May 13, 2019

One way or another, Congress will almost certainly obtain President Trump's financial records, "and Republican efforts to investigate the Christopher Steele dossier could be one reason why," writes CNN's Katelyn Polantz. Specifically, Democrats could find an unwitting helper in Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a Trump ally who successfully subpoenaed the bank records of Fusion GPS when he was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

The House Oversight, Intelligence, and Financial Services committees have subpoenaed Trump's business and personal financial records from his accounting firm, Mazars USA, and lenders Deutsche Bank and Capital One. Like Fusion GPS, Trump has sued his banks and accountants to prevent them from releasing his records. Fusion GPS had to disclose who financed the Steele dossier after losing its fight in federal court, using some of the same arguments Trump's lawyers are testing. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta has fast-tracked the accounting firm lawsuit, scheduling the first hearing for Tuesday.

"The difficulty that Trump faces is the same one that we faced," Bill Taylor, Fusion GPS's lawyer in the case, tells CNN. "There's a heavy presumption in favor of the validity of a congressional subpoena."

The House Ways and Means Committee has also legally requested Trump's tax returns from the IRS, though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is fighting that, too. The New York Senate, now controlled by Democrats, approved legislation last week that specifically permits three congressional committees to view the state tax returns of anyone who files in New York, as Trump and many of his businesses did. The State Assembly has enough support to pass the bill, too, though no vote is yet scheduled.

But the important fight might end up being in Mehta's courtroom. "Arguably you could get a lot more information from the accounting firm than you could from the tax returns," former federal tax prosecutor Kevin Sweeney tells CNN. "They'd keep the documentation they used to prepare that return." Peter Weber

12:07 p.m.

No, you haven't accidentally stepped into a time machine and emerged back in 2003: it appears Bennifer really might be a thing again.

After it was revealed Monday that exes Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck recently vacationed together for a week, TMZ reported Tuesday that they "didn't just rekindle their romance within the last two weeks," but "instead, it's been building since February." According to the report, Lopez and Affleck, who broke up in 2004, were in "very regular contact" beginning in early February, when Affleck "started flooding her with emails" while she was filming a movie in the Dominican Republic.

"We're told the tone of the emails wasn't just friendly," TMZ says, "but more loving and longing for Jen."

Affleck in one instance reportedly told Lopez she looked beautiful in photos and that he wished he could be down there with her in the Dominican Republic. They apparently emailed each other back and forth for Lopez's entire film shoot, which went until the end of April. The two were subsequently spotted together in May, setting the internet aflame and sparking rumors of a rekindled romance — though a source told Page Six at the time, "They are friends."

But on Monday, E! News quoted a source as saying Affleck and Lopez have "picked up where they last left off," also saying, "the chemistry is unreal." Lopez and Alex Rodriguez officially announced they were calling off their engagement in April, and Rodriguez, E! also reported, is apparently "shocked that J.Lo has moved on."

So, is Bennifer really back, then? Affleck's buddy Matt Damon, for one, is rooting for these crazy kids.

"I love them both," Damon told Today. "I hope it's true. That would be awesome." Brendan Morrow

11:43 a.m.

As the Israel-Palestine conflict escalates, the lack of a U.S. ambassador to Israel or a consul general in Jerusalem for Palestinians is becoming more glaring, Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Tuesday.

In an earlier tweet, Miller wrote that the Biden administration's decision to remain mostly out of the fray has resulted in Israel and Hamas emerging as the "key decision-makers" at the moment, which is "not an uplifting thought." Walla News' Barak Ravid seemed to agree that the unhurried approach is befuddling amid a "huge crisis," noting that the Biden administration has appointed envoys for Iran, Libya, the Horn of Africa, and Yemen. "This doesn't make any sense," he tweeted.

While the Biden administration clearly wants to play a more restrained role in the Middle East than past administrations, it does seem that moving more quickly on tapping diplomatic officials could be necessary. On Monday, Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., tweeted (in Hebrew) his displeasure with the State Department's current messaging, Politico reports, suggesting the need for more direct engagement. Tim O'Donnell

10:50 a.m.

The price was not right.

In their New York City mayoral endorsement interviews, published Monday by The New York Times, Democratic candidates Shaun Donovan and Ray McGuire dramatically underestimated the cost of homes in the city.

When asked the median sales price for a house or apartment in Brooklyn, McGuire, a former Citigroup vice chairman and Wall Street executive responded, "It's got to be somewhere in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, if not higher." The correct answer was $900,000.

When asked the same question, Donovan, former housing commissioner under New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, answered, "I would guess it is around $100,000." He later emailed to clarify his response as referring to the "assessed value" of homes in Brooklyn, not their price.

Of the eight candidates interviewed, the only one to answer correctly was former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, although Scott Stringer and Kathryn Garcia came close. Maya Wiley overestimated, responding with $1.8 million.

The Times later officially endorsed Garcia. The New York City mayoral primary will be held on June 22nd. Brigid Kennedy

9:59 a.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's official stance is that "less than 10 percent" of COVID-19 transmission has occurred outdoors, but The New York Times' David Leonhardt wrote Tuesday that that's like saying "sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year." Sharks actually only attack around 150 people a year, so the 20,000 number is "both true and deceiving," which appears to be the case with the CDC's outdoor transmission assessment.

In reality, multiple epidemiologists told Leonhardt the actual figure is probably less than 1 percent, and may even be below 0.1 percent. The 10 percent benchmark "seems to be a huge exaggeration," said Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrew's.

The CDC reportedly reached that number based on research that defined any place that was a mix of indoors and outdoors as the latter. For instance, the bulk of cases tied to outdoor transmission in multiple studies occurred at construction sites in Singapore, which the Times reports were not solely outdoor settings, leaving open the possibility that transmission really occurred indoors. But even if all of the Singapore cases did occur outside, they still only made up less than 1 percent of total cases.

Increasing the risk by tenfold or more is an issue, Leonardt argues, not because it's bad math, but because it's "an example of how the agency is struggling to communicate effectively, and leaving many people confused about what's truly risky." Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

9:40 a.m.

California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner has revealed she sat out the 2020 election and headed to the golf course instead.

Jenner, the former reality TV star and athlete who's running to oust California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in a recall election, told CNN she "didn't even vote" last year. Jenner is a Republican, and she said that "out here in California," a blue state, voting for a Republican president is "not gonna work."

Asked if she voted down-ticket, though, Jenner said she skipped that as well.

"It was voting day and I thought, the only thing out here in California that I worry about, which affects people, is the propositions that were out there," Jenner said. "And I didn't see any propositions that I really had one side or the other. And so it was Election Day and I just couldn't get excited about it. And I just wound up going to play golf, and I said, 'Eh, I'm not doing that.'"

Politico previously reported that Jenner "did not cast ballots in nearly two-thirds of the elections in which she was eligible to vote since 2000," and although she expressed support for former President Donald Trump as a candidate in 2016, she "never cast a ballot in the 2016 elections."

Asked by CNN's Dana Bash how she can get voters "excited" to get out and vote for her, then, Jenner responded, "Because I'm cute and adorable?" Brendan Morrow

8:48 a.m.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) informed his GOP colleagues on Monday that they should "anticipate a vote" on ousting Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as GOP Conference chair on Wednesday. The push to dump Cheney as the No. 3 House Republican stems from her open sparring with former President Donald Trump and refusal to abide his lie that he actually won the 2020 election.

"We are a big tent party," McCarthy told his colleagues. "And unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate." He added that he has "endeavored" to lead the House Republicans by "putting the interests of our members ahead of my own." The thing to remember, Politico's Playbook team noted Tuesday, is "that this is about one man's ambitions," and some House Republicans are now "privately griping" about how McCarthy "has fed a colleague to the MAGA wolves in his quest to become speaker."

"McCarthy has made a gamble that he needs Donald Trump on his side to win the speakership, and his decision to turn on Cheney is winning him at least some favor with the former president," though Trump "is still lukewarm on McCarthy, we're told, and loyalty with Trump often runs only one way," Politico reports. The behind-the-scenes "backlash" against McCarthy over this situation isn't just coming "from Adam Kinzinger types."

One House Republican seen as an ally of leadership told Politico Monday night he may now oppose McCarthy for speaker should Republicans flip the House. "Kevin McCarthy has pissed off enough members of his own conference" that "I'd be worried if I was him," the Republican said. "You have people like me" who are "disgusted with the internal squabbling that results from having weak leadership. And it is weak leadership. Straight up."

A senior GOP aide to a conservative House member said McCarthy has "flip-flopped" on whether the Jan. 6 Capitol siege was "Trump's fault, it's not Trump's fault," adding, "It seems like he doesn't have the backbone to lead." You can read about why other House Republicans are upset with McCarthy over the Cheney situation at Politico. Peter Weber

8:40 a.m.

Federal investigators are reportedly pushing for cooperation from two key witnesses in the probe of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), including his ex-girlfriend.

Investigators are seeking cooperation from an ex-girlfriend of Gaetz who was formerly an intern on Capitol Hill, and they could also "soon gain the formal cooperation" of former Florida county tax collector Joel Greenberg, CNN reported on Tuesday. It had previously been reported that Greenberg was cooperating with investigators since last year, and according to CNN, a deadline for him to reach a plea agreement is coming this week. Greenberg has been charged with sex trafficking of a minor, stalking, and bribery.

Gaetz has been facing an investigation over whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and violated federal sex trafficking laws. He has denied any wrongdoing. The former girlfriend investigators are seeking cooperation from reportedly joined the Florida lawmaker on a 2018 trip to the Bahamas that has become a focus of the investigation, and she was "involved in some of the financial transactions that the FBI has obtained" and is "believed to have knowledge of drug use and arrangements with women," CNN writes.

Investigators are almost finished collecting evidence in the probe, CNN also reports, but it's expected to take "some time" for the Justice Department to determine whether there's enough evidence to support an indictment. Read more at CNN. Brendan Morrow

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