May 15, 2019

The White House is rejecting a request for documents from the House Judiciary Committee, blasting Democrats' investigation into President Trump as an attempted "do-over."

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday criticized the committee's March request for documents from former and current administration officials. Democrats are currently investigating whether Trump abused his power in office and obstructed justice. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe did not establish whether Trump committed an obstruction of justice offense but also did not exonerate him, laying out instances of potential obstruction.

Cipollone characterizes this congressional investigation as "unauthorized 'do-over'" of the "exhaustive" one conducted by Mueller. He argues Democrats are operating outside of their constitutional authority in order to conduct a "pseudo law enforcement investigation" because Mueller's probe "did not reach the conclusion that some members of the committee apparently would have preferred." He also says the "appropriate course" would be to end the inquiry.

The White House will "resist the overbroad demands" from Democrats out of "respect for the rule of law," Cipollone concludes, demanding that they "narrow" the scope of the requests. This letter comes after the White House previously said it was instructing former counsel Don McGahn not to supply requested documents to Congress.

Nadler in response to the letter told CNN's Manu Raju that the White House is "claiming that the president is a king," adding, "no president, no person in the United States is above the law" and "this is preposterous." He also said that Democrats will not end their investigation and that they're considering hitting people who don't comply with subpoenas with "very large" fines. Earlier in the day, Nadler had said in an interview with CNBC that while we're "probably" not "heading for impeachment," Trump is "making it increasingly difficult" to avoid. Brendan Morrow

2:13 p.m.

Three of New Mexico's seven federal district judgeships are vacant, and that's causing a lot of issues for the state's courts and those awaiting their cases, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The court system in New Mexico was reportedly already in danger of being overwhelmed before the Trump administration ramped up its efforts to curb illegal immigration at the U.S.'s southern border. But now hundreds of migrants facing charges of entering the U.S. illegally are crowding into courtrooms in New Mexico every day. That means many of the migrants are having their cases heard in just a matter of minutes, as the courts simply don't have the capacity to handle the situation as it stands, especially considering judges also have to attend to non-border related cases.

The average amount of felony cases per judge in New Mexico was 983 between June 2018 and June 2019, whereas the national average was 125 cases per judge. A number of judges from outside of New Mexico have been called in to the state to lend a hand. "It's not an unusual day in New Mexico where I am doing 30 to 40 sentencings, when I might not do 30 sentencings in a year in Kansas," said Senior Judge J. Thomas Marten, who normally sits in Wichita, Kansas, but spends a few weeks in New Mexico every year.

The situation is also reportedly leading to longer stays in jail for some migrants as they await their hearings. One nominee to the New Mexico bench is waiting for a confirmation vote in the Senate, and another is being vetted by New Mexico's Democratic senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, who are still interviewing candidates for the third vacancy. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

1:35 p.m.

The White House has been consistently chaotic over the last few years, but some current and former Trump administration officials are indicating that things have reached a new level, Politico reports.

Early on during President Trump's tenure "there was enough guardrails around Trump or enough caution on his part that when he did things that were more impulsive, they had less significance and fewer external ramifications," one former White House official said.

Now, though?

Well, former White House communications director Anthony Scarramucci, who has been quite vocal with his Trump criticisms of late, compared the situation to a car that has been impounded. "We are not waiting to see what the fine is and to see whether or not we're going to get the car back," he said.

Some current officials reportedly said they don't have the energy or willpower to try to constrain Trump anymore, and have essentially given up, with one official describing a "who cares" attitude creeping through the building. Another current official said trying to limit Trump's impulses is a "pipe dream" and that "everyone who has tried had eventually failed in some way." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

1:09 p.m.

Protests have rocked both Chile and Lebanon this weekend.

A state of emergency has been declared in Santiago, the Chilean capital, after protests stemming from a hike in public transportation fares became violent Friday evening — the state of emergency is a result of Chile's dictatorship-era constitution and can last for 15 days. Soldiers reportedly returned to Santiago's streets Saturday for the first time since a devastating earthquake hit the country in 2010, The Guardian reports. There reportedly is no curfew at the moment, though the government does have the power to implement one.

Police have reportedly detained more than 300 people, while 156 officers have been injured, 49 police cars have been damaged, and 41 metro stations have been damaged, as the entire transport system was temporarily shut down. "We are assuming control, deploying our forces in a way that we can prevent continuing acts of vandalism and having a better sense in the morning of what is happening," Javier Iturriaga del Campo, a Chilean general said.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, thousands of demonstrators reportedly gathered Saturday in downtown Beirut for a third consecutive day of protests. The protesters are calling for the resignation of the government, which is considered to consist of the same political ruling class that has led the country since 1975.

At least 136 people have been detained since the protests began Thursday evening. Nearly all of them were reportedly released Saturday, but many reportedly appeared to have sustained significant injuries. Tim O'Donnell

12:42 p.m.

President Trump may not have an ironclad grip over the GOP right now, as Republicans have criticized his decision to host the next G7 summit at his own resort, openly questioned his foreign policy, and even admitted impeachment could be on the table.

"I'm still thinking about it, you know?" Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), who represents a staunchly Trump district, said about impeachment. "I've been really mindful of the fact that during Watergate, all the people I knew said, 'Oh, they're just abusing Nixon, and it's a witch hunt.' Turns out it wasn't a witch hunt. It was really bad."

Rooney also said he "couldn't believe" acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney withdrew an admission that the president withheld aid from Ukraine to force Kyiv into investigating potential political rivals. Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said he wasn't sure if he can defend Trump over the president hosting the G7 summit at his resort in Miami, Florida, next year.

That's not to mention the fact that even more high profile members of the party are beginning to waver a bit. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), normally a strong Trump ally, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post on Friday declaring Trump's withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria a "grave strategic mistake." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

11:09 a.m.

President Trump's personal lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani reportedly attempted to secure a visa for former Ukraine prosecutor Viktor Shokin, CNN reported Friday.

George Kent, the deputy assistant of state for European and Eurasian affairs, reportedly told congressional investigators that Giuliani asked both the State Department and the White House for a visa, two people familiar with his closed-door deposition earlier this week said. The State Department reportedly objected to the request and refused to grant the visa, which led Giuliani to seek help from the White House. It's unclear what the response was there, but Shokin never did receive a visa. CNN notes that the revelation appears to reveal that Giuliani's attempts to gather information about Democrats went further than previously understood.

Shokin was pushed out of his position in 2016 when several world leaders, including former Vice President Joe Biden, voiced concerns that Shokin was not pursuing corruption cases in Ukraine. Giuliani has previously said he wanted to interview Shokin because he promised to reveal information about Democrats' actions in Ukraine. Giuliani has alleged that Biden was trying to stop investigations to protect his son, Hunter, who was sitting on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the time, though there is no evidence of wrongdoing on either of the Bidens' part. Read more at CNN and NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

10:44 a.m.

Oh, so close.

It looks like the Brexit deal U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson brokered with the European Union on Thursday won't get through British Parliament on Saturday, as Johnson had hoped, adding to a growing list of defeats in his short tenure.

U.K. Parliament passed an amendment during its first Saturday session in 37 years that requires Johnson to request a Brexit delay from the European Union by 11 p.m. Saturday. The vote was tight, but ultimately a cross-party group backed the amendment by a count of 322-306. It does not necessarily mean that the MPs were opposed to Johnson's deal — instead it signals they are withholding their support. Oliver Letwin, the MP who led the charge for the amendment, said he was leaning toward backing Johnson's deal, but he prioritized keeping the insurance policy of an extension in place to prevent the U.K. from crashing out of the EU on Oct. 31 without a deal, should Parliament have blocked it.

The government was clear that, after being defeated in the amendment vote, it would abandon a follow-up vote on the deal, as the amendment rendered it "meaningless." It appeared Johnson was close to receiving the votes he needed to pass the deal, and he said he would move forward with Brexit legislation next week, though he insisted he will not negotiate a delay with the EU in the meantime. Read more at BBC and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

8:14 a.m.

Three years later and the results are in.

In a letter sent to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) earlier this week, which was released Friday, the State Department said it found "no pervasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information" after wrapping up its internal investigation launched in 2016 related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of private email during her tenure.

That appears to be mostly good news for Clinton and the Department, but the investigators did, however, determine that 38 unidentified current and former State Department officials were "culpable" in 91 cases of sending classified information that ended up in Clinton's personal email, meaning the use of private email did increase the vulnerability of such information.

Any of the 38 officials still working for the State Department could reportedly face some form of disciplinary action, while the violations will be noted in the files of all 38, and will be considered when applying for or renewing security clearances. All in all, the investigation covered 33,000 emails and found 588 violations, though it could not assign fault in 497 cases. Read more at The Associated Press and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

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