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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    With former White House Counsel Don McGahn defying a subpoena for his testimony in Congress on the findings of the Muller Report, there was a noticeable jump on Tuesday in the halls of the Capitol in the number of Democrats publicly demanding that their leaders take the next step - to start impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. 'The facts laid out in the Mueller report, coupled with this administration’s ongoing attempts to stonewall Congress, leave us no other choice,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). 'It is time for Congress to officially launch an impeachment inquiry against the President of the United States.' 'More of my colleagues are coming around, reluctantly, to the reality that impeachment is necessary, unavoidable, and urgent,' said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA). 'This week feels like the tipping point.' 'I personally feel like we cannot tolerate this level of obstruction,' said Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), as a number of new - and more liberal Democrats - embraced the idea of impeachment more publicly today. 'Failure to impeach now is neglect of due process,' said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Republicans said this was nothing more than political theater. 'Their single-minded goal is political revenge on someone who beat them in an election they thought they had won,' said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). 'The American people don't want impeachment,' said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). 'But the Democrats are so angry that our President is succeeding and so desperate to please their base that they'll do it anyway.' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned her rank-and-file away from impeachment for months, trying to keep the focus more on issues like health care. But after weeks of watching the White House directly tell Congress that it has no power to investigate on a range of topics - from the President's tax returns, to his past financial records, and issues related to the Russia investigation - there is a sense in the Capitol of a building desire to start a more formal investigation into Mr. Trump. 'No one is above law. It's time to start an impeachment inquiry,' said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA).
  • The struggle between Democrats in the House and President Donald Trump over the Russia investigation intensified on Monday with the White House telling former Counsel Don McGahn not to honor a subpoena for  his testimony on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, as Democrats said it was all part of a broad effort the President and the Trump Administration to stonewall Congress about the Mueller Report and other investigations. In a letter to Democrats, McGahn's lawyer William Burck said, 'the President has unambiguously directed my client not to comply with the Committee’s subpoena for testimony.' 'Under these circumstances, and also conscious of the duties he, as an attorney, owes to his former client, Mr. McGahn must decline to appear at the hearing,' the letter added. Democrats said they would still convene the hearing at 10 am EDT on Tuesday, as they held out the possibility of finding McGahn in contempt, just as the same committee voted to find Attorney General William Barr in contempt for refusing to honor a subpoena for an unredacted version of the Mueller Report. Democrats wanted testimony from McGahn because of the information he gave to investigators for the Mueller investigation, in which McGahn detailed repeated demands by President Trump to oust the Special Counsel. While President Trump has sternly denied that he ever ordered McGahn to get rid of Mueller, the evidence offered by the Special Counsel painted a different picture. McGahn testified that the President called him on June 17, 2017 - about a month after Mueller had been named as Special Counsel - and pressed for Mueller to be ousted, an order that McGahn repeatedly ignored. On page 300 of the Mueller Report, 'McGahn recalled the President telling him 'Mueller has to go' and 'Call me back when you do it.''  The Mueller Report described McGahn - who reportedly answered questions for 30 hours over multiple interviews - as a 'credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate.' McGahn also claimed in his testimony that once news of the President's request was reported in the press, Mr. Trump then pressed McGahn to dispute the veracity of the story that the President had pressed for Mueller's ouster. McGahn refused to do what the President had asked. The White House based its refusal for McGahn to testify on a new 15 page legal opinion from the Justice Department, which said McGahn - as a former top adviser - was under no requirement to testify before Congress. 'The President's immediate advisers are an extension of the President and are likewise entitled to absolute immunity from compelled congressional testimony,' the Office of Legal Counsel opinion stated. In summary, the Justice Department said simply, 'we conclude that Mr. McGahn is not legally required to appear before the Committee.' Democrats denounced the decision, and charged it was just adding more evidence to what they say is a cover up, focused on obscuring obstruction of justice by President Trump. 'This move is just the latest act of obstruction from the White House that includes its blanket refusal to cooperate with this Committee,' said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 'The President is intimidating witnesses and stonewalling the American people and the rule of law. Congress and the American people deserve answers from Mr. McGahn,' said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA). '(T)he White House Counsel serves interests of the American people, not the President, and their conversations do not have the protection of blanket attorney-client privilege,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). 'It’s pretty clear what the Trump Administration is doing here,' said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), 'they’re trying to hide the facts from the American people.' Democrats have promised to move forward to hold McGahn in Contempt of Congress - but there has also been discussion of other penalties, from what is known as 'inherent contempt' - which could involve levying fines against those who refuse to cooperate with investigations by Congress. 'The cover-up continues,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). 'And we will fight it.
  • In a notable break with the history of their home states, the Republican Leader of the U.S. Senate from Kentucky and a top Democrat from Virginia officially introduced a bill on Monday which would increase the minimum age to buy cigarettes and any other tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. 'Now is the time to do it,' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor, as he rattled off negative statistics about cancer related to tobacco use in the Bluegrass State. 'Our state once grew tobacco like none other, and now we're being hit by the health consequences of tobacco use like none other,' McConnell said, noting the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping to those under the age of 18. 'The health of our children is literally at stake,' McConnell added. McConnell offered the bill along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Vice Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in 2016, who also hails from a state with historic ties to the tobacco industry. 'Like Sen. McConnell, I come from a tobacco state,' Kaine said in remarks on the Senate floor, joining the Majority Leader in giving a history lesson about his state, and the influence of tobacco. 'We're backsliding,' Kaine said, nothing the recent increase in youth tobacco use, as he joined in blaming e-cigarettes and vaping. 'We encourage the states to pass their own laws,' Kaine added, as he said the new age limit would also be applied to members of the military services. “Raising the sales age for tobacco nationwide is one of several policy changes that are essential to reach the tobacco endgame of eliminating tobacco use and nicotine addiction,” said Nancy Brown, the head of the American Heart Association, which offered its quick support. McConnell is running for re-election in 2020, and as the leader of the Senate, he could bring the bill up for action at any time.
  • With members of the House and Senate leaving town for a ten day break at the end of this week, the future of billions of dollars in disaster relief for victims of hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, and more remains in limbo in the halls of Congress, as the Senate struggles to finalize a deal, with opposition by President Donald Trump to extra aid for Puerto Rico one of the stumbling blocks. 'Now it’s time for Congress to pass the disaster relief bill,' Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) tweeted on Sunday. 'Our Panhandle communities have waited long enough,' he said, referring to the extreme damage caused by Hurricane Michael last year. But while the House has passed two different relief bills - a $14 billion package in January, and a $19 billion plan earlier this month - the Senate has been unable to come to an agreement, with money for Puerto Rico, and possible extra money to deal with the surge of immigrants along the southern border still in the mix. 'What is happening at the border is tragic, and we hope to address some of that in the supplemental that is coming, the disaster supplemental, to provide some of the resources that are needed there,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week. But so far, that broader deal - which would likely push the price tag of the bill over $20 billion - has not come together. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is still holding back $16 billion in already approved disaster aid for areas hit by hurricanes in 2017, including $4 billion for Texas, and $8.2 billion for Puerto Rico. Last week, the feds released $1.4 billion in already approved disaster funding for states hit by disasters in 2018 - but left the much larger amount of 2017 money still on the shelf, even though officials have promised for months that it was about to be released. The 2018 money included $448 million for Florida, and nearly $35 million for Georgia to deal with Hurricane Michael damage - but much larger sums of aid, including money to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base - are caught up in the disaster bill before Congress. And one of the main reasons that disaster bill has been stuck in the Senate since January is President Trump's opposition to extra aid for Puerto Rico. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to have a vote on disaster aid before the Senate leaves town for Memorial Day. 'I'm not going to be sending members of either party home to these storm and flood ravaged states without at least some action,' McConnell said. If key Senators can't reach an agreement, the latest $19.1 billion House-passed bill is ready for action on the Senate calendar. The clock is ticking on any deal - the House is scheduled to leave town by Thursday afternoon.
  • The political fallout from the Mueller Report received an unexpected jolt on Saturday from a Republican member of the U.S. House, as Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a more libertarian lawmaker who has often been a critic of the President, became the first GOP member of Congress to open the door for the President Trump's impeachment, saying it's clear Mr. 'Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.' In a series of posts on Twitter, Amash - a member of the House Freedom Caucus - accused Attorney General William Barr of having 'deliberately misrepresented' the findings and evidence of the Mueller Report. 'In comparing Barr’s principal conclusions, congressional testimony, and other statements to Mueller’s report, it is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s analysis and findings,' Amash said, making the calls for impeachment now bipartisan. 'Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence,' Amash said, echoing an argument heard from many Democrats. Democrats welcomed Amash's declaration. 'This is a very consequential statement,' said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). 'Thank you Justin Amash for putting country ahead of party.' 'We can now have bipartisan impeachment proceedings. Thank you, @justinamash,' said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). Amash chided members of both parties for reacting to the Mueller Report simply because of who was targeted, basically predicting that if a Democrat had been in the White House, the reactions would have been completely opposite 'We’ve witnessed members of Congress from both parties shift their views 180 degrees — on the importance of character, on the principles of obstruction of justice — depending on whether they’re discussing Bill Clinton or Donald Trump,' Amash added on Twitter. There was no evidence that Amash's statement was going to open the flood gates in Congress against the President - but it will give Democrats the ability to say there are bipartisan concerns about President Trump. “Call him the lone member of the Republican Integrity Caucus,” said Congressional scholar Norm Ornstein, who has been a frequent critic of the President. Fellow Republican Congressman, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) took a mild jab at Amash, writing on Twitter that his nickname for Amash was right, using the hashtag, 'Often Wrong Never In Doubt.
  • The Friday decision by President Donald Trump to lift special tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Canada and Mexico not only defused a year old trade battle with those two neighbors, but also strengthened the prospects in the U.S. Congress for a revised free trade agreement negotiated by the Trump Administration. 'The biggest hurdle to ratifying USMCA has been lifted,' said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who had helped lead opposition to the tariffs, saying it would prevent the U.S., Mexico, Canada trade deal from being approved by Congress.  Not only will the U.S. drop import duties on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico, but those countries will drop retaliatory tariffs against a variety of American exports, which had caused collateral economic damage to a variety of U.S. businesses. 'These tariffs, and the retaliation they caused, have hurt American farmers, manufacturers, businesses and consumers across the country,' said the group Tariffs Hurt the Heartland. 'These tariffs are damaging the U.S. manufacturing sector, and particularly downstream U.S. steel and aluminum consuming companies,' said the Coalition of American Metals Manufacturers and Users. Many voices in the U.S. and Canada praised Grassley for helping push the President to drop the 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports from Mexico and Canada, as Grassley and GOP Senators repeatedly made clear to President Trump that a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade deal would go nowhere in Congress until that happened. 'The agreement with Canada and Mexico to lift steel and aluminum tariffs and retaliation without quotas will allow the U.S. to better target China’s unfair trade practices and pave the way for the USMCA,' said Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN). 'This is great news we’ve reached a deal on Steel and Aluminum,' said Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS). 'Kansas exports to Canada and Mexico in 2017 totaled $4.4 billion.' 'It is good these tariffs will be lifted,' said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. 'I've always said we should be focusing efforts on China — not Mexico, Canada, Europe.' But Democrats have also raised a series of other questions about the trade agreement - which still has not been submitted to the Congress for a vote, even though it was finalized last year. In the wake of the tariffs announcement, Vice President Mike Pence announced on Friday that he would go to meet the Canadian Prime Minister on May 30. While this move to ease tariffs will certainly help U.S. farmers and other businesses, there is still great uncertainty involving retaliation by China - in a separate trade dispute sparked by President Trump's aggressive efforts to levy tariffs on American trading partners. “We actually had a deal and they broke it,” the President said of the Chinese on Friday, referring to last minute demands and changes that Beijing thought it could gain from Mr. Trump. It did not work. “I said, 'Can't do that. Sorry, you can't do that,'” the President said in a speech.
  • President Donald Trump set out plans on Thursday to retool the nation's legal immigration system, in order to bring more highly skilled workers to the United States, saying it was time to emphasize skill and smarts in deciding who gets a green card to live and work in America. 'We discriminate against brilliance,' the President said in a speech from the White House Rose Garden. 'We won't anymore, once we get this passed.' 'Only 12 percent of legal immigrants are selected based on skill, or based on merit,' Mr. Trump added, as he said it's time to emphasize those qualities in order to draw more 'top talent' from abroad. The President has long sought to limit so-called 'chain migration' - where extended family are allowed to follow someone who is legally admitted to the United States - and to do away with the visa lottery, which he argues is one example of how highly-skilled workers aren't getting a preference for a green card in America. 'Immigrants must be financially self-sufficient,' the President said, making clear that his priority was in attracting higher wage workers and skilled talent - not only those currently in the work force overseas, but also foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities. 'Some of the most skilled students are going back home because they have no relatives to sponsor them in the United States,' the President said, arguing that he wants those 'exceptional students' to stay and 'flourish' in America. Mr. Trump also rolled out several proposals to deal with the current migrant surge at the southern border of the United States, proposing changes which would swiftly determine who is legitimately claiming asylum, and those who are not. The immediate outlook for the plan in Congress was murky at best; the White House is not sending actual legislation to Capitol Hill on the subject, leaving any legislative lifting to Senate Republicans, who know that any big changes on immigration must be bipartisan in order to get through the Senate, and be approved by Democrats in the House. The President's plan includes no provisions dealing with illegal immigrants already in the United States, or with the fate of so-called 'Dreamers' who were brought to the U.S. at a young age by their parents. 'We have to, I believe, come to comprehensive immigration reform,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who pointedly noted the President has talked about helping Dreamers in the past. Asked about the President's emphasis on a 'merit' based system - Pelosi bluntly called that 'condescending.' Allies of the President said they were ready to push ahead, though the path forward was not at all clear. Earlier this week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the only way anything would pass on immigration would be through compromise. Graham vowed to hold a hearing on the subject, and then allow his committee to vote on actual legislation; no time frame has been announced, as the President made clear he believes if Democrats refuse to deal, it will help him in 2020. 'If for some reason - possibly political - we can't get Democrats to approve this merit-based, high security plan, then we will get it approved immediately after the election, when we take back the House, keep the Senate, and of course - hold the Presidency,' Mr. Trump said to applause.
  • Sending a stern bipartisan message, lawmakers from the state of Florida blasted the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday for refusing to publicly identify which counties had their voter databases penetrated by Russian hackers in 2016, as well as other counties which may have had suspicious activity around the same time. 'It is untenable to hold this information classified and to not let the public know,' said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), after a closed door briefing by FBI officials on Capitol Hill, 'We have very clearly and very forcefully asked the FBI to declassify that information,' said Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), as lawmakers said there was no reason not to let voters in Florida know where the election year cyber intrusions took place.  'I don't know who the hell they think they are to not share that information with us,' said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).  The penetration of voter databases in two counties in Florida occurred after phishing emails were sent to election workers across the state. 'They sent these to all 67 counties,' said Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL). 'Unfortunately, two counties had employees that did click on those emails, and they gained limited access.' The outrage was bipartisan, as Florida lawmakers said there's no reason the identity of the counties should be a state secret, three years after the attempted hacking took place. 'They not only deserve to know what happened,' Waltz said of voters in his state, 'but they deserve to know what we're doing to protect the elections going forward.' Both parties stressed there was no evidence that voter databases were tampered with before the 2016 elections after Russians gained access to the two unidentified counties - but they say that’s no reason for the feds to hide the locations of where it occurred. “What we have told them is that it is untenable to hold this information classified, and not to let the public know,” said Murphy.
  • As President Donald Trump rolls out new plans Thursday to slow the surge in migrants trying to make it across the southern border of the United States, a key GOP lawmaker in Congress said Wednesday that the only chance for anything to get done in the House and Senate is a compromise - with both parties giving in on controversial immigration policy matters. 'To get what you want, you've got to give something,' said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as he told reporters that it's obvious the President does not have the votes to do what he wants on immigration - and neither do the Democrats. 'You're going to have to get Democrats in the room,' Graham told reporters. 'This is the time for the Tuesday Trump to show up.' What Graham meant by that was a White House meeting which took place on a Tuesday in early 2018, where President Trump told a bipartisan group of Senators - in a meeting shown on TV - that if they could forge a deal among themselves on immigration, then he would sign it. “I'll take the heat,” the President said.  “I don't care.” But the idea went sideways quickly. 'We sent him a bill - and he didn't sign it,' Graham recounted, as more conservative lawmakers and aides intervened, derailing a compromise which would have involved $25 billion for the President's border wall, in exchange for protections for some illegal immigrant 'Dreamers.' Graham's comments came as he unveiled a series of new immigration plans on Wednesday, mainly designed to limit asylum claims, forcing those from Mexico and Central America to make those only in their home country - not at the U.S. border, or when they are apprehended. Graham's plan would also treat unaccompanied children like those from Mexico or Canada - they would be sent back right away, and not allowed to stay in the U.S., which he says has become a magnet, and one reason the numbers of migrants has jumped dramatically. The South Carolina Republican - who said he still considers himself a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform - said he plans to use his Senate Judiciary Committee in an effort to forge a bipartisan consensus on immigration. But he knows it will take more than Senators. 'So, I am urging the President to lead us to a solution,' Graham said, as he also pressed Democrats to overcome their distaste for Mr. Trump. 'Find a solution to this problem, quickly,' Graham added. So far the reaction among Republicans to the plan being released by the President on Thursday has been cool - as reviews were decidedly mixed after a closed door meeting of top White House officials, including Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, with GOP Senators on Tuesday. While President Trump has aggressively pushed Congress to act on changes to U.S. immigration laws, he has had little success either in forcing votes, or in forging a plan which could gain even a majority in the Congress. In February of 2018, the Senate voted on four different immigration plans; the one backed by President Trump netted only 39 votes, the smallest of the four.
  • Intensifying the standoff between President Donald Trump and Democrats in the U.S. House, the White House on Wednesday accused Democrats of using Congressional investigations to harass the President and his Administration, making the argument that since the investigation of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller is over, Congress cannot pursue additional investigations related to the Russia probe. 'The only purpose for this duplication seems to be harassing and seeking to embarrass political opponents after an exhaustive two-year investigation by the Department of Justice did not reach the conclusion that some members of the Committee apparently would have preferred,' said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. In a 12 page letter to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Cipollone repeatedly made clear that any inquiry aimed at the White House by lawmakers must be tied to a 'legitimate legislative purpose,' a phrase that's been used repeatedly in recent days to rebuff requests for the President's tax returns, and in court arguments over subpoenas by a House committee. “As a result, the requests raise serious concerns of violating the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution,” Cipollone added. Specifically on the Russia investigation, Cipollone wrote, 'it appears that the Committee's inquiry is designed, not to further a legitimate legislative purpose, but rather to conduct a pseudo law enforcement investigation on matters that were already the subject of the Special Counsel's long-running investigation.' The White House argument is simple - since the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 election was investigated by the Special Counsel and the Justice Department, there can be no repeat by the Congress. 'Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation, not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized 'do-over' of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice,' the top White House lawyer wrote. The White House letter specifically cited an interest by Democrats in investigating the 'pardon power' of a President, saying that is not allowed under the Constitution. But - back in 2001 - Republicans in the Congress held a series of hearings and launched a broad investigation of pardons issued by President Bill Clinton, just before he left office. Democrats have made clear they're not going to just drop their broad array of investigations - vowing to subpoena the former White House Counsel Don McGahn for testimony, as well as Robert Mueller.

The Latest News Headlines

  • A newborn hospitalized in grave condition after police said he was cut from his slain mother’s womb last month has opened his eyes for the first time, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news Police said the boy’s mother, 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, was killed April 23 by a woman she met through a Facebook group geared toward young mothers. Authorities said Clarisa Figueroa, 46, called 911 after cutting the baby from his mother’s body to falsely claim she’d given birth to a child who was not breathing. Tests later confirmed the boy was not Figueroa’s. >> 3 charged in connection with slain pregnant woman found with baby cut from womb The child, who family members have named Yovanny Jardiel, remained hospitalized Tuesday in critical condition, according to WMAQ-TV. He is not expected to survive. Cecilia Garcia, a student pastor who has been helping Ochoa-Lopez’s family, told CNN she was photographing the baby Sunday as his father, Yovany Lopez, held him at the hospital. 'We were just praying and praying, and he opened his eyes,” Garcia told CNN. “His dad said, ‘Oh my God, he opened his eyes!'' She shared images of Lopez and his son early Monday on Facebook. 'We've been blessed, although this is a really bad tragedy,” Garcia told CNN. “They're such a loving and humble family and it's just so wrong what happened to them.' Authorities said Figueroa plotted for months to get a newborn following the death by natural causes of her adult son, The Associated Press reported. Prosecutors said she strangled Ochoa-Lopez with a coaxial cable while her daughter, 24-year-old Desiree Figueroa, showed the pregnant woman a photo album of Clarisa Figueroa’s late son. >> Woman faked pregnancy for months before killing mother-to-be, cutting baby from womb, reports say Authorities have charged both Figueroas with one count each of first-degree murder and aggravated battery to a child. Clarisa Figueroa’s boyfriend, 40-year-old Piotr Bobak, was also arrested on one count of concealment of a homicide. Police said first responders found Yovanny Jardiel blue after Clarisa Figueroa reported he was not breathing on April 23, according to The Associated Press. They tried to resuscitate the infant and transported the boy to a nearby hospital, where police said he was in grave condition. When Figueroa went to the hospital, doctors who examined her found 'no signs consistent with a woman who had just delivered a baby.' She also had blood on her arms, hands and face that authorities later determined was from Ochoa-Lopez, prosecutors said. It was not clear whether the hospital contacted police. In a statement issued Friday, Christ Medical Center in suburban Oak Lawn declined to comment, citing federal and state regulations. Oak Lawn police said they were not contacted about Figueroa by the medical center or any other agency, including the Chicago Police Department. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has asked the Department of Child and Family Services to determine whether hospital officials followed proper reporting procedures after Figueroa and the baby were brought to the hospital, WLS-TV reported. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, warned former White House counsel Don McGahn Tuesday that he will be held in contempt of Congress if he does not testify about special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. >>Former White House counsel Don McGahn ignores subpoena, skips Congressional hearingThe warning came Tuesday after McGahn failed to appear before the committee for a scheduled hearing. >> Read more trending news McGahn will be the second Trump official – U.S. Attorney General William Barr was the first – to be held in contempt by Nadler’s committee if he continues to refuse to testify.What happens when someone is held in contempt of Congress? Here’s a look at the process. What is contempt of Congress?  Congress can hold a person in contempt if that person's conduct obstructs congressional proceedings or obstructs an inquiry by a congressional committee. Refusing to testify or refusing to turn over documents can constitute contempt. Where in the Constitution does it say Congress can bring contempt charges?  There is nothing in the Constitution that gives Congress the specific authority to hold someone in contempt. However, the Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that Congress has the right under some circumstances to compel people to comply with its requests when it is legitimately overseeing an inquiry. What law governs Congress’ ability to hold someone in contempt?  A law enacted in 1938 – 2 USCA § 192 – says that any person who is summoned before Congress who 'willfully makes default, or who, having appeared, refuses to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry' shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a maximum $1,000 fine and 12 month imprisonment. So Congress can convict anyone of contempt for any matter?  While its power is broad, there are limits to what Congress can do. Before a congressional witness can be convicted of contempt, it must be established that the person being charged has something to do with a subject that Congress has the constitutional power to legislate. In other words, Congress cannot just go after anyone for anything. Congress must have the authority to look into a matter in order to bring contempt charges against someone who is preventing them from getting information on that matter. Also, a person cannot be made to answer questions if there is a legal basis that allows them not to answer – such as the right against incriminating yourself guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment. What is the process of finding someone in contempt?  Once a contempt citation is issued, a vote must be taken. The vote can take place in a House or Senate committee or on the floor of either the House or Senate.   A simple majority of the body is needed to support a finding of contempt. Then what happens?  After the vote is taken and if the matter passes the full House, the speaker of the House turns the matter over to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. It’s the same process for the Senate – if a vote passes, the matter is turned over to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. The U.S. attorney could then decide if the matter is to be pursued and would bring the issue before a grand jury.  If prosecuted and convicted of contempt of Congress, a person could be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to a year in jail.  Is there anything else Congress could do?  There is a method that has not been used for many years but is an option for the leadership in Congress. A method called “inherent contempt” would allow a person to be arrested by the sergeant-at-arms of the House or Senate and brought before the accusing legislative body for a trial.  If convicted, the person could be imprisoned until they agree to comply with what Congress wants from them. They can be held in jail until the end of the current congressional session – that would be Jan. 3, 2021 – or they could be released whenever Congress decides to let them go before Jan. 3, 2021. If the House were to invoke inherent contempt charges, technically the person could be imprisoned in a spare room at the Capitol, a Capitol Police holding cell or a nearby hotel. However, this is not likely to happen. Inherent contempt has not been used since 1935. What is likely to happen?  If a deal cannot be worked out, Congress is likely to bring a civil lawsuit asking a judge to get involved. If the judge rules that a person must answer questions or surrender documents, then the person must do so or face contempt of court charges. Contempt of court is usually enforced with daily fines or imprisonment.  
  • A Jacksonville man who was arrested for submitting false claims for FEMA benefits after three recent storms has reached a plea agreement that could put him in prison for decades. Lepoleon Spikes was arrested in the fall of 2018 on allegations of defrauding FEMA of tens of thousands of dollars in disaster assistance.  Prosecutors said Spikes applied for disaster assistance in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Matthew, as well as Tropical Storm Debby.  The US Attorney’s Office says the total payout was $57,689.19.   As part of a plea agreement, Spikes will have to pay that precise amount in restitution to the federal government. He also faces up to 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set. 
  • Former White House counsel Don McGahn failed to appear Tuesday before a Congressional committee after President Donald Trump directed him to skip the hearing despite a subpoena issued for his testimony. >> Read more trending news House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-NY, said during Tuesday’s brief hearing that lawmakers were considering options to compel his testimony. “McGahn has a legal obligation to be here,” Nadler said. “If he does not immediately correct his mistake, this committee will have no choice but to enforce the subpoena.' Update 10:45 a.m. EDT May 20: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-NY, said Tuesday that subpoenas from his committee, even when issued to a senior presidential advisor like McGahn, are not optional. “Let me be clear,” Nadler said at Tuesday’s hearing, “This committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it.” The Justice Department on Monday released a 15-page legal opinion stating that McGahn has no obligation to honor a congressional subpoena due to immunity granted to him as one of the president’s immediate advisers. The ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said Tuesday’s hearing was little more than 'theater' put on by Democrats digging for nonexistent dirt in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation into Russian election meddling and its possible ties to Trump and his campaign officials. >> More on Robert Mueller's investigation  “The majority claims we need to dig deeper than the two years of investigation by what is considered a prosecutorial dream team,” Collins said. “(Nadler) does not actually want information. He wants the fight, but not the truth.” Update 10 a.m. EDT May 20:  The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday about the report submitted earlier this year by special counsel Robert Mueller, who spent 22 months investigating Russian election interference and its possible ties to Trump and his campaign officials.  McGahn was subpoenaed to testify at the hearing, although he said Monday he would not appear after he was directed not to by Trump. Update 10:45 p.m. EDT May 20: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler warned former White House counsel Don McGahn  that if he fails to appear at a hearing Tuesday morning “the Committee is prepared to use all enforcement mechanisms at its disposal.” In a letter to McGahn’s attorney, William Bruck, Nadler called Trump’s order for McGahn to ignore the subpoena from the committee to testify “unprecedented.” He also said Trump’s order “does not excuse your (McGahn’s) obligation to appear before the Committee.” “Although the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has produced an opinion purporting to excuse you (McGahn) from testifying, that opinion has no support in relevant case law, and its arguments have been flatly rejected by the courts,” Nadler said. Nadler said the committee hearing will convene Tuesday morning, whether McGahn chooses to appear or not. Update 8:40 p.m. EDT May 20: Despite a subpoena, former White House counsel Don McGahn has informed the House Judiciary Committee that he will not  appear at a hearing Tuesday, according to a report from The Hill. >> Jamie Dupree: Former White House counsel refuses to testify about Mueller probe McGahn’s lawyer, William Bruck, sent a letter to Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler informing him that McGahn would not comply with the subpoena and would not attend to the hearing, The Hill reported. The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn and four other White House officials as part of an investigation into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power charges, according to CNN. Update 7:00 p.m. EDT May 20: President Donald Trump told reporters on his way to a rally in Pennsylvania Monday afternoon that he ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to ignore a Congressional subpoena for the greater good of the presidency. “As I understand it they're doing that for the office of the presidency for future presidents. As I understand it it's a very important precedent. The attorneys say they're doing it not for me, they're doing it for the future,” Trump said. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a statement that the hearing will convene as planned, even though McGahn has been ordered not to testify Nadler said McGahn witnessed 'egregious' acts of obstruction to the Mueller investigation by Trump and that the president “clearly does not want the American people to hear firsthand about his alleged misconduct.” “This move is just the latest act of obstruction from the White House that includes its blanket refusal to cooperate with this committee. It is also the latest example of this administration’s disdain for the law,” he said. Original report: The committee is scheduled to hold a hearing starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday about the report submitted earlier this year by special counsel Robert Mueller, who spent 22 months investigating Russian election interference and its possible ties to Trump and his campaign officials. In the report, Mueller said his team found no evidence of collusion, but he declined to make a decision on whether there was enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice. >> Trump: 'We're fighting all the subpoenas' In an opinion released Monday, Justice Department officials said the president’s “immediate advisors” can’t be compelled to give congressional testimony due to the “fundamental workings of the separation of powers.” “Because Congress may not constitutionally compel the former Counsel to testify about his official duties, he may not be civilly or criminally penalized for following a presidential directive not to appear,” the opinion stated. >> Read the opinion released by the DOJ  In a statement released Monday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pointed to a newly issued opinion and noted that “McGahn has been directed to act accordingly.” “This action has been taken in order to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the Presidency,” she said. >> Former White House counsel Don McGahn subpoenaed by House Judiciary Committee House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., issued a subpoena last month to compel McGahn’s testimony. The committee was looking particularly at bringing in a member of Trump’s staff with direct knowledge of his efforts to undermine the Mueller probe, CNN reported last month, citing an unidentified source.
  • The annual Jazz Festival in Downtown Jacksonville is going to force the closure of several streets beginning Wednesday.  Parking meters will be bagged and no street parking will be allowed from through Memorial Day on Monday.   The free event will feature music at three venues, and legendary singer Gladys Knight headlines festivities on Sunday night on the Swingin’ Stage near the Courthouse.  Weather is going to be very hot through the weekend with ‘feel-like’ temps approaching 100.  PODCAST: Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh tracks dry, hot stretch of weather. Festivities begin Thursday evening with a piano competition at the Florida Theater.  Stages will be set up in Hemming Park and the Duval County Courthouse.  SCHEDULE:  See a full schedule of events here. 

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