Headlines: May 22, 2019
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:14 — 7.5MB)
President Donald Trump abruptly walked out of a scheduled meeting with Democratic leaders on Wednesday morning after hearing that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had accused him of engaging in a cover up. Pelosi, who has been facing increasing pressure from her colleagues to embark on impeachment proceedings, met earlier with fellow Democrats on Wednesday. Soon after she, together with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer attended a scheduled meeting with President Trump at the White House to discuss an infrastructure plan but reports emerged that Trump walked out of that meeting after just 3 minutes, seething over Pelosi’s comments. He then referred to her words during remarks in the Rose Garden.
Meanwhile news emerged of links between Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen and the head of a company with links to a Russian oligarch. Federal prosecutors had investigated the ties over the past two years in filings that were made public for the first time on Wednesday. One warrant explained that, “Telephone records related to Cohen’s cellular telephone show that on or about Nov. 8, 2016, the day of the presidential election, a telephone registered to Cohen exchanged the first in a series of text messages with the CEO of Columbus Nova.” Columbus Nova is run by Renova Group which is operated by a Russian national named Viktor Vekselberg. Columbus Nova’s CEO, who Cohen communicated extensively with, is Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s cousin. Cohen and Intrater exchanged 230 phone calls and 950 text messages starting on election day 2016.
The Justice Department has cut a deal with the House Intelligence Committee after Attorney General William Barr refused to testify at a recent hearing. Committee chair Adam Schiff announced that in exchange for postponing the enforcement of a subpoena on Barr the DOJ agreed at the last minute to produce much of the redacted material from the Special Counsel’s report to the committee. Meanwhile the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday announced more subpoenas for former White House officials to appear at hearings including former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, and deputy White House Counsel Annie Donaldson who took extensive written notes and emerged as a player in the Mueller report.
The Washington Post has obtained a copy of a memo from the Internal Revenue Service over a Congressional request for Trump’s tax returns. According to the Post, the memo asserts that, “tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president takes the rare step of asserting executive privilege.” The memo itself says that turning over the tax returns, “is mandatory, requiring the Secretary to disclose returns, and return information, requested by the tax-writing Chairs.” Federal Reserve Chair Stephen Mnuchin has claimed that the DOJ advises him not to release Trump’s tax returns but the content of the IRS memo undermines his claim. In related news, the New York state legislature just passed a bill allowing three congressional committees to obtain Trump’s New York state tax returns.
Housing and Urban Development head Ben Carson was in Congressional crosshairs during a tense hearing on Tuesday. Freshman California Democrat Katie Porter, who has emerged as a strong champion of working families and is well versed in economic policy, grilled Carson over HUD policies. Carson faced scrutiny from members of the House Financial Services committee including Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Joyce Beatty for more than 3 hours during which he exposed his lack of knowledge about the agency he leads.
The state of Nevada is on its way to overturning a strict abortion-related law, bucking the nationwide trend of abortion bans. On the same day that thousands of people protested in cities around the country against Alabama’s total abortion ban, Nevada lawmakers advanced a vote to repeal a law that requires pregnant women be lectured about the “emotional implications” of having an abortion, and that requires doctors to document their marital status. Nevada has the first state legislature in the nation with a female majority. Addressing supporters outside the state house one state lawmaker named Yvanna Cancela said, “When the rest of the country may feel hopeless, may feel bleak, they should look to Nevada as the shining beacon that we are for women’s rights.” Meanwhile two major film and television productions have formally announced they are pulling their projects out of Georgia in protest of that state’s abortion ban.
In immigration news, the Trump Administration has announced that it is hiring former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II to a senior role at the Department of Homeland Security. According to the Washington Post, “Cuccinelli, who has been hawkish on immigration policy during television appearances that also praise Trump, appears to fulfill the president’s desire to have a forceful personality and a loyalist at the highest levels of DHS.” Cuccinelli is expected to answer to acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan and is rumored to be a potential choice for permanent DHS head. Meanwhile McAleenan faced tough questions from members of the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday at a hearing on the multiple deaths of undocumented children in Border Patrol’s custody.
California Congresswoman Barbara Lee on Wednesday held a press conference with other lawmakers including Republicans on legislation to repeal the decades-old Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUFM), a bill passed in the wake of the September 11th attacks that successive Presidents have used as a blank check for wars. Her announcement comes a day after a House committee voted to pass an amendment to a defense spending bill that would overturn the AUFM. Congresswoman Lee rose to fame in 2001 when she was the only lawmaker to vote against the AUFM saying, “It was so broad, it covered almost every military operation in perpetuity.” Members of both parties are worried that Trump is close to unilaterally launching a new war on Iran.