November 20, 2018

Get ready for another contentious investigation into a government official's email use.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Tuesday called for "some kind of investigative effort" after The Washington Post reported that Ivanka Trump in 2017 used a personal email account to send hundreds of emails about government business. Blumenthal told CNN that either the Office of Government Ethics or Congress itself should conduct an investigation into this matter because Trump "in a sense" has put herself "above the law." He also said "there's no way that she had no knowledge of the rules."

The report on Ivanka Trump's email use naturally drew comparisons to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was hammered during the 2016 election for her use of a private email server while at the State Department. Blumenthal agreed with this comparison and decried "hypocrisy," while Trump's lawyer says her situation is not like Clinton's because she didn't have a private server in her house and didn't send classified material, per CBS News' Mark Knoller.

But Trump's email use, which the Post reports violated federal records rules, is drawing criticism even from some past members of the administration, with former communications director Anthony Scaramucci calling it "hypocritical" and former legislative affairs director Marc Short saying it "certainly looks bad." Watch Blumenthal's comments below. Brendan Morrow

10:52 a.m.

Oh, the irony.

President Trump's attorneys have filed an appeal after a federal judge ruled on Monday that Trump could not block a House subpoena of his financial records. The appeal, Politico reports, will be heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is headed by none other than Merrick Garland (though Garland won't necessarily be on the three-judge panel that will hear the actual appeal.)

Garland was infamously nominated by former President Barack Obama for the Supreme Court in 2016 to replace former Justice Antonin Scalia after his death, but the Republican-controlled Senate refused to to vote on Garland's nomination, claiming Obama's dwindling time in office meant that he should not have the authority to elect a justice who would serve long past the end of his presidency. So instead, lawmakers stalled until after the 2016 presidential election, which resulted in a Trump victory and, subsequently, the appointment of the more conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Now, it's possible the GOP's decision to block Garland could actually serve as a thorn in the president's side — at least in this instance. But it's also likely this won't be the final time Garland will be in the middle of Trump's battles with Congress. Tim O'Donnell

10:22 a.m.

Walmart employees routinely show up at the company's annual shareholders meeting to push for better working conditions. This year, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is taking their place.

The massive retail chain has been a focus of Sanders' pro-worker push — he even introduced the pointedly titled Stop WALMART Act to Congress last November. Now, the 2020 candidate is arguing that hourly Walmart workers should have a guaranteed seat at the shareholders meeting each year, and he'll make his case right to those shareholders' faces, The Washington Post reports.

Walmart's annual meeting of "a dozen wealthy executives from companies like McDonald's and NBCUniversal" is coming up on June 5 in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Post writes. That's where Sanders will tell shareholders that "if hourly workers at Walmart were well represented on its board, I doubt you would see the CEO of Walmart making over a thousand times more than its average worker," he tells the Post. Walmart pharmacy technician Cat Davis introduced the proposal, which reads that "hourly associates can guide a more fair, inclusive, and equitable corporate ecosystem that bridges differences," and invited Sanders to deliver the message.

Sanders' Stop WALMART Act, introduced in Congress in November, would stop large employers from buying back stock unless they introduced a $15 minimum wage, gave workers 7 days of paid sick leave, and made sure the highest paid employees earn no more than 150 times what the lowest paid are making. Walmart unveiled a revamped paid leave program in February, but Sanders quickly decried it as "not good enough." Kathryn Krawczyk

10:00 a.m.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said on Monday night that the Hispanic Caucus — a 38-member congressional caucus chaired by Castro which advocates for issues concerning Latinos in the United States — is turning its focus toward pursuing investigations into the deaths of migrant children in U.S. custody.

The group was stirred to action earlier on Monday after Customs and Border Protection confirmed a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died while in their custody, though the cause is unknown. It was the fifth death of a migrant child detained by CBP in the last six months, The Hill reports — a fact that Castro called "outrageous and unacceptable."

In a statement, Castro wrote that before the first of the five recent deaths, then-CBP Commissioner and current acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan had said no child had died in CBP custody in more than a decade. But now, Castro said, "it is clear that this Administration's policies hurt families and have proven deadly for immigrant families and have proven deadly for immigrant children and their parents." The Trump administration, he added, "owes the American people answers." Tim O'Donnell

9:06 a.m.

Laura Ingraham is firing back at South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg after he called her out on Fox News itself.

Ingraham spoke after Buttigieg during a Fox News town hall cited Ingraham as one of the reasons Democrats hesitate to appear on Fox News, suggesting she doesn't operate in "good faith."

While not playing a clip, Ingraham obliquely referenced what Buttigieg said about her — a comment she's "sure you saw again and again on the other networks" — saying he showed an "unattractive strain" by doing so.

"It's hard to patronize and condescend your way to winning the nomination," she said, Mediaite reports.

Ingraham went on to mockingly call Buttigieg "Pope Pete" — which her graphics team was fully prepared for with an image of Buttigieg wearing the pope's hat — and say that just because he "attends church" doesn't make him the "be-all and end-all moral authority" or "arbiter of who is and who is not operating in good faith." This came during a segment in which Ingraham picked apart Buttigieg's Fox town hall and called him "judgmental and sanctimonious," also contending his "modulated tone" and "cool-cat exterior" are "designed to make the extreme seem downright pedestrian." Brendan Morrow

8:09 a.m.

On Monday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fended off several calls to start impeachment inquiries against President Trump, The Washington Post and Politico report. At a closed-door leadership meeting, at least five members of Pelosi's leadership team pressed her to authorize impeachment hearings, arguing that starting the impeachment process would strengthen their hand in the heated legal fight with Trump's White House over documents and witness testimony. Later, Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) reportedly made his case to Pelosi to start impeachment proceedings.

Pelosi was not persuaded. Her main arguments, according to people in or familiar with the meetings, were that the majority of House Democrats aren't in favor of impeachment yet, that it would further distract from the economic and social case Democrats are trying to make, that impeachment is divisive, that the courts are siding with Democrats against Trump, and that impeachment hearings would undercut the five other House committees investigating Trump, leaving everything in the Judiciary Committee. "You want to tell Elijah Cummings to go home?" Pelosi asked, referring to the House Oversight Committee chairman.

The pro-impeachment Democrats, including former law professor Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), argued that starting an impeachment inquiry would streamline the many Trump investigations and give Democrats more robust subpoena powers, and it wouldn't necessarily lead to an impeachment vote or trial. Nadler said "the president's continuing lawless conduct is making it harder and harder to rule out impeachment or any other enforcement mechanism." Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) confirmed to Politico that he pointed out that House Republicans launched immediate impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton "over sex," while Trump is "raping the country."

Nadler later appeared to side with Pelosi, saying it would be best to give the courts a chance first. "There's no divide," Pelosi told Politico on Monday night. "We're fine." Peter Weber

8:03 a.m.

Alabama Public Television is refusing to air an episode of Arthur featuring a gay wedding.

APT's director of programming, Mike McKenzie, told NBC News the network decided to air a re-run in place of the animated show's recent premiere, in which Arthur's teacher, Mr. Ratburn, comes out as gay and gets married. This decision, McKenzie said, was made because "we felt it would be a violation of trust to broadcast the episode" when parents might be unaware of its content ahead of time. McKenzie also said there are no plans to air the episode in the future.

This isn't the first time an episode in the Arthur franchise featuring a same-sex couple has been blocked from airing. In 2005, an episode of the Arthur spinoff, Postcards From Buster, featured a character who has two mothers. This was criticized by then-Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, and PBS ultimately decided to pull the episode, although some affiliates still aired it, Variety reports. Alabama Public Television didn't, though, with its then-executive director telling AL.com at the time that "we basically have a trust with parents about our programming" and "this program doesn't fit into that."

Nearly 15 years later, PBS said of the decision to air Mr. Ratburn's wedding that "we believe it is important to represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS KIDS every day." Some Alabama parents were disappointed when the episode didn't air on APT, with one telling AL.com, "I never thought I'd be going to battle for a gay rat wedding, but here we are."

Those in Alabama who still want to watch the episode can do so on the PBS website. Brendan Morrow

6:35 a.m.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn made it official: He will be a no-show at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, defying a subpoena and threats of enforcement from House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). In a letter to Nadler, McGahn's lawyer cites Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel's "detailed and persuasive" memo on why McGahn should say no, and the stated wishes of McGahn's "former client," President Trump.

There are other reasons that may be factoring in McGahn's decision, too. "If McGahn were to defy Trump and testify before Congress, it could endanger his own career in Republican politics and put his law firm, Jones Day, in the president's crosshairs," The Washington Post notes. "Trump has mused about instructing Republicans to cease dealing with the firm, which is deeply intertwined in Washington with the GOP." In fact, according to a new Federal Election Commission filing itemized by ProPublica, the Republican National Committee's top expense in April was $2 million for "legal and compliance services" to Jones Day, out of $14.3 million total spending last month.

Trump's motives are more clear. "Trump has fumed about McGahn for months, after it became clear that much of Mueller’s report was based on his testimony," the Post reports. "The president has bashed his former White House counsel on Twitter and has insisted to advisers that the attorney not be allowed to humiliate him in front of Congress, much as his former personal legal fixer Michael Cohen did."

Previous administrations have also held that close presidential advisers like the White House counsel are immune from compelled congressional testimony about their White House work, though a federal judge disagreed in 2008, the Post reports, ruing that former White House Counsel Harriet Miers had to at least show up to congressional hearings. Peter Weber

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