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May 7, 2019

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin informed House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) that he will not willingly hand over President Trump's tax returns, as requested under a 1924 law that clearly states he "shall" turn them over. House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) got out his highlighter:

To put it bluntly, Mnuchin appears to be breaking the law. He doesn't frame it that way, of course. In a one-page letter to Neal, he said that after consulting with Trump's Justice Department, "I have determined that the committee's request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose" and "the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution requires that congressional information demands must reasonably serve a legitimate legislative purpose."

The 1924 law does not require any legislative or policy rationale for obtaining tax returns, but some legal experts agree that a string of court opinions demanding legislative reasons could pose a significant hurdle for Democrats if they sue Mnuchin, Politico reports. Neal gave one policy reason, and he could presumably give more.

This dispute may very well be decided by the Supreme Court, eventually. For more context, read Paul Blumenthal's short, engaging history of how and why Congress gave itself the power to see anyone's tax returns in 1924. Peter Weber

July 19, 2019

Michelle Obama isn't staying quiet on this one.

Throughout the past week, President Trump's continually racist attacks on four Democratic congresswomen have been met with harsh condemnation by sitting Democrats and a vote in the House. Former presidents have so far stayed out of the issue, but that didn't stop former first lady Michelle Obama from tweeting a voicey yet vague admonishment on Friday.

Former President Barack Obama didn't issue any statements of his own, but he did retweet his wife's sentiments.

Obama's words come after Trump directed racist tweets at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and three other Democrats, telling them to "go back" to the countries they came from. Only Omar was not born in the U.S., and Trump's supporters chanted "send her back" about Omar at his Wednesday rally. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 19, 2019

Iran has seized a British-flagged oil tanker and a Liberian-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, it said via state TV on Friday.

The Stena Impero, of the U.K., was heading to Saudi Arabia in international waters when it "was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter," the ship's owner and manager said via a Friday statement. They soon lost contact with the 23 people onboard the ship and the Stena Impero started heading northward toward Iran, though no injuries have been reported, the statement continued.

Iranian state TV reported that the country's Revolutionary Guard had seized the ship for "violating international regulations," CNN reports. Soon after, U.S. officials told CNN that they learned via maritime intelligence reports that Iran had seized a Liberian-flagged tanker as well.

The British seizure comes just hours after a British court decided to continue detaining an Iranian oil tanker that allegedly breached European sanctions on Syria, The Wall Street Journal notes. On Thursday, President Trump also announced the U.S. downed an Iranian drone that had come too close to the U.S.S. Boxer in the Strait of Hormuz. President Trump said America's ship was in international waters, but Iran has since disputed that, with its state-run media saying all its drones returned to their bases at the end of Thursday. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 19, 2019

Former congressman John Delaney is staying in the 2020 race — if only to make use of his sweet new RV.

On Friday, Axios reported that the 2020 Democrat's team recently told him he should end his campaign by mid-August, as they feel that he "flopped" during the first Democratic debate and has "no chance" of qualifying for the debates once the qualification threshold is raised in September. Delaney, according to the report, has appeared "open to the idea" of dropping out this summer.

But Delaney is now denying that this is the case, in a statement on Friday saying that "no one on my team asked me to drop out of the race and I have no plans to drop out of the race," The Hill reports.

Delaney also denied the report in a CNN interview on Friday afternoon, calling it an "entirely incorrect piece of reporting" and pointing to the fact that he recently filmed new television commercials and that he "just bought a new campaign RV, which we're having wrapped to roll out in Iowa" as evidence that he's not weeks away from ending his campaign. "I mean, what would I do with that if I was gonna drop out?" he asked.

Delaney went on to vow he'll stay in the race, which he believes "really hasn't started yet," at least until the Iowa caucus in 2020, although "if, for some reason" it "doesn't go well for me," he'll take that "into consideration." For now, he appears to be hoping the upcoming second Democratic debate will be a turning point in his campaign, predicting the event will be "great moment, particularly for me." Brendan Morrow

July 19, 2019

Michael Myers is coming home...again.

Blumhouse on Friday announced that two new Halloween films are in the works following up the 2018 reboot. The first is called Halloween Kills, and it's slated for released in October 2020, with writer-director David Gordon Green, co-writer Danny McBride, and star Jamie Lee Curtis returning. This movie seemed likely after the last film's massive box office haul, but even more interesting was the announcement that yet another sequel is set to release a year later, and it's called Halloween Ends.

It seems this latter sequel will be billed as a grand finale to the entire series, although that promise probably shouldn't be taken at face value considering it's a horror tradition for slasher franchises to continue long after their alleged last installments, as with the far from final Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. It also could be that Halloween Ends will conclude the Michael Myers plot but allow for future sequels revolving around other stories, as was the original goal with Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which didn't connect to the first two films.

When Curtis announced she was coming back as Laurie Strode in 2018's Halloween, she said it would be for "one last time," and it was thought the film would depict the final confrontation between Michael and Laurie. But the announcement on Friday decides that actually, "the saga of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode isn't over," and Curtis is confirmed to be returning again, presumably in both sequels. She wrote on Twitter, "Well, my friends and fans...I'm just WARMING UP."

Audiences will be entitled to one or more good scares when Michael returns on October 16, 2020. Brendan Morrow

July 19, 2019

Pete Buttigieg defies all parody.

The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana has become the wunderkind of the 2020 Democratic field, often deploying the eight languages he can speak on the campaign trail or verging into a literary reference in an interview. And as E! News learned in a candidate roundup published Thursday, Buttigieg also lists the didgeridoo on his list of special skills.

E! collected a few 2020 candidates' top ice cream flavors, movies, and other general pop culture trivia in its article, charmingly revealing that Montana Gov. Steve Bullock likes what he calls the "smiley poo" emoji and that Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) can juggle fruit. But Buttigieg's hidden talent is the most outrageous yet unsurprising of them all: "I learned circular breathing so that I could play the didgeridoo," Buttigieg tells E!

Buttigieg's musical strengths have been documented in the past, like when a Harvard roommate told Time all about his didgeridoo skills. That may have been annoying aspiration to live with, but at least Buttigieg's roommate isn't giving him the Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) treatment. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 19, 2019

Republican consultant and pollster Frank Luntz says he is "afraid for the country" amid a week of President Trump's attacks on minority congresswomen.

Luntz, who Politico reports has informally advised the White House through conversations with Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, spoke with Mother Jones' David Corn the day after the president's now infamous North Carolina rally in which his crowd chanted "send her back" about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Trump would later disavow the chant. This rally was held days after the president tweeted that Omar and three other minority congresswomen who were born in the United States should "go back" to where they came from.

At first, Luntz didn't want to comment on any of this, telling Mother Jones that "I don't want to go there." But ultimately, he did go there, saying that "it's not what I would do" and "it's not what I would say." Luntz went on to fully sound the alarm by declaring that he's "afraid for the country."

"I do not think we know how low we can go," Luntz told Mother Jones. "I know what the outcome is. It's bad. It's France in 1793. It ends up consuming everything." Still, Luntz wasn't entirely pinning this on Trump, telling Mother Jones that "both sides" are to blame.

Luntz during the 2016 election was critical of Trump's campaign, saying privately that he was "turning what we believe into a joke" and that his rhetoric "doesn't solve anything," Politico reported at the time, although Luntz would later say after the 2018 State of the Union that he owes Trump "an apology." Over the past week, Luntz has been one of the Republicans putting Trump on blast for his "go back" comments, which Luntz called "racist" and "stupid." Brendan Morrow

July 19, 2019

President Trump's Oval Office rendezvous with survivors of religious persecution got awkward at a couple different points — like when Trump got an unexpected geography lesson when learning about the Rohingya community and persecution of the Uighur population in China, and when his spiritual adviser used her speaking time to thank him for making it ok to say "Merry Christmas" again.

But one of the most noteworthy exchanges during the event came from Nadia Murad, a human rights activist who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work in bringing attention to the plight of the Yazidi community in Iraq. Murad asked Trump for help in securing safety in the region for people like her who are unable to return home.

"But ISIS is gone?" Trump asked. "If I cannot go to my home and live in a safe place and get my dignity back, this is not about ISIS," Murad responded. "It's about I'm in danger. My people cannot go back." After she told Trump about her entire family being killed, Trump asked "Where are they now?" and said "I know the area very well." He then pivoted to her Nobel Prize, asking, "they gave it to you for what reason? Maybe you can explain."

Thousands of Yazidis have been killed by ISIS and thousands more were taken prisoner, like Murad, who asked Trump to press Iraqi and Kurdish officials to support survivors in returning to Iraq. Trump told Murad he is "going to look into it very strongly."

Watch the exchange below, via NBC News. Summer Meza

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