Attorney General Barr in contempt, Trump invokes executive privilege, and a Colorado school shooting

The House Judiciary Committee votes to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt of Congress, Trump invokes executive privilege over the full Mueller report, a Colorado school shooting leaves one student dead, and much, much more.

 

Good evening, it’s Wednesday, May 8th, here’s what you need to know…

 

1. House committee votes to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt

 

The House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena and submit an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The final 24-16 vote was along party lines and came after Barr missed a deadline earlier in the week to provide the committee with the full Mueller report and its underlying evidence. The 448-page document detailed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said, “This is not a step we take lightly. This is a culmination of three months of requests, discussions and negotiations with the Department of Justice.” The contempt resolution passed by the committee will report to the full House for a vote, which could result in prosecution against Barr if it passes, although it’s unlikely.

 

 

2. Trump asserts executive privilege over full Mueller report

 

Minutes before the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt of Congress, President Trump invoked executive privilege over the full, unredacted Mueller report. By asserting executive privilege, Trump blocks Congress, the courts, and the public from access to the complete report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Executive privilege can be claimed by the president to conceal information from the other branches of government and protect confidentiality within the executive branch. “This decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said during Wednesday’s hearing. The White House has asserted that the conclusions outlined in special counsel Mueller’s report show that the president did not violate the law and called for the end to all investigations by House Democrats. However, Democratic lawmakers argue that they need to see the special counsel’s unredacted report to make that determination. The president’s actions will likely escalate his administration’s ongoing legal fights with the Democratic-controlled House and raise contention among members of Congress.

 

3. 1 dead, 8 injured in Colorado school shooting

 

A shooting at a Denver area school on Tuesday afternoon left one student dead and 8 others injured after two students opened fire on two separate classrooms. The incident occurred at STEM School Highlands Ranch in suburban Denver when gunfire interrupted classes just before 2 p.m. local time. Police were able to arrive on scene quickly and confront the two suspects before taking them into custody without injury. One of the shooters was identified as Devon Erickson, 18, and the other suspect is an unidentified female juvenile. Erickson made his first court appearance on Wednesday afternoon to face charges on 1 count of suspicion of first-degree murder and 29 counts of attempted first-degree murder. It is unclear if the minor female will be charged as an adult or as a juvenile. The school has more than 1,850 students enrolled in grades K-12. Several students remain hospitalized, with two of the injured in serious condition, two in stable condition, and one remains in good condition. The 18-year-old student killed in the shooting was identified as Kendrick Castillo and is being hailed as a hero by his classmates for charging toward the attackers in an attempt to subdue them, giving other students a chance to run and hide. Castillo was a senior who loved engineering and robotics, according to his family, and was just days away from graduation.

 

4. New York Senate passes bill to allow Congress to request Trump’s taxes

 

The New York state Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow President Trump’s state tax returns to be released to Congress. The TRUST Act, as the bill is named, would change state law to allow the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance to release any state tax returns requested by the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation. The congressional committees could request the state tax filings for any “specific and legitimate legislative purpose” only after efforts of obtaining federal tax filings through the U.S. Treasury Department are unsuccessful. It is important to note that the bill would only authorize the release of Trump’s state tax returns and not his federal returns. However, they could still prove to be illuminating as New York serves as the headquarters of his business operations and is where Trump has long resided. The state Senate also passed a bill that would allow people pardoned by the president to be charged with state crimes. The back-to-back bills passed by Senate will also need to pass in the state assembly before heading to Governor Cuomo’s desk for signature. 

 

5. Trump’s business tax returns

 

President Donald Trump’s businesses lost $1.17 billion from 1985 to 1994, according to official IRS tax transcripts obtained by the New York Times. In analyzing the tax records, the Times said Trump reported over $250 million in losses in both 1990 and 1991 – more than double any other individual taxpayer year after year. In eight of the 10 years of available tax records, Trump was able to avoid paying income taxes because of how much money he lost in real estate development, including hotels, apartment buildings, and casinos, and other unsuccessful business ventures. The president campaigned on his successes as a businessman and boasted about his self-made billionaire status, but the recent revelations by the New York Times raise questions about Trump’s financial savviness. On Wednesday morning, Trump took to Twitter to defend his business practices and referred to the Times’ report as a “highly inaccurate Fake News hit job.” Charles Harder, a lawyer for the president, was quoted by the New York Times and also called the released tax information as “highly inaccurate” and “demonstrably false.”

 

6. Iran partially withdraws from nuclear agreement

 

Iran announced that it was partially withdrawing from the international nuclear deal that it signed with global powers, including the U.S., in 2015. In a televised speech, President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would drawback from some of its “commitments” to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but would not fully withdraw from the agreement. Rouhani said that the country will stop exporting its enriched uranium stockpile that was designed to limit Iran’s supply of materials that could be used in nuclear weapon production. He also threated to resume higher uranium enrichment in two months if the parties to the agreement do not exclude the country’s oil and banking sectors from sanctions. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear agreement in 2018, calling the deal “defective” and accusing Iran of violating its terms. Some of the remaining countries to the agreement – Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia – have warned that they would reinstate economic sanctions against Iran if they backed away from commitments. Following President Rouhani’s announcement, the Trump administration responded by applying a series of new sanctions on Iran’s metal industry. The news of Iran’s withdrawal comes just days after the U.S. deployed warships and aircraft bombers to the Middle East as a warning to recent Iranian provocation.

 

7. Senate Intel Committee subpoenas Donald Trump Jr. 

 

The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of President Trump, to answer questions concerning previous testimony he provided to Senate investigators about Russia. The Republican committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) likely wants Trump Jr. to testify about his conversations at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton in June 2016. The committee also likely wants to know about discontinued plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, which Trump Jr. claims to know little about. The committee’s subpoena is a rare move for a Republican-controlled Senate and a GOP chairman to go up against the president. However, Chairman Burr has faced fierce criticism from his Republican colleagues in the Senate for seeming to continue investigations into Trump-Russia even after special counsel Mueller’s report was released. Many Republican lawmakers called the Russia investigation “case closed” and are pushing for Congress to move on, but Burr’s latest move to issue a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr. raises tension within his own party.

 

 

8. Georgia governor signs heartbeat bill into law

 

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has signed into law a bill that bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected. The controversial bill is set to go into effect on January 1, 2020, and amends existing Georgia law that allows women to undergo abortion procedures up to 20 weeks into pregnancy. The ban on abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected means women can be prohibited from terminating their pregnancy as early as six weeks after inception, when many women don’t even know they’re pregnant. The bill includes exceptions for instances when the pregnancy risks the life of the woman or can cause irreversible physical danger to them. It also provides exceptions for rape and incest as long as the woman files a police report first. The legislation is expected to face several legal challenges in court, including from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU who have already vowed to bring a lawsuit against the state of Georgia over the measure. Georgia joins several states that ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected and just last month, a similar bill was signed into law by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. That bill also faces impending lawsuits.

 

9. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle reveal their royal baby’s name

 

Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle have revealed the name of their first child: Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.  The name of their royal baby was announced Wednesday morning on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s official Instagram account. The page also shared a photo of Queen Elizabeth II meeting her new great-grandson, who becomes seventh in line to the British throne. The announcement came after Harry and Meghan introduced their son to the public in a photo opportunity at Windsor Castle, where the couple appeared together for the first time since the royal baby’s birth. Meghan said of the couple’s first child, “It’s magic, it’s pretty amazing, and I have the two best guys in the world, so I’m really happy.”

 

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