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10 things you need to know today: May 22, 2019

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Harold Maass
Trump on the White House lawn talking to reporters
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1.

Draft IRS memo says presidential tax returns must be given to Congress

A confidential draft Internal Revenue Service legal memo says any administration must turn over tax returns requested by Congress unless the president invokes executive privilege, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing a copy of the memo it obtained. The memo contradicted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's reason for refusing to hand over President Trump's returns, which House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has formally requested. Mnuchin declined to give Neal the returns because, he said, Congress had no "legitimate legislative purpose" for demanding the documents. The draft IRS memo, which wasn't signed, said that under a 1924 law, disclosing the returns was "mandatory" if requested by chairs of tax-writing committees. The IRS said the memo did not represent the agency's "official position." [The Washington Post]

2.

Latest subpoena defiance fuels rising Democratic calls for impeachment

Calls from liberal Democrats to start impeachment proceedings against President Trump mounted on Tuesday after former White House Counsel Don McGahn defied a House Judiciary Committee subpoena to testify before the panel. The committee held a Tuesday hearing anyway on possible attempts by Trump to obstruct the Russia investigation. Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Trump had tried to block his panel's work by directing McGahn not to show up, but that the committee would keep pushing. "We will not allow the president to stop this investigation," Nadler said. "We will hold this president accountable, one way or the other." Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the committee's top Republican, said Nadler was making unreasonable demands to "get a headline." [The New York Times]

3.

Yemen rebels reportedly target Saudi airport with bomb-laden drone

Yemeni Houthi rebels, who are allied with Iran, reportedly used a bomb-laden drone to attack a Saudi airport and military base on Tuesday. The attack on the Saudi city of Najran came as tensions escalated between Iran and the U.S. Tehran announced it had quadrupled its capacity to enrich uranium, a year after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the landmark Iran nuclear deal that exchanged the curbing of Iran's nuclear program for sanctions relief. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is seeking expanded powers to confront an "economic war," said in a televised speech that Iran would "not bow to bullies." U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said since the U.S. sent military resources to the Persian Gulf region, signs indicated that a once-imminent Iranian or Iranian-backed attack on U.S. interests in the region was "on hold." [The Associated Press]

4.

House subpoenas former White House staffers

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) issued subpoenas on Tuesday for former White House communications director Hope Hicks, and the chief of staff to former White House Counsel Don McGahn, Annie Donaldson. Nadler wants Hicks and Donaldson to answer questions concerning possible obstruction of justice on behalf of President Trump. Donaldson kept very detailed notes of her meetings with McGahn, which were frequently cited in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation, while Hicks was considered to have played a "pivotal role" in the White House, serving as one of the president's most trusted advisers. The subpoenas order them to turn over documents by June 4 and then testify later that month. [Bloomberg, The Hill]

5.

Trump reportedly picks Cuccinelli as immigration 'czar'

President Trump is expected to name former Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II to oversee U.S. immigration policies, a White House official confirmed Tuesday. Cuccinelli has been known as an immigration hardliner since before Trump entered politics, but he backed a Trump rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), at the 2016 Republican convention. More recently, he has burnished his image in appearances as a conservative TV pundit. Trump has considered Cuccinelli, along with former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, for a new position as immigration "czar" for months. Cuccinelli's proposed duties at the Department of Homeland Security were not immediately specified. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

6.

May offers 2nd Brexit referendum in bid to pass her plan

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, whose plan for leaving the European Union has been rejected three times by Parliament, told British lawmakers on Tuesday that her "new Brexit deal" would give members of Parliament a chance to vote on holding a second referendum on whether to leave the EU at all. There's just one condition: MPs have to vote for May's EU-approved deal first. May will push for a vote on her fourth and likely final Brexit plan in June. As well as the offer of a second referendum, May added pledges on workers' rights, environmental provisions, and other elements to sweeten the package, which also contains the central provisions in the old Brexit deal she negotiated with the EU. [Reuters, CNN]

7.

Protests spread against anti-abortion bills

Protesters rallied across the country Tuesday in opposition to the restrictive abortion laws recently signed by Republican governors in Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri. There were about 500 demonstrations in all, but the main protest took place on the steps of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, where Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) lambasted Republican lawmakers for voting for judges who have criticized Roe v. Wade, and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) spoke about her own personal experience with a second-trimester abortion, which would be banned under the new state bills. Multiple Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), were also in attendance. [The Guardian, CNN]

8.

Agency built 1.7 miles of fence with $1.57 billion in wall funding

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has built just 1.7 miles of fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border with the $1.57 billion that Congress approved last year, a House lawyer told a federal judge in California on Tuesday. The judge is considering requests filed by 20 state attorneys general and the Sierra Club to block President Trump from using money not allocated by Congress to build his promised wall on the southern border. "The administration recently provided updated information to Congress on the status of its efforts as of April 30, 2019," the attorney, Douglas Letter, said in a court filing. "Based on that updated information, it appears that CBP has now constructed 1.7 miles of fencing with its fiscal year 2018 funding." [Bloomberg]

9.

Indonesia restricts social media after violent political protests

Authorities in Indonesia on Wednesday temporarily restricted the sharing of videos and photos via social media after several people died in violent protests against the election of President Joko Widodo to a second and final term. Hundreds were injured in clashes between police and people participating in the protests organized by losing candidate Prabowo Subianto. Jakarta's governor, Anies Baswedan, said six people had reportedly died. Authorities said police were not allowed to use live ammunition and were not responsible for the casualties. "There's no way the state apparatus would kill the perpetrators," said Indonesia's security minister, Wiranto.

10.

Blues advance to Stanley Cup Final against Bruins

The St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks 5-1 in Game 6 of the National Hockey League's Western Conference final on Tuesday night to advance to the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. St. Louis won the final three games to take the best-of-seven series and reach the final for the first time since 1970. Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn each contributed a power-play goal, and goalie Jordan Binnington made 25 saves for the Blues. "We always believed we could do this," said Tarasenko. "But it's still an unbelievable feeling." Game 1 of the final series is Monday night in Boston. [ESPN, NHL]