April 24, 2019

House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last week, and repeated on MSNBC Tuesday, that President Trump's "White House has refused to hand over any documents or produce any witnesses for interviews" this Congress. Trump, in fact, is suing Cummings to thwart some subpoenas and told the Post on Tuesday he doesn't want any of his current or former aides to testify before Congress.

Faced with this aggressive resistance to congressional oversight from Trump administration officials, Bloomberg reports, "some Democrats want to make them pay" — literally. "At a meeting of House leaders earlier this month, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler [D-N.Y.] suggested fining officials personally if they deny or ignore subpoenas," Bloomberg says, the idea being "to put teeth in his party's numerous investigative queries. ... Nadler even mentioned jailing administration officials as a consequence for contempt of Congress, though he surmised such a plan might be unrealistic."

House committees can vote to hold administration officials in contempt and take them to court, setting up a lengthy legal battle. But the House could also revive a mechanism called "inherent contempt" — voting in a new rule that allows it to fine people outside the court system for defying subpoenas. That process got its name "because courts have said the power is an inherent part of Congress' legislative powers," Bloomberg reports, though it "was mostly mothballed in recent years because it was politically unpalatable."

Now, given White House stonewalling, "it's political suicide to allow this to continue," said Morton Rosenberg, a longtime Congressional Research Service official who has proposed fining recalcitrant officials. Congress used to jail people it held in contempt, and the Supreme Court said that was fine, but Cornell University law professor Josh Chafetz tells Bloomberg that Congress has other remedies, like cutting funds for departments or individual federal officials who defy subpoenas. You can read more about House Democrats' options at Bloomberg. Peter Weber

11:23 a.m.

It's back.

The Supreme Court will hear yet another case involving the Affordable Care Act, it announced Monday. This isn't a challenge to the act itself, but rather a lawsuit from health care providers and health insurers who claim ObamaCare cost them $12 billion in lost payments.

Former President Barack Obama's signature act largely took effect in 2014, but soon after, Republicans had passed a provision requiring it was budget neutral, CNN notes. That provision didn't come until insurers had already set their 2014 rates, meaning they had accounted for a higher federal reimbursement than they would now actually receive. Three small insurers tallied that loss up to $12 billion, and sued the federal government over it.

An appeals court decided against two of the carriers last June, prompting four of them to join together to bring the case to the Supreme Court. Beyond reimbursing that total, a ruling in the insurers' favor could set the agenda for similar pending cases, CNN continues. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Attorneys general in mostly blue states have filed briefs in support of the insurers.

This case will be the fifth involving ObamaCare to come up before the Supreme Court, Politico says. Another constitutional challenge to the ACA, led by Republicans, could also head to the Supreme Court soon. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:03 a.m.

No "freedom gas" here, thank you very much.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D) is, for all intents and purposes, the climate candidate in the field of 2020 Democrats. He lived up to his reputation on Monday when he unveiled an 11,000-word, 27-page opus titled "Freedom from Fossil Fuels." The plan, as its name suggests, outlines how the United States would gradually eliminate its reliance on coal, oil, and gas under an Inslee presidency. His campaign says the proposal is part of Inslee's goal to cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2045, Axios reports.

It's a mix of legislative and executive proposals, Axios reports, and a few of the standouts include cutting nearly $20 billion in coal, gas, and oil subsidies, tax breaks, and royalty exemptions; ending new fossil fuel leasing; and curbing development on non-federal land. Inslee also calls for re-imposing a ban on crude oil exports and instituting a "climate pollution fee" on various industries, though the cap is unknown.

While the plan would damage the fossil fuel industry, Inslee did include proposals for helping industry workers transition, including a "G.I. Bill for Energy Workers."

With the plan's release, Inslee also becomes the first 2020 candidate to consider the idea of nationalizing parts of the fossil fuel industry by buying out and decommissioning assets, HuffPost reports. Inslee, though, refuted that notion, saying that the section referred to buying back and terminating unused leases. Still, the language appears to leave room for ramping things up in the future. Tim O'Donnell

10:08 a.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been called a less radical alternative to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Her backers think that's the wrong approach.

Instead of aiming to snag Sanders supporters as the 2020 Democratic primaries ramp up, Warren's allies at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have said their new "Switch to Warren" initiative will actually zero in on Joe Biden's base. That's because Biden's backers "are ready to bolt," PCCC co-founder Adam Green tells BuzzFeed News, and the group is ready to snatch them for Warren.

Biden secured the top spot in Democratic primary polls even months before he started his campaign, while Warren had a relatively dismal showing after launching late last year. Yet in recent weeks, she's been securing third and even second place showings, breaking Sanders' seemingly solid No. 2 rank.

Earlier speculation suggested Warren was stealing voters from Sanders' ranks. But the PCCC, which has more than 1 million members and has been tied to Warren since her 2012 Senate run, sees it differently. "The two big honeypots for Warren are actually Biden supporters and undecided voters" because they want a candidate who can "inspire voters in the general election," Green told BuzzFeed News. The PCCC has already rounded up some of these Democrats who've abandoned their original candidates for Warren, and is collecting their testimonials for the "Switch to Warren" push that began Monday.

While Warren's supporters are eager to discuss their 2020 swap, Warren has so far said it's "too early to talk about polls" that pit her against other primarygoers. Read more at BuzzFeed News. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:58 a.m.

Fox & Friends was not impressed with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's town hall on Sunday.

Buttigieg held a town hall after a white officer in his hometown shot a black man, Eric Logan, on June 16. The town hall was tense with protesters questioning Buttigieg's leadership, especially amid his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

On Monday's edition of the show, host Brian Kilmeade said Buttigieg "looked small when he needed to look big." Guest host Rachel Campos-Duffy questioned Buttigieg's decision to sit behind a desk during the town hall rather than walk around and engage more directly with the assembly, mentioning that she has never seen her husband, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.), sit during a town hall — and, believe her, her husband holds a lot of town halls.

"This is a moment for him to prove he's presidential, even just his body language looks weak and out of control," Campos-Duffy said.

Host Steve Doocy also brought up a tweet from former President Barack Obama's chief strategist, which described the town hall as an unanticipated test for Buttigieg — one through which voters would learn more about him.

"So far, so not good," Kilmeade said in response to the tweet.

The segment concluded with the hosts speculating that former President Bill Clinton, late Sen. John McCain, and President Trump would have owned the stage in a way that Buttigieg failed to do. Watch the full clip at Mediaite. Tim O'Donnell

9:24 a.m.

Writer E. Jean Carroll is speaking out in a new interview after accusing President Trump of sexual assault, saying she has put her life on the line in doing so.

Carroll spoke on CNN's New Day after on Friday accusing Trump of sexually assaulting in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1990s, saying the experience of coming forward is "not easy." While saying she has stayed off the internet, she said she has been told she has received death threats.

"I would never ask another human being to go through this," Carroll said. "I put my reputation on the line. I put my livelihood on the line ... And I put my life on the line." She went on to say that "people have told me I have to be careful."

Trump has denied Carroll's allegation, accusing her of making up the story to sell books. Carroll denied this, saying her book is not about Trump and that "male authors never get this question." She also denied that she's coming forward with her allegation for political reasons.

"I'm barely political," Carroll said. "I can't name you the candidates who are running right now." She added that she is "fed up" and that she "can't believe that he is in the White House," later saying that Trump — and "a lot of guys" — must be held "accountable." Brendan Morrow

8:42 a.m.

Last week, lawyers representing all detained migrant children under the 1997 Flores class-action settlement interviewed detained children at several facilities in Texas, and they brought along a local physician, Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier. They all left with horror stories. "The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities," Lucio Sevier wrote in a medical declaration obtained by ABC News. She had assessed 39 children under age 18 at U.S. Customs and Border Protection's largest detention facility, Ursula, in McAllen, which she described to ABC News as feeling "worse than jail" and "lawless."

The unaccompanied minors, as young as 2 1/2 months old, endured "extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food," Lucio Sevier wrote, and the teens said they had no access to hand-washing, which she described as "tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease." A flu outbreak at Ursula had sent five infants to the neonatal intensive care unit, and all the children Lucio Sevier saw showed signs of trauma.

Warren Binford, one of the Flores compliance lawyers who visited Border Patrol's facility in Clint, Texas, told The New Yorker about lice outbreaks, the punitive removal of mats and blankets when children lost one of two lice combs they were all using in one cell, and guards creating a food-plied "child boss" to keep other kids in line, among other disturbing incidents.

Binford told The New Yorker that "laws were being broken right and left" and almost all of the 350 children held at the Clint facility "have family members, including parents, in the United States, who are able to and want to take care of their children." Most of the kids were separated from family members, including parents, when crossing the border and lawfully seeking asylum. More than 700 children were separated from their parents between June 2018 and May, federal documents show, often with iffy legal justification. Peter Weber

8:27 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden touted his "sensible" immigration proposals and hit President Trump for a re-election strategy he called "morally bankrupt" in an op-ed published Monday.

In the Miami Herald, Biden called on Congress to "make it official" that "DREAMers are Americans," also saying undocumented immigrants in the United States must be "brought out of the shadows through fair treatment, not ugly threats." The U.S asylum system needs to be improved in ways that will "streamline and strengthen it," Biden wrote.

Biden went on to say that it's "imperative" to secure the border by "improving screening procedures at our legal ports of entry and making smart investments in border technology," but not through building a wall, which Biden referred to as a "slogan divorced from reality."

The Democratic presidential frontrunner went after Trump in the op-ed for policies he says are intended to "assault the dignity of the Latin community and scare voters to turn out on Election Day," also saying that the president "invokes racist invective to describe anyone south of the Rio Grande" while describing "horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages" that "subvert American values and erode our ability to lead on the global stage."

Biden published his op-ed three days before he'll head to Miami for the first Democratic presidential debate; he's set to take the stage on the second night, June 27. Brendan Morrow

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