Congress still waiting for Iran briefings

Bombers and a carrier strike force are sent to the Middle East after provocations from Iran, and the U.S. body responsible for declaring wars, Congress, has no idea what is going on. Lawmakers are expecting the Pentagon and the State Department to brief them on the situation in Iran sometime this week, but for now, Congress is left in the dark.

Inu Manak: Is the GOP still the party of free trade? No

“The U.S. Constitution vests Congress with the authority to regulate commerce, but over the years it has ceded that authority. If the current environment does not invigorate Republican members of Congress to work to take back this responsibility, it is hard to take claims that they value trade as a benefit for Americans seriously. Meanwhile, polls suggest that most Americans support free trade, and Democrats have surpassed Republicans as its most ardent supporters. We have yet to see whether Democrats will take up the mantle of free traders, but in the meantime, the Republicans certainly can no longer claim that title, as they continue to make excuses for the president’s actions. The party of free trade? No. More like the Grand Old Protectionists.”

Stephen Vladeck: Trump can only use the Insurrection Act because Congress let it happen

“The obvious lesson here, as with the National Emergencies Act, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, the Trade Expansion Act, and others, is that Congress ought to put less faith into these political checks, and more teeth into substantive statutory limits on the president’s authorities. In the case of the Insurrection Act, some of us have been arguing as much for years. But that can’t—and won’t—happen until members of this (or any) president’s own party, and not just his opponents, privilege the separation of powers over the separation of parties.”

House passes ‘Equality Act’

The House has passed the “Equality Act,” which includes sweeping protections for LGBTQ individuals. It is not clear if the bill will pass the Senate. The White House has also signaled that President Trump would not sign the legislation.

Mueller testimony: The waiting is the hardest part

While Attorney General William Barr has indicated that he has no objection to Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifying before a House panel, Mueller’s appearance is in limbo due to discussions on whether the White House’s assertion of executive privilege would limit his testimony. The privilege claim could prevent him from discussing details involving President Trump and his advisers beyond what is in the redacted report. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel is weighing the issues.

Election assistance agency pleads for more funding

Officials from the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency charged with managing the nation’s electoral systems and helping states adopt good election administration practices, are pleading for more money before the 2020 elections. The agency is operating at half the capacity it had 10 years ago, while threats have increased. “What we are working on is the infrastructure of our democracy,” Vice Chair Benjamin Hovland said. “What we need is an investment from Congress to help us do that work.”

House Democrats plan public reading of Mueller report

More than 20 House Democrats are planning a grueling 12-hour-long public reading of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation in its entirety. “The Mueller report was a mandate from the Department of Justice that there be an investigation into these very troubling aspects about what was happening in our government,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon. “So you know, it may be inconvenient, it may be time-consuming, but it’s what we have to do.”

WaPo: The House has the power to arrest people who defy its orders

“It’s fun to imagine the House jail as a converted broom closet in the bottom of the Rayburn House Office Building, but it’s probably more feasible to hold an uncooperative member of the administration under guard in a hotel room near the Capitol. As when someone is jailed for refusing to comply with a court order, the prisoner holds the keys to the jailhouse door in his own pocket: Comply with the valid subpoena, and the detention ends. If all this seems laughably far-fetched, that just shows how significantly the powers of Congress, and our respect for that institution, have eroded in the last few decades.”

Barr to Pelosi: ‘Did you bring your handcuffs?’

A week after the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold him in contempt over subpoenas related to the Mueller report, Attorney General William Barr took an opportunity to joke about it. He approached House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at an event, shook her hand, and said loudly, “Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?” Pelosi smiled and said the House sergeant-at-arms was present at the ceremony should an arrest be necessary. The attorney general chuckled and walked away.

Trump’s hard-line immigration plan

President Trump is scheduled to use a Rose Garden speech on Thursday to throw his support behind a hard-line immigration plan, developed with his son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, to move U.S. immigration toward a “merit-based system” that prioritizes high-skilled workers over those with family already in the country. The proposal is already facing skepticism from lawmakers on both sides, and there appears to be no clear path toward advancing it through Congress.

Eric Levitz: Trump is a threat to democracy…so play nice

“If Trump’s boasts about sexual assault, praise of neo-Nazis, attacks on prisoners of war, and attempts to throw millions of Americans off of health insurance didn’t persuade these people that they should remove him from office through conventional means, why would impeachment proceedings convince them that Democrats should expel Trump through extraordinary ones? After all, the whole saga would inevitably end with the Senate awarding Trump ‘total exoneration,’ thereby signaling to these low-information Americans that the whole impeachment thing had been a partisan crusade.”

Sen Chris Murphy & Rep Jim Himes: Stop the march to war

“It is not too late to stop this mistake. Military brinkmanship, designed to provoke or cause an aggressive reaction, can be stopped. We ask that the administration brief Congress on the situation in an open and transparent way and acknowledge that the Constitution grants war-making authority solely to Congress, not the Oval Office. Critically, President Trump must understand that the authorization for the use of military force that Congress passed in 2001 against al-Qaeda does not authorize hostilities against Iran, no matter how much Pompeo would like to link Iran and al-Qaeda.”

Trump vs. Congress in federal court on Tuesday

Lawyers for Donald Trump and the House clashed Tuesday in federal court over the extent of Congress’ power to investigate his finances and private business. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta cited three possible reasons to revoke a subpoena issued by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Though he didn’t indicate whether he found them sufficient for blocking the subpoena, he said history isn’t on Trump’s side, as courts haven’t found that Congress overstepped its subpoena power since 1880.

House Intel investigating whether Trump attorneys interfered

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether attorneys representing President Trump and his family obstructed the panel’s investigation into Russian interference by reviewing, shaping, and editing false testimony. These attorneys include the president’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow; Donald Trump, Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas; Ivanka Trump’s attorney, Abbe Lowell; and the Trump Organization’s top lawyer, Alan Garten.

Junior strikes deal to testify

Donald Trump Jr. and the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee reached a deal on Tuesday for the president’s eldest son to sit for a private interview with senators in the coming weeks that will be limited in time, an accord that should cool a heated intraparty standoff.

Jamie Raskin: Congress is first among equals

“Congress was never designed as, nor should it ever become, a mere ‘co-equal branch,’ beseeching the president to share his awesome powers with us. We are the exclusive lawmaking branch of our national government and the preeminent part of it. We set the policy agenda, we write the laws, and we can impeach judges or executives who commit high crimes and misdemeanors against our institutions. As James Madison observed in the Federalist Papers, ‘In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.’ Congress is first among equals.”

Trump’s success with appointing federal judges

In what the White House, Republican senators and right-leaning organizations hailed as a major milestone, President Donald Trump last week saw his 100th judicial nominee confirmed by the Senate. One likely factor in Trump’s judicial success in his first two years was the number of vacancies that existed when he took office, largely because Republicans virtually halted processing Obama’s court nominees.

34 Republicans buck Trump on disaster bill

Thirty-four Republicans joined Democrats in passing a disaster relief bill Friday despite President Trump advocating for the GOP conference to vote against the measure. The president blasted the bill due to what he felt was excessive funding allocated toward Puerto Rico recovery efforts, arguing the island has mismanaged the aid sent to the island. Defectors largely represent areas that were impacted by the California wildfires, flooding in the midwest and Texas, and states impacted by Hurricanes.

Michelle Goldberg: If this is a constitutional crisis, act like it

“Pelosi is a sharp and pragmatic woman, and her evident belief that impeachment carries strategic risks for Democrats should be taken seriously. But it is incoherent to argue that Trump constitutes an existential threat to the Constitution, and that Congress should wait to use the Constitution’s primary defense against such a threat. Democratic fear of divisiveness — even as Republicans gleefully embrace it — is leading to unilateral political disarmament.”

Don Jr. likely won’t comply with Senate subpoena

The subpoena for Trump Jr.’s testimony marks an escalation of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russian election interference. The panel’s investigation, led by Republican Senator Richard Burr, has been running for more than two years, and the committee has interviewed many of the same witnesses who spoke to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Don Jr. has three options: dare the committee to hold him in contempt, take the Fifth in writing, or compromise and answer written questions (the most likely scenario).

Progressives rally for impeachment at US Capitol

Hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Donald Trump of sending the country into a “constitutional crisis,” she faced calls from progressive Democrats to take immediate steps toward impeachment of the president. “I believe impeachment is the solution to a constitutional crisis,” said Rep. Al Green, who joined Rep. Rashida Tlaib and progressive activists at a pro-impeachment event outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.

Pelosi’s impeachment approach is coming together

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been extremely cautious about impeachment, and wisely so, since that’s how most Americans feel, at least for now. But declaring that the country is facing a “constitutional crisis,” she portrayed herself Thursday as the protector of the Constitution, Congress, and the country as the standoff with President Trump continues. Pelosi has to convince Americans, and her own caucus, that the fight is more about checks and balances than partisan politics.

Subpoena of Trump’s financial records on the fast track

Judge Amit Mehta plans next week to weigh the major legal issues raised in President Trump’s challenge of a congressional subpoena for records from his accounting firm, Mazars USA, according to an order issued Thursday — putting the case on an even faster track than it previously looked to be. A hearing is scheduled for May 14.

Mueller Time: Special counsel may testify after all

On Thursday, Donald Trump appeared to change his mind…again. In a surprise 45-minute news conference, he said he would leave it to Attorney General William Barr to decide whether Robert Mueller should testify before Congress. He also expressed surprise and dismay over his son’s subpoena, saying, “My son was totally exonerated by Mueller.” Well, not exactly. But when questioned whether Donald Trump Jr. would appear, the president said, “We’ll see what happens.”

Max Boot: Republicans and their hypocrisy

“Republicans believe in presidential power only when the president is a Republican. When it’s a Democrat, they suddenly discover the importance of congressional oversight. There is no disinterested principle that could possibly explain or excuse Republican conduct. Their only principle is blind partisanship.”

Jennifer Rubin: ‘The crisis is here’

“Democrats in Congress as well as those on the presidential campaign trail, cannot ignore this issue. They need to speak with one voice, repeatedly, about the threat Trump poses to our constitutional order. Americans need to hear why this is a big deal and why the president cannot be allowed to prevail.”

Schiff subpoenas Barr for full Mueller report

Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a subpoena on behalf of his panel to Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday evening. The committee is demanding Mueller’s full unredacted report, the underlying evidence, and all counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials generated in the course of the investigation.

Jennifer Rubin: ‘Self-impeachable’ is exactly right

“For a report that is supposed to entirely exonerate Trump, he and his minions are going to extreme lengths to conceal its complete contents, to prevent the attorney general from testifying, and even to try to keep Mueller from testifying. If he did not obstruct justice before, he certainly is obstructing Congress now. The House should exercise all of its powers to end Trump’s autocratic spasm. Our democracy is at stake.”

Investigation of Rep Gaetz continues

The Florida Bar has said that an investigation into the conduct of Rep. Matt Gaetz will continue. This move is significant and means that the Florida Bar found sufficient reason to believe that Gaetz violated Florida’s rules for lawyers. Gaetz is at risk of losing his law license in Florida for issuing a threatening tweet against Donald Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen.