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March 20, 2019

The Trump administration's drilling dreams may have just burst.

Late on Tuesday, a judge in Washington, D.C.'s U.S. District Court ruled that the Interior Department broke the law when selling off federal land for oil and gas drilling. It's a defeat for the Wyoming plan involved in the case, but also could spell trouble for President Trump's drill-happy Bureau of Land Management, The Washington Post suggests.

Two environmental advocacy groups first sued the BLM for leasing and selling federal lands for drilling under former President Barack Obama's watch, saying the department ignored the threat of climate change when making the decision. Additional moves by the Trump administration to increase drilling offshore and in Alaska later boosted the case's implications, the two groups later said. That's because even though Obama's Interior Department started considering climate change more heavily as his administration waned, Trump officials completely reversed those considerations. And when the D.C. judge ruled that the Obama BLM broke the law because it "did not sufficiently consider climate change," Trump's looser standards were almost certainly lumped into that decision.

The Tuesday decision temporarily stops companies from drilling on the 300,000 acres of Wyoming land the BLM sold under Obama, the Post says. It also could force the BLM to rethink what it considers before authorizing future drilling projects, seeing as current standards "deprive the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land," the judge wrote in his decision. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:48 p.m.

Dressbarn is shutting down all of its stores in the United States, the retailer announced on Monday.

"This decision was difficult, but necessary, as the Dressbarn chain has not been operating at an acceptable level of profitability in today's retail environment," Dressbarn CFO Steven Taylor said in a statement. There are about 650 Dressbarn stores, and the company said they won't all close down right away.

Dressbarn was founded in 1962, and owned by the Ascena Retail Group, which also operates Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, Catherines, Cacique, and Justice. Catherine Garcia

11:05 p.m.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) warned former White House Counsel Don McGahn on Monday night that if he ignores a congressional subpoena and refuses to testify before his panel on Tuesday, "the committee is prepared to use all enforcement mechanisms at its disposal."

Earlier Monday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone notified Nadler that Trump had instructed McGahn to ignore the subpoena and skip the hearing. In a letter to McGahn, Nadler said "President Trump's order — which seeks to block a former official from informing a coequal branch of government about his own misconduct — is unprecedented," adding that this "does not excuse your obligation to appear before the committee."

Nadler listed several reasons why Trump cannot keep McGahn from testifying, including that "the president himself has already called your credibility into question." Nadler is referring to Trump tweeting earlier this month he "was NOT going to fire Bob Mueller," contradicting what McGahn told Special Counsel Robert Mueller. "In attacking your credibility and asking you to make public comments about these events, the president has not only further waived any possible privilege with regard to your testimony; he has also created substantial concerns about acts of witness intimidation and further obstruction of Congress' ongoing investigations," Nadler said. Catherine Garcia

10:18 p.m.

Kris Kobach has a long list of demands for a job that doesn't even exist yet, three people with knowledge of his requests told The New York Times.

President Trump approached the former Kansas secretary of state in April about a job offer, after former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned, the Times reports. Trump wanted to know if Kobach, an immigration hardliner, might be interested in Nielsen's old position. Trump was concerned that the Senate would not confirm Kobach, so they talked about making an "immigration czar" position. Trump hasn't yet decided if he'll create the role — and if he does, he hasn't settled on hiring Kobach, the Times reports.

Following the meeting, Kobach got to work putting together 10 conditions for his employment, people with knowledge of the matter said. His demands shocked White House staffers; among other things, he asked for an office in the West Wing, weekends off, 24/7 access to a government jet, the ability to walk into the Oval Office whenever he wants, a staff of seven, the title "assistant to the president," at the highest pay grade, and a guarantee that all Cabinet secretaries who have anything to do with immigration policy defer to him, the Times reports. Kobach also wanted Trump's promise he will nominate him for Homeland Security secretary by Nov. 1, unless Kobach asks to remain immigration czar.

Kobach, who lost the Kansas governor's race last year, was appointed by Trump to lead a voter fraud commission launched after Trump baselessly claimed millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election. The committee was dissolved last year. Catherine Garcia

9:13 p.m.

Air Force One is about to rack up a bunch of miles between D.C. and Pennsylvania.

During a rally on Monday night in Montoursville, President Trump promised that he would be "seeing a lot of you over the next year. I'll be here a lot. Got to win this state. We've got to win this state. We did great last time." Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district is holding a special election on Tuesday, and Trump was in Montoursville to campaign for Republican Fred Keller, who is running against Democrat Marc Friedenberg. Trump told the crowd he views the special election as "a referendum" on his presidency.

Trump won Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes in 2016. It's not surprising that Trump plans on visiting the state as often as he can: Earlier Monday, Politico reported that his own polling shows he's trailing behind former Vice President Joe Biden in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Catherine Garcia

8:12 p.m.

Attorney General William Barr is pushing back against criticism that he is using his position to protect President Trump.

During an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Barr said that before becoming Trump's attorney general, he saw the president was the focus of several investigations, and felt "the rules were being changed to hurt Trump, and I thought it was damaging for the presidency over the long haul."

Barr wrote a 19-page memo to the Department of Justice last year, saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller's obstruction inquiry hurt the presidency; after the report was released, Barr decided that several incidents of potential obstruction described in Mueller's report were not criminal. "At every grave juncture the presidency has done what it is supposed to do, which is to provide leadership and direction," Barr said. "If you destroy the presidency and make it an errand boy for Congress, we're going to be a much weaker and more divided nation."

Barr's critics have called him out for refusing to turn over an unredacted copy of Mueller's report to the House Judiciary Committee, which led to the panel voting to hold him in contempt; ordering a review into the origins of the Russia investigation; and telling lawmakers that Trump campaign associates were the victims of "spying." All of this is "an affront to everyone who worked on that case and who supported it, and to everyone who works counterintelligence in general," former top FBI counterintelligence agent Frank Montoya told the Journal. Catherine Garcia

6:59 p.m.

During a closed-door hearing earlier this year, President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee that Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow instructed him to lie to Congress in 2017 regarding negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, people familiar with his testimony told The Washington Post on Monday.

Cohen launched the Moscow project in September 2015, and told Congress discussions ended in January 2016; he later admitted the negotiations continued into June 2016. Cohen said he lied to help obscure the fact that while Trump was running for president, he was involved in a project with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. He is now in prison for lying to Congress, campaign finance violations, and financial crimes.

During his private testimony, Cohen told lawmakers Sekulow encouraged him to say negotiations ended on Jan. 31, 2016, since the Iowa caucuses were on Feb. 1, the Post reports. Sekulow joined Trump's legal team following the election, and the Post notes it's not clear how much Sekulow actually knew about the Trump Tower Moscow project. Sekulow's attorneys told the Post relying on Cohen's word "defies logic, well-established law, and common sense." House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said his panel is now investigating whether Sekulow or any of Trump's other attorneys "participated in the false testimony" Cohen gave to lawmakers. Catherine Garcia

5:36 p.m.

President Trump's attempt to block a subpoena from House Democrats has been overruled.

U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta ruled in Washington, D.C., on Monday that Trump could not block the House Oversight Committee's subpoena of his financial records from his accounting firm. Mehta also denied Trump's lawyers' request to stay the ruling, meaning the firm is now supposed to hand over eight years of Trump's records, Politico reports.

House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) subpoenaed Trump's accounting firm last month as part of Democrats' ongoing attempts to access the president's financial records. He asked for the records first, but officially subpoenaed them after Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen testified that the president had inflated his wealth on past financial statements. Trump quickly sued Cummings in return.

Trump's lawyers argued that Congress was improperly requesting Trump's records for "a law-enforcement purpose" rather than "to work on legislation." Yet in the process, those lawyers implied the Whitewater and Watergate investigations were invalid, leaving Mehta visibly skeptical.

In his Monday ruling, Mehta said "it is not for the court to question whether the committee's actions are truly motivated by political considerations" and ruled in the committee's favor. Trump's lawyers are expected to appeal the decision immediately, setting it up for a decision in the D.C. appellate court.

In another subpoena-blocking move, Trump also sued a few banks to stop them from handing over his financial records as well. That suit is still ongoing in a Manhattan court. Kathryn Krawczyk

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