November 18, 2019

A career official at the Internal Revenue Service who filed a whistleblower complaint over the summer, accusing at least one political appointee at the Treasury Department of trying to interfere with an audit of President Trump's tax returns, met with Senate Finance Committee staff members earlier this month, a congressional aide told The New York Times.

The whistleblower spoke with staffers for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee. The whistleblower contacted the staff of the House Ways and Means Committee in July, claiming that political appointees were getting involved in the audit and putting pressure of some kind on senior IRS officials, the Times reports.

Details of the allegations remain unclear, and the House Ways and Means Committee is still reviewing the complaint. "We generally do not comment on whistleblower meetings, their contents, or even if they happened," Michael Zona, a spokesman for Grassley, told the Times. "Additionally, federal law prohibits the discussion of protected taxpayer information."

A person familiar with the matter told the Times the complaint does not directly implicate Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has refused to comply with a congressional request to release six years worth of Trump's personal and business tax returns. Catherine Garcia

10:43 a.m.

Michael Bloomberg doesn't see anything wrong with being another white man in the increasingly less diverse 2020 field.

As Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) recently pointed out after Bloomberg's entry to and Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-Calif.) departure from the 2020 presidential race, there are now "more billionaires than black people" running for president. But when confronted with that fact in a CBS This Morning interview, Bloomberg, one of those aforementioned billionaires, didn't seem to think it was a problem.

In the interview aired Friday, Gayle King asked Bloomberg if it was a "problem" that the December Democratic primary debate might not have any people of color on the stage. "It would be better the more diverse any group is, but the public is out there picking and choosing," Bloomberg responded. He then pointed out that there was a more diverse field earlier in the race.

Then, King asked Bloomberg to response to suggestions that he's "another old, white gentleman" in the race, and that it's "time for change." "Maybe," Bloomberg acknowledged, and then added "If you wanted to enter and run for president of the United States, you could have done that. But don't complain to me that you're not in the race."

Bloomberg also explained his recent decision to apologize for the "stop and frisk" policy he pursued as New York City mayor by asserting he only said he was sorry for it now because "nobody asked me about it until I started running for president." Kathryn Krawczyk

9:31 a.m.

The U.S. economy added 266,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department said Friday, coming in far ahead of expectations.

Analysts had been anticipating around 180,000 jobs being added, The New York Times notes.

"This blows away expectations," CNN's Christine Romans reported, while The Washington Post's Phillip Bump tweeted that he "said 'whoa' out loud" when he saw the number.

Hiring reached its highest level since January, as unemployment fell from 3.6 percent in October to 3.5 percent in November, The Associated Press reports. Average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent, up 3.1 percent from last year.

The New York Times writes the report "offered a counterpoint to renewed anxieties about an escalating trade war and a weakening global economy," noting tens of thousands of General Motors workers returning after a strike helped boost the hiring totals. Brendan Morrow

8:50 a.m.

Talk about a swift turnaround.

Taylor Swift on Friday dropped a brand new Christmas song, "Christmas Tree Farm," also putting out a music video for the song made up of home movies.

Relying mostly on old footage for this music video makes sense considering the song supposedly didn't even exist one week ago. When Good Morning America exclusively revealed Thursday that Swift was set to release a Christmas song, it also reported that she actually "wrote it over the weekend, turning it around in record time." Clearly, Swift was not ready to calm down over the Thanksgiving break.

"Okay, I know this is pretty wild, but I've just written a Christmas song," Swift said in a video on Thursday. "I feel like it's weird to just like wait a year to put it out."

The song is now available to stream on Spotify, and you can watch the music video below. Brendan Morrow

8:28 a.m.

CBS's Gayle King sat down with newly minted Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg in Colorado on Thursday, and she asked him why he decided to enter the race so late. "I looked at our national government getting worse," and he thought "we can't have four more years" President Trump, who "doesn't have the temperament or the ethics or the intellect to do the job," Bloomberg said in the interview, broadcast Friday morning. "And then I watched all the candidates. And I just thought to myself, 'Donald Trump would eat 'em up.'" Really? King asked. "Let me rephrase it," he said. "I think that I would do the best job of competing with him and beating him."

King asked Bloomberg about his recent apology for the "stop and frisk" policy he pursued as New York City mayor, now widely criticized as racist and counterproductively punitive. "Some people are suspicious of the timing of your apology," she said. "Well, nobody asked me about it until I started running for president," he said. "So come on." King pressed: "You just didn't mention it until now?" Bloomberg said he can't change the past, but it was a mistake, "I'm sorry. I apologize. Let's go fight the NRA."

Bloomberg, asked about being an old, white billionaire in an increasingly old, white Democratic field, said if people want to run, they should, "but don't complain to me that you're not in the race." "So you're saying if you want diversity then get in?" King asked. Bloomberg thanked her: "That is exactly a good way to phrase it. Thank you very much."

King asked Bloomberg if he thinks the House should impeach Trump. "I was, before, opposed to it, but after looking at all the evidence, I think yes," he said. "Sad, but yes." And the biggest thing that troubles him about Trump? she asked. "He does not seem to understand that he is an elected official whose job it is to work for the public rather than for himself," Bloomberg replied. Peter Weber

7:22 a.m.

"There were big campaign fireworks in Iowa today," thanks to former Vice President Joe Biden, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "Biden is on his 'No Malarkey' bus tour," and at an afternoon event, "he said no to one questioner's malarkey," calling the 83-year-old man a "damn liar" for saying Biden sent his son Hunter over to Ukraine to sell a gas company access to former President Barack Obama. "Man, Biden is getting feisty," Colbert said, showing more of the "ugly" exchange.

Biden challenged the man to push-ups or a race, told him to "get your words straight, Jack," and then said he was "too old" to vote for him anyway, but it was Biden (probably) calling the guy "fat" that prompted Colbert to stage an intervention: "Sir, I totally get it, you're understandably upset, you love your son — but can I just talk to you over here? You can't call an Iowa voter fat! They deep-fry butter! Their faucets have hot and cold running high-fructose corn syrup! For Pete's sake, their state bird is a funnel cake!"

Pete Buttigieg's campaign also had a little kerfuffle in South Bend, Indiana, late Wednesday, when a white Black Lives Matter protester interrupted black leaders supporting Buttigieg — and almost got caned by an elderly woman, Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. But the real drama was Biden versus the Iowa voter "parroting Fox News talking points about Joe's son Hunter's activities in Ukraine." He showed the video. Biden "said 'No Malarkey,' and I think he meant it," Kimmel deadpanned.

Biden's sparring with President Trump, too, Jimmy Fallon said on The Tonight Show. In a new ad, "Biden has just called Trump 'the laughingstock of the world.' When he heard that, Rudy Giuliani had to change his Twitter bio." Watch below. Peter Weber

6:05 a.m.

The House Intelligence Committee's impeachment report says that Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer and fixer, "had three phone calls with a number associated with OMB," or Office of Management and Budget, on April 23, and another 13-minute call from the OMB-associated number in August, both key moments in Trump's alleged Ukraine pressure campaign. But the phone number in question may not actually be from OMB, which froze $400 million in military and security aide for Ukraine at Trump's direction for contested reasons, the White House tells The New York Times and CNN.

The number, (202) 395-0000, is a generic White House switchboard number that could also have connected Giuliani to the White House political shop, the National Security Counsel, or a couple of other White House offices, The Wall Street Journal reports. A senior Intelligence Committee official told CNN that the committee had linked the number to OMB "based on public directories" and continues "to investigate these call records as part of our ongoing work." The White House and Giuliani have declined to turn over subpoenaed records that could "clarify" who Giuliani was talking to at the White House so frequently "at key points during the scheme," the official said.

An OMB official told the Times that a review of call logs showed no one in the office spoke to Giuliani around the times of the April and August calls, and a White House official said Giuliani didn't speak with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff and titular director of OMB. Giuliani, who says he did speak with Mulvaney, seems less sure. He told the Times on Tuesday he "never discussed military assistance" to Ukraine in his calls with OMB, adding "I am expert on so many things it could have been some very esoteric subject." On Wednesday, he texted CNN that he doesn't "remember calling OMB and not about military aid never knew anything about it." Peter Weber

4:14 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially requested articles of impeachment against President Trump on Thursday, and Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer asked the network's senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano for his reaction. "If you ask me if there is enough evidence on which to base articles of impeachment, the answer is yes, because impeachment is essentially political," Napolitano said, adding that Democrats would "get more evidence if they wait to hear from Secretary [Mike] Pompeo, Director [Mick] Mulvaney, former Ambassador [John] Bolton."

Assuming the House impeaches Trump and we "go to a Senate trial, who testifies on behalf of the president?" Hemmer asked. "Himself," Napolitano replied. "You believe that could happen?" Hemmer asked. "I do," Napolitano said. "I think it will be the most dramatic legal-political event in the history of our era, with the president of the United States testifying under oath in front of the chief justice and the full Senate and 200 million people watching on television."

Hot Air's Allahpundit found that implausible. "Can you imagine the horror among Trump's advisers and Senate cronies if he suddenly started chirping about wanting to testify?" he asked. White House Counsel "Pat Cipollone and [Sen.] Lindsey Graham would chloroform him and lock him in the White House basement to prevent it. ... No one around him trusts him to keep his story straight if he has to answer questions under oath. He lies easily and rarely convincingly." Allahpundit talked himself up from a 0.1 percent chance to 49 percent, though, after "considering that American politics has become a reality show, and that Trump is a compulsive narcissist who wrongly thinks he can outsmart anyone, and that he knows the TV ratings for him if he testified really would be as yuuuge as Napolitano says."

In case Napolitano's views on impeaching Trump weren't clear, he told Hemmer on Wednesday that "the Democrats have credibly argued that he committed impeachable offenses," and if he were in the House, he "certainly would" vote to impeach Trump. Peter Weber

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