Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg, Tuesday, 21 May 2019: “Leonard Leo stepped onto the stage in a darkened Florida ballroom, looked out at a gathering of some of the nation’s most powerful conservative activists and told them they were on the cusp of fulfilling a long-sought dream. For two decades, Leo has been on a mission to turn back the clock to a time before the U.S. Supreme Court routinely expanded the government’s authority and endorsed new rights such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Now, as President Trump’s unofficial judicial adviser, he told the audience at the closed-door event in February that they had to mobilize in ‘very unprecedented ways’ to help finish the job. ‘We’re going to have to understand that judicial confirmations these days are more like political campaigns,’ Leo told the members of the Council for National Policy, according to a recording of the speech obtained by The Washington Post. ‘We’re going to have to be smart as a movement.'”


Wednesday, 22 May 2019, Day 853:


New York Passes Bill Giving Congress a Way to Get Trump’s State Tax ReturnsThe New York Times, Jesse McKinley, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “New York State lawmakers on Wednesday gave their final approval to a bill that would clear a path for Congress to obtain President Trump’s state tax returns, injecting another element into a tortuous battle over the president’s refusal to release his taxes. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat and regular critic of Mr. Trump’s policies and behavior, will authorize state tax officials to release the president’s state returns to any one of three congressional committees. The returns — filed in New York, the president’s home state and business headquarters — would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns, though it remained unclear whether those congressional committees would use such new power in their investigations.” See also, New York legislature approves bill giving Congress access to Trump’s state tax recordsThe Washington Post, Jeff Stein, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “New York state’s legislature on Wednesday approved a bill to allow the state to give Congress President Trump’s state tax returns, which could allow U.S. House members to review portions of the president’s financial records. The bill now heads to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), who has expressed support for the effort and is expected to sign it into law. It’s unclear whether House Democrats will request the state records, after a spokesman for the House Ways and Means Committee said the state documents may not be relevant to the committee’s investigation. The records would have to be requested by the committee for them to be turned over. Their disclosure by state officials could also be challenged in court.”

Judge rejects Trump’s request to halt congressional subpoenas for his banking recordsThe Washington Post, Renae Merle, Michael Kranish, and Felicia Sonmez, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a request by President Trump to block congressional subpoenas for his banking records, dealing the latest blow to the president in his bid to battle Democratic investigations into his personal finances. The decision in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York could clear the way for Deutsche Bank and Capital One to hand over the president’s financial records to Democrats in the House. Trump’s attorneys could appeal the decision. Attorneys for Trump, his family and the Trump Organization filed for a preliminary injunction earlier this month as part of a lawsuit seeking to block the two institutions from handing over documents to the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees.” See also, Federal Judge Rules Deutsche Bank Can Release Trump Records to CongressThe New York Times, Emily Flitter, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “A federal judge on Wednesday rejected President Trump’s request to block his longtime lender, Deutsche Bank, from complying with congressional subpoenas. Judge Edgardo Ramos of United States District Court in Manhattan issued his ruling after hearing arguments from lawyers for Mr. Trump and his family, as well as two Democratic-controlled congressional committees. ‘I will not enjoin enforcement of the subpoenas,’ Mr. Ramos said, and added that he thought it was unlikely Mr. Trump and his family would win in a trial.”

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff says Justice Department agrees to turn over Mueller documentsNBC News, Associated Press, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “Easing some of the escalating tension between Congress and the White House, the House Intelligence Committee postponed efforts to enforce a subpoena against the Justice Department on Wednesday after officials agreed to hand over a cache of documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report. The agreement came a day after the department said it would be willing to provide documents from Mueller’s investigation but only if the committee didn’t take action against Attorney General William Barr. The panel had been expected to vote at Wednesday’s meeting — now postponed — on an unspecified ‘enforcement action’ against Barr or the department after they refused to hand over an unredacted version of Mueller’s report and other documents related to the Russia probe. Democrats have accused President Donald Trump and Barr of trying to stonewall and block their constitutional oversight duties. A separate House panel voted earlier this month to hold Barr in contempt after he failed to comply with a similar subpoena.” See also, Justice Department Says It Will Share Some Mueller-Related Intelligence With the House Intelligence CommitteeThe New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “The House Intelligence Committee chairman said Wednesday that the Justice Department had agreed to begin honoring a subpoena for intelligence materials related to the special counsel’s investigation, staving off Democratic action to try to force compliance. The department could begin handing over counterintelligence and foreign intelligence-related documents as soon as this week, the chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, said Wednesday morning. The action prompted him to cancel a committee meeting scheduled for later in the day at which Democrats had planned to vote on an unspecified ‘enforcement action’ to increase pressure on the department.” See also, Justice Department and House intelligence panel strike deal for Mueller materialsThe Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Wednesday, 22 May 2019.

Trump angrily walks out of meeting with Democrats after Pelosi says he is ‘engaged in a coverup,’ The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey, and John Wagner, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “The feud between President Trump and congressional Democrats reached new heights of animosity Wednesday after Trump angrily walked out of a White House meeting on the nation’s infrastructure, insisting he would not work with Democrats unless they abandon their inquiries into his businesses, presidency and personal finances.” See also, Trump Walks Out on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer After 3 MinutesThe New York Times, Peter Baker, Katie Rogers, and Emily Cochrane, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “President Trump abruptly blew up a scheduled meeting with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday, lashing out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi for accusing him of a cover-up and declaring that he could not work with them until they stopped investigating him.” See also, Trump’s gripe-filled news conference, annotatedThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Wednesday, 22 May 2019. See also, A Trump Twitter-style diatribe–live from the Rose GardenThe Washington Post, Anne Gearan, Wednesday, 22 May 2019.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Pushes Go-Slow Strategy on Impeachment as She Goads TrumpThe New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “If Mr. Trump’s preplanned Rose Garden explosion proved anything, it is that the president is willing to sacrifice his own stated policy agenda to keep ‘presidential harassment’ front and center, and that the speaker, who wants to focus on policy, is leveraging decades of hard-won political capital to keep her party from pursuing an impeachment path that she believes could cost House Democrats their majority in 2020 and keep Mr. Trump in the White House. The White House meeting, all three minutes of it, was only Ms. Pelosi’s second most important meeting on Wednesday morning. At 9 a.m., the speaker, seeking to head off a growing revolt by House Democrats calling for Mr. Trump’s impeachment, convened an all-hands meeting with her caucus to sell her members on her strategy of exhausting all legislative and legal avenues before taking up impeachment.” See also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tamps down rising Democratic cries for Trump impeachment inquiryThe Washington Post, Jacqueline Alemany, published on Thursday, 23 May 2019. See also, 2020 Democrats on Impeachment: What the Candidates Have SaidThe New York Times, Karen Zraick, Wednesday, 22 May 2019. See also, Which House Democrats support impeachment? The Washington Post, JM Rieger and Amber Phillips, Wednesday, 22 May 2019.

Trump’s Battles: Today’s State of PlayThe New York Times, Wednesday, 22 May 2019.

Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Barbara Lee Introduce the Inclusive Prosperity Act to Curb Wall Street GreedBernie Sanders Press Release, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “Today, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced the Inclusive Prosperity Act along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and more than a dozen House Democrats. The legislation imposes a tax of a fraction of a percent on the trades of stocks, bonds, and derivatives. This tax on Wall Street speculation, also known as a financial transaction tax, is estimated to generate up to $2.4 trillion in public revenue from wealthy investors over 10 years. An added benefit of the proposed tax is deterring the high-frequency trading that increases the instability of the financial sector and produces no economic value.”

House Appropriations Committee Approves a Bipartisan Amendment That Gives Life to the Effort to Repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military ForceThe New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “For the first time in years, Democratic and Republican lawmakers intent on repealing the authorization of military force passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are expressing hope that they can finally rein in a resolution that has been stretched like elastic to justify open-ended warfare against Islamist militants around the globe. The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a bipartisan amendment that would repeal the 2001 authorization for the use of military force, which provided Congress’s blessing to use military force only against nations, groups or individuals responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. When it was first passed, the enemies targeted were Al Qaeda and its Taliban host in Afghanistan, but since then, presidents of both parties have invoked the war authority to justify military force in many other places.”

Environmental Protection Agency blocks a dozen products containing pesticides thought to be harmful to beesThe Washington Post, Dino Grandoni, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “The Environmental Protection Agency is pulling from the market a dozen products containing pesticides known to be toxic to a linchpin of the U.S. food system — the honeybee. The agency announced Monday it has canceled the registrations of 12 pest-killing products with compounds belonging to a class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids, as part of a legal settlement. For years, beekeepers and wildlife conversationalists alike have voiced concern that the widespread use of neonics, as the chemicals are commonly called, is imperiling wild and domesticated bees crucial to pollinating commercial fruit, nut and vegetable crops. The Trump administration’s action was welcome news to some environmentalists.”

Harriet Tubman $20 bill is no longer coming in 2020: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the redesign has been postponedCNBC, Tucker Higgins, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “The redesign of the $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman will no longer be unveiled in 2020, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday. The unveiling had been timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Mnuchin said the design process has been delayed and no new imagery will be unveiled until 2028…. The Tubman design was announced in 2016 by former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew following a 10-month process in which the department sought input from the public. ‘The decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old,’ Lew said at the time. ‘I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy.’President Donald Trump, months before he was elected, called the decision to put Tubman on the  currency ‘pure political correctness’ and proposed putting her portrait on the $2 bill. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced a bill earlier this year that would direct the Treasury to print Tubman’s portrait on all new $20 bills starting in 2021. The companion bill was sponsored by Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and John Katko, R-N.Y., in the House of Representatives. In a statement, Shaheen said ‘this delay sends an unmistakable message to women and girls, and communities of color, who were promised they’d see Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. The needless foot-dragging on this important effort is unacceptable. Our currency tells our country’s story and it is past time to honor the contributions of Harriet Tubman,’ Shaheen said.” See also, Harriet Tubman $20 Bill Is Delayed Until Trump Leaves Office, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin SaysThe New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Wednesday, 22 May 2019.

‘Fetal Heartbeat’ vs. ‘Forced Pregnancy’: The Language Wars of the Abortion DebateThe New York Times, Amy Harmon, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “The new laws that prohibit abortion as early as the sixth week of pregnancy have been called ‘heartbeat’ legislation by supporters, a reference to the flickering pulse that can be seen on ultrasound images of a developing embryo. But when the American Civil Liberties Union announced a legal challenge last week to one such law in Ohio, there was no mention of the word ‘heartbeat’ in the news release, which referred to the law instead as ‘a ban on almost all abortions.’ In Georgia, Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who narrowly lost the governor’s race last year, called the measure in her state a ‘forced pregnancy bill.’ A sign at a protest against the law in Atlanta this week turned the idea into a slogan: ‘NO FORCED BIRTHS.’ The battle over abortion has long been shaped by language. After abortion opponents coined the ‘pro-life’ phrase in the 1960s to emphasize what they saw as the humanity of the fetus, supporters of abortion cast themselves as ‘pro-choice’ to stress a woman’s right to make decisions about her body. In the mid-1990s, the term ‘partial-birth abortion,’ originated by the anti-abortion group National Right to Life, helped rally public opinion against a late-term abortion procedure. Abortion rights activists countered with ‘Trust Women.'”

Pentagon to Build Temporary Shelter for 7,500 Migrant Adults Facing DeportationThe New York Times, Helene Cooper and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “The Pentagon said on Wednesday that it would build temporary housing along the southwestern border for 7,500 migrant adults facing deportation, the latest step in the administration’s efforts to respond to a surge of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers trying to enter the United States. The Defense Department will loan military-style tents to the Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon officials said. In a statement emailed to reporters, Maj. Chris Miller, a Pentagon spokesman, said that military personnel would only set up the tents and that the operation of the facilities would rest with homeland security.”

Should the Electoral College Be Eliminated? 15 States Are Trying to Make It ObsoleteThe New York Times, Jose A. Del Real and Julie Turkewitz, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “On Tuesday, Nevada became the latest state to pass a bill that would grant its electoral votes to whoever wins the popular vote across the country, not just in Nevada. The movement is the brainchild of John Koza, a co-founder of National Popular Vote, an organization that is working to eliminate the influence of the Electoral College. If Nevada’s governor signs the bill, the state will become the 15th — plus the District of Columbia — to join an interstate pact of states promising to switch to the new system. Those states, including Nevada, have a total of 195 electoral votes. The pact would take effect once enough states have joined to guarantee the national winner 270 electoral votes, ensuring election. Enforcement, however, could be very difficult without congressional approval, according to constitutional law experts. And the pact would be highly vulnerable to legal challenges, they say.”

Trump’s Golf Costs: $102 Million and Counting, With Taxpayers Picking Up the TabHuffPost, S.V. Date, Wednesday, 22 May 2019: “Trump promised never to golf. Instead, he’s spent more than twice as many days golfing as Obama at the same point, costing taxpayers over three times as much. Donald Trump’s golf habit has already cost taxpayers at least $102 million in extra travel and security expenses, and next month will achieve a new milestone: a seven-figure presidential visit to another country so he can play at his own course. U.S. taxpayers have spent $81 million for the president’s two dozen trips to Florida, according to a HuffPost analysis. They spent $17 million for his 15 trips to New Jersey, another $1 million so he could visit his resort in Los Angeles and at least $3 million for his two days in Scotland last summer ― $1.3 million of which went just for rental cars for the massive entourage that accompanies a president abroad.”


Thursday, 23 May 2019, Day 854:


Julian Assange Is Indicted Under Espionage Act, Raising First Amendment IssuesThe New York Times, Charlie Savage, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues. The new charges were part of an expanded indictment obtained by the Trump administration that significantly raised the stakes of the legal case against Mr. Assange, who is already fighting extradition proceedings in London based on an earlier hacking-related count brought by federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia…. For the purposes of press freedoms, what matters is not who counts as a journalist, but whether journalistic activities — which anyone can perform — can constitute crimes. The Trump administration’s move could establish a precedent used to criminalize future acts of national-security journalism, said Jameel Jaffer of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. ‘The charges rely almost entirely on conduct that investigative journalists engage in every day,’ he said. ‘The indictment should be understood as a frontal attack on press freedom.’… [John] Demers [the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division] left the press briefing without taking questions, and a Justice Department official who stayed behind to answer questions on the condition that he would not be named would not address any about how most of the basic actions the indictment deemed felonies by Mr. Assange differed in a legally meaningful way from ordinary national-security investigative journalism — asking sources to provide secret information of news value and, after obtaining it, publishing it without the government’s permission. Notably, The New York Times, among many other news organizations, obtained precisely the same archives of documents from WikiLeaks, without authorization from the government — the act that most of the charges addressed. While The Times did take steps to withhold the names of informants in the subset of the files it published, it is not clear how that is legally different from publishing other classified information.” See also, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is charged with violating the Espionage ActThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Rachel Weiner, and Matt Zapotosky, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was charged Thursday with violating the Espionage Act by seeking out classified information, an escalation of the Trump administration’s pursuit of leakers that could have major First Amendment repercussions for news organizations. An 18-count federal indictment alleges that Assange worked with a former Army intelligence analyst to obtain and disseminate secret documents — actions similar to reporting work at many traditional news organizations.” See also, ACLU Comment on Julian Assange IndictmentAmerican Civil Liberties Union, Ben Wizner, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “The Department of Justice today charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act. Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, issued the following comment in response: ‘For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information. This is an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on journalism, and a direct assault on the First Amendment. It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets. And it is equally dangerous for U.S. journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations. If the US can prosecute a foreign publisher for violating our secrecy laws, there’s nothing preventing China, or Russia, from doing the same.'” See also, Julian Assange’s Indictment Aims at the Heart of the First AmendmentThe New York Times, Editorial Board, Thursday, 24 May 2019: “On Thursday, the Justice Department charged Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, with multiple counts of violating the 1917 Espionage Act for his role in publishing tens of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. The indictment supersedes an indictment unsealed in April on narrow grounds of attempting to help an Army private surreptitiously break into a government computer to steal classified and sensitive documents. The new indictment goes much further. It is a marked escalation in the effort to prosecute Mr. Assange, one that could have a chilling effect on American journalism as it has been practiced for generations. It is aimed straight at the heart of the First Amendment. The new charges focus on receiving and publishing classified material from a government source. That is something journalists do all the time. They did it with the Pentagon Papers and in countless other cases where the public benefited from learning what was going on behind closed doors, even though the sources may have acted illegally. This is what the First Amendment is designed to protect: the ability of publishers to provide the public with the truth.” See also, Jeremy Scahill: New Indictment of Assange Is Part of a Broader War on Journalism & WhistleblowersDemocracy Now!, published on Friday, 24 May 2019. See also, The Espionage Axe: Donald Trump and the War Against a Free PressThe Intercept/Intercepted, Jeremy Scahill, published on Wednesday, 15 May 2019. See also, ‘Frightening’: Charges Against Julian Assange Alarm Press AdvocatesThe New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum and Marc Tracy, Thursday, 23 May 2019. See also, The Indictment of Julian Assange Under the Espionage Act Is a Threat to the Press and The American PeopleThe Intercept, James Risen, published on Friday, 24 May 2019. See also, Charging Julian Assange Under the Espionage Act Is an Attack on the First AmendmentThe New Yorker, Masha Gessen, published on Friday, 24 May 2019.

Trump and Pelosi Trade Barbs, Both Questioning the Other’s FitnessThe New York Times, Glenn Thrush and Michael Tackett, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “The war of words between President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi escalated in dramatic fashion on Thursday, with each leader questioning the other’s temperament and mental fitness in an extraordinary exchange of personal insults. The president, who has largely avoided direct personal attacks on the speaker, finally gave her a derogatory nickname — calling her ‘Crazy Nancy,’ after Ms. Pelosi had suggested Mr. Trump’s behavior was so erratic it required an ‘intervention’ from his family and staff…. For her part, Ms. Pelosi was intent on playing a two-pronged game: bashing Mr. Trump publicly while toiling in the Capitol to dissuade House Democrats from impeaching him. Ms. Pelosi said on Thursday that House Democrats were ‘not on a path to impeachment,’ even as she accused Mr. Trump of trying to whip her caucus into a distracting political battle by stonewalling congressional oversight.” See also, Trump and Pelosi trade insults in power struggle between two party leadersThe Washington Post, Rachael Bade, John Wagner, and Anne Gearan, Thursday, 23 May 2019.

Senate Passes Long-Deferred Disaster Relief PackageThe New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “The Senate on Thursday passed a long-delayed disaster relief package, a step toward ending a monthslong impasse that had prevented the release of billions of dollars in aid for farmers and communities struggling to recover from an onslaught of natural disasters over the last two years. Minutes after a tornado warning blared through the Capitol chambers, the Senate voted 85 to 8 to allocate $19.1 billion for recovery efforts across the country. While the package included $900 million for Puerto Rico that President Trump had objected to, it did not include funds for the southwestern border that the White House had pressed for.” See also, Senate approves deal on disaster aid, leaving out the U.S.-Mexico border funding Trump demandedThe Washington Post, Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis, Thursday, 23 May 2019. See also, Senate Passes $19.1 Billion Deal on Disaster AidThe Wall Street Journal, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “The Senate passed a $19.1 billion disaster aid package on Thursday, ending a monthslong impasse with an agreement that includes more assistance for Puerto Rico but no money for the southern border as sought by President Trump. Passage came after Mr. Trump agreed to support the legislation without any border funding. The Trump administration has been seeking billions of dollars of additional moneys to address an influx of migrants from Central America, which lawmakers now plan to tackle separately.”

Trump Gives Attorney General William Barr Sweeping Power of Review Into How the 2016 Trump Campaign’s Ties to Russia Were Investigated, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “President Trump took extraordinary steps on Thursday to give Attorney General William P. Barr sweeping new authorities to conduct a review into how the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia were investigated, significantly escalating the administration’s efforts to place those who investigated the campaign under scrutiny. In a directive, Mr. Trump ordered the C.I.A. and the country’s 15 other intelligence agencies to cooperate with the review and granted Mr. Barr the authority to unilaterally declassify their documents. The move — which occurred just hours after the president again declared that those who led the investigation committed treason — gave Mr. Barr immense leverage over the intelligence community and enormous power over what the public learns about the roots of the Russia investigation.” See also, Trump gives Attorney General William Barr power to declassify intelligence related to Russia investigationThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Carol D. Leonnig, Robert Costa, and Colby Itkowitz, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “President Trump has granted Attorney General William P. Barr ‘full and complete authority’ to declassify government secrets, issuing a memorandum late Thursday that orders U.S. intelligence agencies to cooperate promptly with Barr’s audit of the investigation into Russia’s election interference in 2016. The president’s move gives Barr broad powers to unveil carefully guarded intelligence secrets about the Russia investigation, which the attorney general requested to allow him to quickly carry out his review, according to the memo.”

Trump Officials Prepare to Bypass Congress to Sell Weapons to Gulf NationsThe New York Times, Edward Wong, Catie Edmondson, and Eric Schmitt, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “The Trump administration is preparing to circumvent Congress to allow the export to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of billions of dollars of munitions that are now on hold, according to current and former American officials and legislators familiar with the plan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and some political appointees in the State Department are pushing for the administration to invoke an emergency provision that would allow President Trump to prevent Congress from halting the sales, worth about $7 billion. The transactions, which include precision-guided munitions and combat aircraft, would infuriate lawmakers in both parties. They would also further inflame tensions between the United States and Iran, which views Saudi Arabia as its main rival and has been supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen in their campaign against a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates.” See also, Trump to sidestep Congress to clear arms deals benefiting Saudi Arabia and United Arab EmiratesThe Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, published on Friday, 24 May 2019: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified lawmakers Friday that President Trump is invoking his emergency authority to sidestep Congress and complete 22 arms deals that would benefit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries, despite lawmakers’ objections to the transactions.” See also, The Trump Administration Is Declaring a Fake Emergency to Sell Weapons to Saudi ArabiaThe Intercept, Alex Emmons, published on Friday, 24 May 2019.

Trump Gives Farmers $16 Billion in Aid Amid Prolonged China Trade WarThe New York Times, Ana Swanson, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “President Trump on Thursday unveiled a $16 billion bailout for farmers hurt by his trade war with Beijing, signaling a protracted fight ahead that is already prompting some American companies to shift business away from China.”

The Trump Administration Wants to Make It Harder for Transgender People to Access Homeless SheltersThe Intercept, Camille Baker, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “The Trump administration on Wednesday announced a new rule that would permit homeless shelters receiving Housing and Urban Development funds to turn people seeking shelter away based on their gender identity. The plan, which is currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget and could result in a formal change as early as September, would modify the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2016 Equal Access Rule. That rule, issued by the Obama administration, required single-sex or sex-segregated shelters to admit people based on their gender self-identification.”

Women’s Health Protection Act Would Stop State Attacks on Abortion AccessThe Intercept, Jordan Smith, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “Standing outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning, congressional lawmakers announced the introduction of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which pushes back against the flood of abortion restrictions and outright bans on access that have been moving at a record pace through state legislatures. The bill ‘enshrines’ in federal law ‘a woman’s right to receive abortion services and a provider’s right to perform abortion,’ said Rep. Judy Chu, a lead sponsor of the bill. ‘Our bill finally puts a stop to the state-based attacks that anti-abortion advocates have been trying to use to undermine or even reverse Roe.’ The bill, which has been introduced before, would block states from placing any medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care — from medically-inaccurate informed consent requirements to gestational bans. ‘It prohibits any non-medical restrictions on our bodies — that means no heartbeat bills, no requirements that clinic doors be a certain width, no waiting periods or unnecessary ultrasounds. It means no abortion bans,’ Chu said. And it affirms ‘our rights to our bodies, our rights to make our own medical decisions, and our rights to choose what is best for us and our families.'”

Faked videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, slowed to make her appear drunk, spread across social mediaThe Washington Post, Drew Harwell, Thursday, 23 May 2019: “Distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), altered to make her sound as if she’s drunkenly slurring her words, are spreading rapidly across social media, highlighting how political disinformation that clouds public understanding can now grow at the speed of the Web.” See also, Trump shares video that highlights verbal stumbles by Pelosi and questions her mental acuityThe Washington Post, John Wagner, published on Friday, 24 May 2019. See also, Distorted Videos of Nancy Pelosi Spread on Facebook and Twitter, Helped by TrumpThe New York Times, Sarah Mervosh, published on Friday, 24 May 2019.