May 24, 2018

The U.K. is blaming Russia for a prank phone call to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, with Johnson's deputy, Alan Duncan, telling Bloomberg News: "If this was an attempt to ridicule us, it has totally backfired." Russian pranksters have previously placed hoax calls to U.S. politicians by posing as world leaders; earlier this year, radio comedians "Vovan" and "Lexus" pretended to be the speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament in order to offer Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) nude photos of President Trump, and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was tricked into telling the pranksters she was "closely watching" Russia's interference in the elections of Binomo, a made-up country.

Johnson apparently realized the call was a hoax and ended the conversation, earning the respect of prankster Alexei Stolyarov who claimed it was "probably the first time the person we talked to ... was not a fool."

The U.K. was not amused, suggesting that the Kremlin supported the call in an attempt to discredit reports that Russia poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. "These childish actions show the lack of seriousness of the caller and those behind him," said the Foreign Office. Jeva Lange

7:45 p.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday evening decided to hold off on calling a full House vote to authorize a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

This doesn't mean the vote won't happen in the near future, Democratic aides told Politico, as Pelosi is keeping all of her options open. Pelosi shared the news with her caucus during a private meeting. Trump and his Republican allies are trying to paint the impeachment inquiry as illegitimate, but Democrats say a full House vote is unnecessary. "The only time a vote is required is if and when articles of impeachment come to the floor," Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) told Politico. "This is an effort by the president to distract from the shocking and serious allegations of misconduct."

Pelosi spoke to reporters on Tuesday night after the meeting, and said the impeachment inquiry is "not a game for us. This is deadly serious. We're here to find the truth, to uphold the Constitution of the United States." Catherine Garcia

7:30 p.m.

Republican voters say they prefer more progressive tax plans, at least when the plans are anonymous, a new poll from a progressive think tank shows.

Data for Progress, whose goal is to "show how a progressive agenda can win nationwide," worked in tandem with YouGov Blue to conduct a survey which pitted the tax plans of President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) against one another. Those polled were presented with a graph that showed prospective income tax rates for people of different incomes under each plan, but the candidates' names were nowhere to be seen.

Per the poll, Warren's plan — which would aggressively tax the wealthy at higher rates than lower-income people — was the most popular and considered the fairest overall, even among Republican voters, 35 percent of whom preferred Warren's compared to 29 percent who favored Trump's regressive tax rate.

Among Democrats, Sanders' and Warren's plans were effectively tied. Biden, meanwhile, appears to be lost in the wilderness on this one. YouGov conducted a survey of 1,024 U.S. voters online. No margin of error was reported. Read more at Data for Progress. Tim O'Donnell

6:53 p.m.

Let's not forget that the record-breaking 12 candidates set to appear on the debate stage Tuesday night are somehow not even all of the people who are running for president. There is also, apparently, some guy named Wayne Messam, who is the mayor of Miramar, Florida.

You might be excused for not knowing Messam's name; he hasn't appeared on the debate stage quite yet. And, well, he is perhaps not doing the best job self-promoting, either; according to his Federal Election Commission filing on Tuesday, his campaign spent exactly $0 in the third quarter.

Even more surprising, though, is his fundraising haul. Between July and September, Messam reported raising just five dollars.

Take that number with a grain of salt. Adds The New York Times, "It is possible that the numbers Mr. Messam submitted are incorrect. That wouldn't be unprecedented; he submitted a corrected first-quarter report earlier this year after an accounting error led him to report raising nearly twice as much as he actually had." Jeva Lange

6:53 p.m.

If the video depicting a fake President Trump massacring members of the media — which was condemned by the White House — wasn't too much to handle already, ProPublica and WNYC released more disturbing audio from the conference where the footage was originally shown.

While speaking at the pro-Trump conference in Miami, Florida, at the Trump National Doral Miami, Mark Burns, a pastor, told the crowd multiple times that "we've come to declare war." As he continued, he reportedly asked if anybody was "read to go to war for Donald J. Trump, this nation?" as the audience reportedly cheered him on.

Additionally, radio host Wayne Allyn Root reportedly boasted about a time in his childhood when, as one of the few white students at a predominantly black high school, he knocked one classmate unconscious and shattered another kid's teeth. "My buddies and I were high-fiving and laughing," Root reportedly said during his speech. "Man, it was funny."

Root reportedly went on to say that "you've got to be a natural-born killer" to win in politics. Listen to the audio clips at ProPublica. Tim O'Donnell

6:43 p.m.

As part of a federal investigation into Rudy Giuliani, a grand jury has issued a subpoena for documents from former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), a longtime friend who has also interacted with two Giuliani associates who were arrested last week, people with knowledge of the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are reportedly looking into Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine and his role in the removal of Marie Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine. They are asking Sessions to turn over documents related to both matters, as well as interactions with Giuliani and his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested last week for conspiracy and campaign finance violations.

Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, is the primary focus of the subpoena, people familiar with the investigation said, and there is nothing pointing to Sessions being the target of the probe; Giuliani has denied any wrongdoing. A spokesperson for Sessions said he is cooperating and will start turning over documents. The Journal reported on Monday that federal prosecutors have looked at Giuliani's bank records and have been questioning witnesses since at least August. Catherine Garcia

6:32 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday that he will not comply with a House impeachment inquiry subpoena for documents related to his possible involvement in President Trump's attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Pence's decision was described by White House reporters as "not shocking." Matthew E. Morgan, the counsel to the vice president and author of the letter announcing Pence's intentions, additionally slammed the House over its request for "a wide-ranging scope of documents, some of which are clearly not vice-presidential records."

Morgan addressed the letter to the chairs of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Intelligence Committee; the investigators had requested Pence produce the documents by Tuesday.

"Please know that if the committees wish to return to the regular order of legitimate legislative oversight requests, and the committees have appropriate requests for information solely in the custody of the Office of the Vice President, we are prepared to work with you in a manner consistent with well-established bipartisan constitutional protections and a respect for the separation of powers," wrote Morgan, additionally noting "never before in history has the speaker of the House attempted to launch an 'impeachment inquiry' against a president without a majority of the House of Representatives voting to authorize a constitutionally acceptable process."

Read the full letter below. Jeva Lange

5:31 p.m.

The Southern District of New York has yet another blow for President Trump.

On Tuesday, the Manhattan branch of the U.S. attorney's office charged the Turkish state-run bank known as Halkbank with six counts of fraud, money laundering, and sanctions offenses. The move comes after Turkey spent years trying to get the U.S. to drop the case in question, and after Trump himself tried to get the Justice Department to help Turkey out with that goal.

Halkbank's case began in 2012 when it allegedly began trying to "undermine" U.S. sanctions on Iran by "illegally giving Iran access to billions of dollars' worth of funds," a SDNY press release reads. Bloomberg reported last week that Trump in 2017 pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to get the DOJ to drop a case against Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who had been previously charged in what the SDNY calls the Halkbank "scheme." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-N.C.) tried to tell Turkey's minister of defense that Trump still opposed the Halkbank case in August, though it turned out he was on a call with two Russian pranksters and not the minister, Politico reported.

In other negative news for Graham, or at least his ego, he confirmed in a tweet that he was listening in on a Monday phone call between Trump and Erdogan in which Trump "received a commitment" to stay out of Kurdish-held Syria. Erdogan didn't know Graham was on the phone, and reportedly complained about him during it, people brief on the call told The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey. Kathryn Krawczyk

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