THE BIG IDEA: When state legislators in Alabama approved the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, the bill’s sponsor left little question as to the purpose of the legislation: to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Shortly after the bill’s passage last week, Alabama state Rep. Terri Collins (R) said, “This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection.” She added that the bill — which would prohibit nearly all abortions unless the pregnancy presents a serious threat to the woman’s life and threaten doctors who perform the procedure with up to 99 years in prison — represented “the way we get where we want to get eventually.”
But the Alabama bill will almost certainly be blocked before it can go into effect, and legal experts remain skeptical that the Supreme Court would take up the controversial legislation. However, even if the law is never implemented, abortion opponents in Alabama have already achieved significant success in limiting access to the procedure in the state.
Lawyers on both sides of the abortion debate agree on the Alabama bill’s likely path through the legal system. The ACLU of Alabama and Planned Parenthood Southeast have already pledged to take the state to court to block the law. Once it is challenged, lower-court judges will be bound by Supreme Court precedent to strike down the ban, preventing its implementation. (The law is currently set to go into effect in six months.) If it is struck down, the bill’s supporters will continue to appeal the decision all the way to the Supreme Court, with the hope of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe decision.
Abortion opponents are especially hopeful that the historic number of federal appeals court judges appointed by President Trump, as well as his two new justices on the Supreme Court, will allow them the perfect opportunity to finally outlaw a procedure that has riven the cultural landscape since its legalization. Alabama’s Republican Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, specifically citing how Trump has “supercharged the effort to remake the federal court system by appointing conservative jurists,” said the inevitable legal battle over the abortion bill would allow the Supreme Court to correct its “46-year-old mistake.”
Antiabortion groups like the Susan B. Anthony List are also pointing to the recent wave of abortion restrictions passed by statehouses as evidence of a public groundswell of support for overturning Roe, even though polling indicates most Americans don’t want to see the decision reversed. Just before Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed the ban into law, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser issued this optimistic statement: “It is clearer than ever that Roe is far from being settled law in the eyes and hearts of the American people, and this is increasingly reflected in state legislatures. ... The time is coming for the Supreme Court to let that debate go forward.”
But conservatives may be disappointed: The years-long process for the Alabama case to reach the high court could end with the justices simply deciding not to take up the case, as they chose to do with North Dakota’s six-week ban and Arkansas’s 12-week ban in 2016. Those rejections left in place lower-court decisions striking down the bans, an outcome that some legal experts say is the most likely for the Alabama bill.
The court already has multiple abortion cases in front of it, and some have argued that bans like Alabama’s — as well as the slightly less restrictive “heartbeat bills” passed in states like Ohio and Georgia — are the least likely to attract Supreme Court review. “First of all, the justices have given signs that they’re going to go slow on the abortion issue,” Clarke D. Forsythe, senior counsel for the antiabortion group Americans United for Life, wrote in a National Review op-ed last week. “And some legal commentators have suggested that Chief Justice [John] Roberts will ‘manage’ the pace of change. The justices declined to hear two abortion cases in December and have kicked the can down the road for months with others.” The justices also issued a list of orders Monday without mentioning two pending appeals on Indiana abortion restrictions, marking the 14th time the court has deferred action on the matter.
To be sure, abortion rights groups are treating bills like Alabama’s as a fundamental threat to Roe. Rachel Sussman, the national director of state policy and advocacy for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, pointed to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court as a chief concern that abortion rights could be on the chopping block — particularly because Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy, who affirmed Roe in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Now that Kennedy is gone, abortion foes hope the court has five votes to overturn the 1973 precedent. “With Trump in the White House and Kavanaugh now on the Supreme Court, state politicians are emboldened,” Sussman said. “Their efforts to chip away at Roe v. Wade always had one goal, and that was to ban safe, legal abortion. And with Kavanaugh now on the court, they believe now is their time.”
It technically takes only four justices’ votes for the court to consider any of the multiple abortion cases before it. “The U.S. Supreme Court justices have virtually absolute discretion as to what cases they take, what issues they take and on what time frame and if they will ever hear a legal issue,” Forsythe from Americans United for Life said in an interview.
But Forsythe also noted that the justices do not need a blanket abortion ban like Alabama’s to overturn Roe. “There’s this urban legend out there that a prohibition is necessary to create a test case. And that’s simply wrong,” Forsythe said. “The Supreme Court can reexamine a precedent, or Roe v. Wade in particular, in any case that involves an abortion law that arguably conflicts with Roe. Because in any abortion case, the question is: Do they apply Roe, or some other standard?” The late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia touched on that very issue in his concurring opinion for the 1989 Webster v. Reproductive Health Services case, which upheld Missouri’s abortion restrictions without revisiting the core holding in Roe. “The only choice available is whether, in deciding that constitutional question, we should use Roe v. Wade as the benchmark, or something else,” Scalia wrote.
But the Supreme Court doesn’t have to overturn Roe to make abortion inaccessible; for many Alabama women, it already is. The state now has only three abortion clinics, down from more than 20 in the 1990s. At the Alabama’s Women’s Center in Huntsville, the clinic’s two doctors provide about 2,000 abortions every year. For someone who lives in the southern part of Alabama, the closest abortion clinic in the state is more than two hours away. Given the state’s required 48-hour waiting period after a consultation, a woman from Mobile would have to twice drive about five hours round trip to Montgomery to get an abortion in the state.
And other states are even more restrictive. Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia each have only one abortion clinic left because of legislative restrictions. Sussman from Planned Parenthood said that the patchwork of laws enacted by many states have created “almost entire regions where access to abortion is almost impossible.” Sussman argued that the latest bans should be viewed not as an aberration, but as an escalation of state legislators’ long-term strategy to chip away at Roe. “The nature of these laws certainly has sparked awareness among the American public as to the true intentions of these state politicians who want to ban safe and legal abortion,” she said. “But the threat to access to abortion has been real for years.”
“For so many people, this is the reality already,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a senior staff attorney for the ACLUs Reproductive Freedom Project. “States don’t need to pass bans, and the Supreme Court doesn’t need to take up one of these cases for abortion to be pushed out of reach for people.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Voters in Pennsylvania chose Republican state Rep. Fred Keller to fill an open House seat for the state’s 12th Congressional District. He beat Penn State professor Marc Friedenberg (D). Felicia Sonmez reports: “The seat was vacated in January by Rep. Tom Marino (R), who left for a job in the private sector. With 53 percent of precincts reporting, Keller had 70 percent of the vote compared with nearly 30 percent for Friedenberg. Friedenberg was also the Democratic nominee in 2018, when he lost to Marino by 32 percentage points. Pennsylvania redrew its congressional districts in 2018. The current 12th District, which covers a large and deeply conservative swath of the north and central parts of the state, voted 66.1 percent for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.”
-- In Kentucky, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin defeated a strong primary challenger, setting up a showdown with his political arch-nemesis, Democrat Andy Beshear, who’s challenged him over education and pension policies. From the AP’s Bruce Schreiner: “While Bevin claimed the nomination in GOP-leaning Kentucky, an upstart challenger — state Rep. Robert Goforth — attracted nearly 40% of the vote in a sign the combative incumbent has fence mending to do with his political base after his high-profile feuds with public school teachers. … Beshear, the state’s attorney general, defeated two prominent rivals — Rocky Adkins and Adam Edelen — in the four-candidate Democratic primary. He’ll try to restore the governorship for Democrats and carry on a family tradition. His father, Steve, was a popular governor whose two terms preceded Bevin’s tenure.”
GET SMART FAST:
Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada (R) said he would resign after an investigation revealed he exchanged sexually explicit messages with his former chief of staff. Tennessee’s House GOP caucus overwhelming approved a resolution earlier this week stating that it had no confidence in Casada’s continued leadership. (Tennessean)
Wilton Gregory was installed as the new archbishop of Washington. The city’s first black archbishop, Gregory takes the helm of the diocese as it continues to face fallout from the sexual abuse scandals. (Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein)
Trump has a vested personal interest in changing New York’s GOP leader, ultimately helping Nick Langworthy replace Edward F. Cox, Richard Nixon’s son-in-law. Trump soured on Cox in 2014, when Republicans tried to draft Trump into the governor’s race but Cox backed a different candidate. (New York Times)
A State Department policy is blocking an American gay couple’s daughter, who was born abroad, from qualifying for U.S. citizenship. The child, who was born using a donor egg and a sperm from her British-born (but American) father, doesn’t qualify for citizenship at birth because of a policy that requires that a child born abroad have a biological connection to an American parent to receive citizenship at birth. (New York Times)
Subtropical Storm Andrea, the first of the 2019 hurricane season, was downgraded to a subtropical depression. Andrea’s formation marks the fifth consecutive year that a named storm has developed before the official start of Atlantic hurricane season on June 1. (Brian McNoldy)
Low-income farmworkers in California’s Central Valley are careful about the way they use water to raise crops, but at home, their faucets spew water tainted by arsenic and fertilizer chemicals. More than 300 public water systems in California serve unsafe drinking water, according to the state’s Water Resources Control Board. (New York Times)
Police say a Mississippi legislator punched his wife in the face because she didn't undress quickly enough when he wanted to have sex. The state representative, Doug McLeod (R), was arrested Saturday on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. (AP)
A judge ruled that the parents of a U.S. Military Academy cadet who died earlier this year could use his frozen sperm to create a child. Yongmin and Monica Zhu filed a court petition in March to retrieve Peter Zhu’s sperm before he was removed from life support following a ski accident, but the question of whether they could use the sperm for procreation has been fraught with ethical concerns. (Lindsey Bever and Allyson Chiu)
Steve Hydes, who was abandoned at Gatwick Airport in 1986 when he was just days old, discovered the identity of his birth parents. Although his biological mother died before he could meet her, Hydes has connected with his birth father and siblings from both parents. (Kyle Swenson)
Several middle-schoolers are under investigation after authorities say they may have put urine and semen into crepes prepared for their teachers. Eight students are being questioned about a video that the officials say revealed the incident, and some of them could face felony assault charges. (Deanna Paul)
Parents in private Facebook groups are being urged to give their children bleach to “cure” autism, and a group of mothers is going undercover to fight the spread of the disinformation. A few mothers across the nation are secretly joining these groups to identify parents at risk of feeding their children bleach and report them to local Child Protective Services agencies. (NBC News)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- A confidential Internal Revenue Service memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president invokes executive privilege. Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey report: “The memo contradicts the Trump administration’s justification for denying lawmakers’ request for President Trump’s tax returns, exposing fissures in the executive branch. Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns but has not invoked executive privilege. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instead denied the returns by arguing there is no legislative purpose for demanding them. But according to the IRS memo, which has not been previously reported, the disclosure of tax returns to the committee ‘is mandatory, requiring the Secretary to disclose returns, and return information, requested by the tax-writing Chairs.’” But: The legal opinion was written last fall and is a draft memo that wasn't seen by the IRS commissioner or current chief counsel and was never forwarded to Treasury.
-- The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed Hope Hicks, a former Trump staffer, and ex-White House counsel Don McGahn’s chief of staff, Annie Donaldson. Josh Dawsey, Rachael Bade and Carol D. Leonnig report: “The committee, which voted to authorize the subpoenas weeks ago, is particularly interested in Donaldson, who took detailed notes of McGahn’s exchanges with the president. McGahn was a central witness in some of the 10 instances of potential obstruction identified by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his report. The panel also believes Hicks, a longtime close confidant of Trump, probably knows details on several topics they are investigating. It is unclear, however, if the two women will comply with the subpoenas — particularly after the White House earlier this month moved to block similarly subpoenaed document requests to McGahn.”
-- The Republican National Committee paid $2 million to a law firm that employs McGahn, who didn't show up for yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing. (Democrats may now hold him in contempt.) Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report: “The payment to Washington law firm Jones Day was disclosed in new Federal Election Commission records Monday night, as a part of routine political committee filings made public every month. The RNC said in a statement that the payment was a bulk billing for two years’ worth of work. The payments went to Jones Day the same month that the House Judiciary Committee began seeking McGahn’s testimony in connection with its investigation into potential obstruction of justice by Trump. … Jones Day is the main legal firm for the Trump campaign, which has paid the firm $5.6 million between January 2017 and March 2019 for legal consulting.”
-- Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and staffers from the House Foreign Affairs Committee for seven hours. Josh Dawsey reports: “An official familiar with the session said Tillerson met with members and staffers separately, and that the White House knew of the testimony in advance and did not move to block it. The White House had no comment. Among the topics discussed were Tillerson’s relationships with other White House advisers, including President Trump and his family; Trump’s interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin; and how policy is made in the Middle East and North Korea. He expressed some frustrations with the president’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, the official said. Tillerson appeared voluntarily, the representative said.”
-- A federal appeals court refused to block a grand jury subpoena for testimony by Andrew Miller, a Roger Stone associate, in connection with an investigation launched by Bob Mueller. Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow report: “Miller was subpoenaed in June 2018 in Mueller’s probe for information about longtime Trump friend and GOP operative Stone, as well as key figures in the 2016 hacking and public release of Democratic Party emails, including by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks ... Miller was also ordered to answer questions before a grand jury about Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, entities that U.S. prosecutors have alleged were online fronts invented by Russian intelligence operatives to spread the hacked documents before the 2016 presidential election. … The three-judge panel gave Miller seven days to persuade the Supreme Court to take the case.”
-- Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, opposes further release of documents related to his sentencing for lying to the FBI about his relationship with the Russian ambassador. Rosalind S. Helderman reports: “The filing came in response to a request by The Washington Post, which has asked that the documents be fully unsealed, given that special counsel [Mueller] has completed his investigation and published a report about his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors last week released versions of the documents that were less redacted than those originally filed as U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan prepared to sentence Flynn in December.”
-- A judge ordered public release of Michael Cohen’s search warrants. CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Kate Sullivan report: “The five warrants in total encompass the searches the special counsel conducted between July and November 2017 of Cohen's emails and other content related to his email accounts, the order said ... There will be some redactions to these documents when the Justice Department makes them public, similar to the redactions made to Cohen search warrants in New York federal court.”
-- A newly released transcript shows former attorney general Loretta Lynch disputed Jim Comey’s claim that she directed the former FBI director to refer to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server as a “matter.” John Wagner reports: “Lynch said she was ‘quite surprised’ by Comey’s characterization, made during a 2017 appearance before a Senate committee as he sought to explain why he decided to take it upon himself to announce that no charges would be brought against Clinton ... A transcript of Lynch’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee was made public Monday night by ranking Republican Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.). Lynch, who served in the Obama administration, appeared in a closed session of the committee in December, before Democrats took control of the House.”
IMPEACHMENT TALK HEATS UP:
-- Impeachment calls are intensifying in the House, dividing Democrats and applying new pressure to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other party leaders. Mike DeBonis, Rachael Bade and John Wagner report: “The newly vocal Democrats say they are seeking only an impeachment inquiry — a formal investigation that may or may not lead to the actual drafting and passage of articles of impeachment to be tried by the Senate. But for a broader group of lawmakers — some of them moderate freshmen who unseated Republicans last year to deliver the House majority to Democrats — that is a distinction without a difference. They fear that any rush into impeachment proceedings would betray campaign promises to focus on policy issues more directly affecting their constituents, a potentially perilous political move ahead of the 2020 elections.”
-- But Pelosi is expected to stand her ground during a closed-door meeting this morning with House Democrats. Politico's John Bresnahan and Heather Caygle report: "Pelosi will implore Democrats to stick with her plan of continuing to investigate Trump on multiple fronts, with legal action as the backup when necessary. Pelosi will argue, as she has repeatedly in public and private, that Democrats should gather information that could be used for impeaching Trump, if the threshold for Republican support can be reached, according to Democratic aides and lawmakers. ... The senior lawmakers will discuss Monday’s victory for Democrats upholding a subpoena for Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm — which Pelosi will point to as proof that her plan is working — and a court hearing on Wednesday focused on the president’s effort to stop the Democratic investigation into his dealings with Deutsche Bank.”
-- Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) took his allegation that Trump “engaged in impeachable conduct” to a new demographic: American schoolchildren. HuffPost’s David Moye reports: “CBS News reporter Bo Erickson photographed Amash talking up the impeachment process to teenagers on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Erickson said Amash’s main point about the need to hold hearings on whether to impeach Trump is a simple one: It’s ‘really dangerous for our country’ when people don’t tell the truth.”
-- Democratic Rep. Don Beyer became the first member of Virginia’s congressional delegation to call for Trump’s impeachment. Jenna Portnoy reports: “The liberal three-term congressman is one of more than two dozen Democrats who have spoken up to support an impeachment ‘inquiry’ in recent days. After Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), Beyer is the second capital region member to call for impeachment. In a lengthy statement, Beyer cited a list of accusations, from ‘obstruction of justice’ that he said was detailed in [Mueller’s] report to tax fraud, in justifying his call for an impeachment inquiry.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli is expected to be tapped for a senior role in guiding the Trump administration’s immigration policy. Josh Dawsey and Nick Miroff report: “Cuccinelli will work at the Department of Homeland Security in a senior role, a senior White House official said, declining to specify what Cuccinelli’s duties will entail, what his job title will be or if he will report to Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan. The hiring appears to come in response to Trump’s desire for an immigration ‘czar’ to help coordinate border policies across agencies, officials said, although the job will be more limited in nature. … The former Virginia attorney general is deeply disliked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has vowed to block Cuccinelli from any Senate-confirmed post after Cuccinelli helped lead efforts in 2014 backing insurgent candidates that hurt the Senate GOP majority, McConnell advisers said.”
-- Cuccinelli made his name as a right-wing firebrand, an identity that appears to have attracted Trump even though it has distanced him from the same Republican lawmakers he’ll need to work with in his new job. Marc Fisher reports: Cuccinelli has “warned against ‘an invasion’ by illegal immigrants, sponsored a bill seeking to strip those immigrants’ U.S.-born children of their citizenship, and speculated publicly that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. … Between his strong rhetoric as a TV surrogate for Trump and his bedrock support among social conservatives, Cuccinelli presented the president with a combination he relishes: someone who seems loyal, is popular with his base, and is good at the politics of disruption and provocation.”
-- A Texas migrant detention center where a teenage migrant died was quarantined because of a flu outbreak. Meagan Flynn reports: “’To avoid the spread of illness, the Rio Grande Valley Sector has temporarily suspended intake operations at the [Central Processing Center],’ CBP said in a statement. ‘Individuals apprehended in RGV Sector will be held at other locations until this situation is resolved.’ Medical staff at the center identified migrants in custody with high fevers and exhibiting ‘signs of a flu-related illness,’ and they are now receiving medical treatment, CBP said. A spokesman in the Rio Grande Valley Sector did not say how many migrants were affected by the illness.”
-- HUD Secretary Ben Carson clashed with House Democrats over the administration’s proposal to purge undocumented immigrants from government-subsidized housing. Tracy Jan reports: “Democratic lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee expressed concern about the proposed rule. An internal agency analysis found it could put up to 55,000 children who are legal U.S. residents or citizens at risk of eviction and homelessness. Carson urged Congress to come to an agreement to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies rather than thwart HUD’s plan to require every family member living in subsidized housing be of ‘eligible immigration status.’”
-- A DHS backup plan to fund border operations calls for taking $232 million from theTransporation Security Administration in a move that could increase travel times this summer. NBC News’s Julia Ainsley reports: “TSA programs identified as funding sources include $50 million set aside to buy advanced airport screening equipment and $64 million from a worker’s compensation fund set aside for injured TSA employees in 2010. The funding also includes $3 million collected from loose change left in trays at airports. Funding for Transportation Security Officers, who run security screening lines in airports, are also ‘in play,’ the email said. Cutting funding for those officers could have a significant impact on wait times for travelers as the summer season begins.”
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- “A conservative activist’s behind-the-scenes campaign to remake the nation’s courts,” by Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg: Leonard Leo “is widely known as a confidant to Trump and as executive vice president of the Federalist Society, an influential nonprofit organization for conservative and libertarian lawyers that has close ties to Supreme Court justices. But behind the scenes, Leo is the maestro of a network of interlocking nonprofits working on media campaigns and other initiatives to sway lawmakers by generating public support for conservative judges. The story of Leo’s rise offers an inside look into the modern machinery of political persuasion. It shows how undisclosed interests outside of government are harnessing the nation’s nonprofit system to influence judicial appointments that will shape the nation for decades.”
-- Two of Trump’s top advisers — Johnny DeStefano and legislative affairs director Shahira Knight — are leaving the White House. Josh Dawsey and Felicia Sonmez report: “DeStefano, a counselor to the president who served as a bridge between the Republican Party and the administration, is leaving on Friday, while Knight’s last day is June 7, the officials said. … Both officials were said to be leaving on good terms — which is often not the case in Trump’s West Wing — and for disparate reasons. … [DeStefano] is expected to advise a number of companies, including Juul, the e-cigarette company, while helping on the campaign, according to people familiar with his plans. … News of Knight’s departure was first reported Tuesday by CNN, which cited a White House official as saying that Knight would move on to a job in the private sector.”
-- The Trump campaign and the Senate GOP clashed over the president’s pollster. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “A top strategist on [Trump’s] reelection campaign has withdrawn from an effort to unseat North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis in 2020 — an arrangement that sparked tensions at the highest levels of the Republican Party. Pollster John McLaughlin’s work for a Tillis primary challenger had angered leading Senate Republican campaign officials, who said the president’s team should be unified in the effort to reelect both Trump and incumbent Republican senators. … The run-in was the first major rift this year between the Trump campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, threatening to drive a wedge between the two organizations at a time of unease about the party’s prospects.”
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- Top White House and congressional leaders pushed for a sweeping two-year budget deal that would reduce the possibility of another government shutdown later this year. But a day of on-and-off talks ended with no deal. Erica Werner and Damian Paletta report: “The meeting of top administration officials and congressional leaders of both parties served to kick off what could be months of contentious negotiations ahead of a Sept. 30 government shutdown deadline, which will roughly coincide with when Congress needs to raise the nation’s borrowing limit or risk default. In reaching for a two-year budget deal, lawmakers and administration officials sought to ratchet back budget brinkmanship for the remainder of President Trump’s term, offering Congress and the White House a fresh start after Trump pushed the nation into a record-long 35-day government shutdown this past winter.”
-- A group of mainly Democratic states sued the Trump administration over a new federal rule giving those in the health-care industry greater latitude to refuse to provide or pay for medical services that violate their religious or moral beliefs. Amy Goldstein reports: “The suits, plus one brought earlier this month by the city of San Francisco, seek to block the rule, announced by President Trump early this month and published Tuesday in the Federal Register. … The lawsuits are part of a spate of federal litigation challenging various ways the Trump administration has been rewriting health-care policies. So far, courts have issued temporary injunctions to block some of the policies while the disputes play out in court.”
-- Top House Democrats blasted the Trump administration’s plan to close the Office of Personnel Management. Lisa Rein reports: “The hostile reception, alongside tepid support from Republicans, left the plan’s chances in doubt and raised the possibility that the administration would dismantle some of the agency’s functions on its own, even if Congress fails to pass legislation to do it. … Critics say the proposal is a ploy to politicize the civil service by installing political appointees close to the White House.”
-- Trump said there will be no infrastructure proposal without a trade deal. Politico’s Tanya Snyder and Nancy Cook report: “’Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal,’ Trump wrote in a letter to [Pelosi and Schumer]. … He also stipulated that his preference is to meld any infrastructure package with a recurring reauthorization for highway and transit programs, all but assuring a less ambitious package dedicated to traditional transportation uses, instead of a broad-spectrum vision of funding everything from veterans hospitals to broadband.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Senior Trump administration officials presented lawmakers with evidence that Iran may be considering an attack on U.S. forces in the Middle East. Karoun Demirjian, Shane Harris and Karen DeYoung report: “But some Democrats said that none of the information showed Iran was appreciably more of a threat now than in the past, and they accused the administration of being ready to attack at the slightest provocation. … Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., faced skeptical members, some of whom said they heard echoes of a previous administration’s case for war in the Middle East. … But some Republican lawmakers saw the information differently and pointed to ‘new,’ ‘credible,’ and ‘consistent’ threats that Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called ‘a game-changer.’”
-- Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will participate in Trump's peace conference in Bahrain. The two nations are the first Arab countries to join the event, which is meant to draw investment to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (Haaretz)
-- As tensions over a U.S.-China trade war escalate, Trump is considering banning another major Chinese firm: Hikvision, the world’s largest maker of video surveillance technology. David J. Lynch reports: “Though no final decision has yet been reached, the administration is preparing to move against Hikvision … The disclosure comes less than a week after the administration barred U.S. companies from supplying Huawei Technologies … without first obtaining a U.S. government license. … U.S. officials are said to be eyeing the same penalty for Hikvision, using a Commerce Department mechanism known as the ‘entity list.’”
-- “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) blocked a bipartisan attempt to limit Chinese companies from contracting with U.S. transit systems, a move that benefited a Chinese government-backed manufacturer with a plant in his district,” Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report. “His behind-the-scenes intervention came as Congress was trying this year to craft a spending compromise to avert another government shutdown. McCarthy pressed lawmakers to strip out language that could have prevented the company in his district, BYD Motors, from winning federal contracts, and they relented because they feared imperiling the bill. … McCarthy’s move to protect a Chinese company’s interests frustrated even some members of his own party because they have warned repeatedly that allowing Chinese-backed firms access to U.S. infrastructure systems could pose a national security risk.”
-- All of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party ministers resigned amid scandal. From BBC News: “The Freedom Party's leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who was also vice-chancellor, was forced to resign at the weekend after a video sting. Mr. Strache was filmed proposing to offer government contracts to a supposed Russian oligarch's niece. The FPÖ threatened a mass resignation earlier on Monday if Interior Minister Herbert Kickl was also forced out. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had called over the weekend for Mr. Kickl to be sacked, saying that as general secretary of the party he should take responsibility for the scandal.”
-- The U.S. is preparing charges and sanctions against people it believes to be involved with Venezuela’s military-run emergency food program. The Wall Street Journal’s Ian Talley, Aruna Viswanatha and Kejal Vyas report: “The measures are expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks and months as part of a bid to increase pressure on the Caracas regime. … The U.S. government is preparing to allege in criminal charges and sanctions that Venezuelan officials and private contractors, including a Colombian businessman, have laundered billions of dollars in state funds meant for the food program and other state operations, the officials and other people familiar with the matter said.”
-- Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó may now be forced to consider negotiations with President Nicolás Maduro. From the New York Times's Anatoly Kurmanaev: “Both sides have sent representatives to Norway for talks, a concession Mr. Guaidó previously rejected. This change is a turning point for the opposition, which in January had gathered momentum, attracting broad international backing and huge crowds of supporters. Now, that momentum has nearly dissipated — a testament to Mr. Maduro’s firm hold on power even as the country crumbles around him.”
-- A U.S.-funded broadcaster meant to air objective Spanish-language news programs in Cuba failed to meet these basic standards, a review found. Aaron C. Davis reports: The broadcaster “let an anchor describe Trump administration officials as the 'dream team' for Cuba policy, according to an independent review. The analysis of content aired and published by Radio and Television Martí, a sister agency to the better-known Voice of America, was launched by the broadcasters’ parent organization after reports that Martí had aired anti-Semitic segments disparaging philanthropist and prominent Democratic donor George Soros. The review of Martí content, conducted by Spanish-speaking academics and former journalists and released Tuesday, found the news organization routinely allows ‘almost any criticism of the Cuban government and its leaders’ on the air.”
-- Demonstrators in Indonesia clashed with police over President Joko Widodo’s reelection. Stanley Widianto and Shibani Mahtani report: “Thousands of protesters started gathering overnight in central Jakarta, after an official vote count showed Widodo had won over 55 percent of 154 million votes cast in the April election. This was his second win over his opponent, Prabowo Subianto, a former general who lost to Widodo in the last presidential election five years ago.”
-- Anita Hill says it would be a 'tragedy' if Democratic women aren’t taken seriously as 2020 presidential candidates. The New York Times’s Katie Glueck reports: “’And I think if we don’t take them seriously as presidential candidates, we are not going to hear those voices,’ she said Tuesday night in an interview. ‘And that would be a tragedy.’ … Ms. Hill said she finds it ‘really, deeply troubling’ that several of the female 2020 candidates have been discussed as vice presidential material. Both Senator Kamala Harris of California and Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the race for Georgia governor last year, have been mentioned as possible running mates for [Joe] Biden over the past few months. … Asked whether she was directing her comments at Mr. Biden, Ms. Hill replied: ‘I don’t know that it’s just him. I think that that presumption about women as vice-presidential choices is not just about Joe Biden specifically, it’s about Joe Biden as the front-runner.’”
-- North Korean media lashed out against Biden, calling him a “snob bereft of elementary quality as human being.” From Bloomberg News's Rita Devlin: "'He is self-praising himself as being the most popular presidential candidate. This is enough to make a cat laugh,' the agency writes in a commentary piece that also denigrates Biden for his university grades and for falling asleep at a speech by President Barack Obama in 2011. KCNA also called the former vice president a 'fool of low IQ; and said he 'had the temerity to insult the supreme leadership' of North Korea at a recent campaign event.”
-- “‘How are you going to pay for it?’ — 2020 candidates wrestle with their costly plans,” by the Los Angeles Times’s Evan Halper: “The economic argument against big government deficits is that the need to borrow money to pay the bills will crowd out private investment, driving up interest rates and, ultimately, [slow] economic growth. The fact that interest rates have remained persistently low despite rising deficits shows that’s not happening.”
-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) ambitious agenda depends on a wealth tax that the rich might evade. Toluse Olorunnipa reports: “Taken as a whole, the Massachusetts senator’s transformative slate of social programs and tax increases could amount to the largest transfer of wealth from the richest Americans to the middle class in U.S. history. But Warren’s ambitious agenda relies on two assumptions that defy a long history of U.S. policymaking: First, that the country’s wealthiest taxpayers won’t find ways to evade the targeted tax hike she proposes, and second, that new entitlement programs won’t result in ballooning costs that plunge the federal government deeper into debt. ‘She’s gone big. There’s nothing small about these proposals,’ said Mark Zandi, who, as chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, has analyzed policies for Warren and other presidential candidates. ‘Will the wealthy do things that wealthy people can do to avoid paying the tax? That’s the real concern that I have.”
-- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s net approval is worse than Trump’s. Philip Bump reports: A Quinnipiac Poll asked Democrats “if there were any candidates that they hoped wouldn’t win. About 10 percent of those surveyed identified both Biden and Sanders, the two front-runners. The next most commonly cited candidate? [de Blasio.] It’s a pretty impressive feat that de Blasio’s pulled off here. No one picked him as their preferred nominee, but one out of every 12 respondents said affirmatively that they didn’t want him to win. Why? Well, de Blasio is really unpopular among the Democratic candidates. Fourteen percent of Democrats view him favorably, and 35 percent view him unfavorably, a net favorability of minus-21. That’s substantially worse than any other Democratic candidate. … de Blasio is less popular on net than President Trump. De Blasio’s net favorability, in fact, is about twice as bad as the president’s.”
-- Beto O’Rourke, who is lagging in the polls, delivered a strong performance during a CNN town hall. Politico’s David Siders reports: O'Rourke's “performance served as a reminder of why O’Rourke was able to galvanize Democrats in his near-upset of Sen. Ted Cruz last year. He has an uncommon command of a stage — and an increasingly precise policy platform. … He called, as he has before, for legalizing marijuana and expunging the records of people arrested for possessing it. He said he would impose an abortion litmus test on judicial nominees to ensure that ‘every nominee to every federal bench, including the Supreme Court, understands and believes the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land.’ He called for universal background checks for people who buy guns and a ban on the sale of ‘weapons of war.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A Bloomberg News reporter highlighted the next judge who will consider Trump's request to block a subpoena for his financial records:
President Trump will be appealing the ruling to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, headed by ... Merrick Garland.— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) May 21, 2019
From a former speechwriter for Kamala Harris:
I wish I could say revenge is a dish best served cold, but Merrick Garland is a consummate legal professional who I'm sure will do everything possible to avoid the appearance of any bias.— Zev Karlin-Neumann (@zkarlinn) May 21, 2019
Which, you know, would have been a great reason to have him on the Supreme Court. https://t.co/o9M0mLkh0K
One of the president's lawyers met with a top Jewish leader from Ukraine:
Having a great conversation with the Chief Rabbi of Kiev, Moshe Azman. A truly wise man. pic.twitter.com/JeST2J39fd— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) May 21, 2019
The president said goodbye to Johnny DeStefano, one of his top aides, who's expected to leave the White House on Friday:
Johnny, we will miss you – you did a great job! https://t.co/eXaASLgeSh— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2019
A White House reporter noted this about the president's availability to the press:
Not only is there no briefing today but @realDonaldTrump closed an event to press that was supposed to be open to the media. It was our only chance to see him today. There is a lot going on and the White House does not want to talk.— AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) May 21, 2019
Nancy Pelosi mourned the death of another child migrant at the border:
Condolences to the family of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, the fifth child to die in CBP custody since December and a grim reminder of the human cost of the Administration’s extreme, failed policies on our southern border.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) May 21, 2019
Joe Biden responded to Trump's claims that he "abandoned" his home state:
Yesterday, Trump tried to attack me at his campaign rally by saying I abandoned Pennsylvania.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 21, 2019
I’ve never forgotten where I came from. My family did have to leave Pennsylvania when I was 10 — we moved to Delaware where my Dad found a job that could provide for our family.
A House Democrat and the HUD secretary shared this confusing exchange:
Rep. Katie Porter: "Do you know what an REO is?"— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 21, 2019
Secretary Ben Carson: "An Oreo?"
Porter: "No, not an OREO. An REO. R-E-O."
Carson: "Real estate?"
Porter: "What's the 'O' stand for?"pic.twitter.com/9dTw0xtNRm
Carson later tweeted about the misunderstanding:
A Post reporter commented on Beto O'Rourke's storytelling:
A political talent of Beto O’Rourke’s is that he remembers the young girl who asked him a question, and the town where she asked it. He collects these stories wherever he goes, and they stay with him.— Matt Viser (@mviser) May 22, 2019
-- New York Times Magazine, “The New German Anti-Semitism,” by James Angelos: “Jewish life in Germany was never fully extinguished. After the Nazi genocide of six million Jews, some 20,000 Jewish displaced persons from Eastern Europe ended up settling permanently in West Germany, joining an unknown number of the roughly 15,000 surviving German Jews who still remained in the country after the war. … This change, however, did not necessarily reflect an immediate conversion in longstanding anti-Semitic attitudes on the ground. In the decades that followed, a desire among many Germans to deflect or repress guilt for the Holocaust led to a new form of antipathy toward Jews — a phenomenon that came to be known as ‘secondary anti-Semitism,’ in which Germans resent Jews for reminding them of their guilt, reversing the victim and perpetrator roles.”
-- “How San Francisco broke America’s heart,” by Karen Heller: “For decades, this coruscating city of hills, bordered by water on three sides, was a beloved haven for reinvention, a refuge for immigrants, bohemians, artists and outcasts. It was the great American romantic city, the Paris of the West. No longer. In a time of scarce consensus, everyone agrees that something has rotted in San Francisco.”
-- The New York Times, "Neus Català, Dogged Anti-Fascist and Camp Survivor, Dies at 103," by Katharine Q. Seelye: "She and her husband helped captured Resistance fighters escape and gave them refuge. She would hide messages, falsified documents and even weapons under her head scarf or in baskets of vegetables and carry them by bicycle or bus through Nazi checkpoints. And she was armed. 'We women were not assistants,' she wrote in her memoir, 'Testimony of a Survivor,' published in 2012, when she was 97. 'We were fighters.'"
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“California bill would give tax incentives to film, TV productions that leave states banning abortion,” from CNBC: “A California Democratic lawmaker on Monday formally introduced a bill to offer tax breaks to film and television productions that relocate from states with ‘strict abortion bans.’ … ‘There are actors and actresses that are refusing to be part of a production in one of those states,’ said Democratic Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, who is sponsoring the proposed legislation. ‘I think it really puts pressure on the industry to reconsider whether they want to do business in those states.’ According to Rivas, the current film and television tax credits offered in California are ‘fully subscribed.’ She said the proposed expansion of film incentives is an opportunity to keep more jobs in California’s signature film industry."
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Ocasio-Cortez says growing cauliflower in community gardens is 'colonial,’” from Fox News: “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday that growing cauliflower in community gardens is part of the ‘colonial’ attitudes that her Green New Deal will stamp out. The New York Democrat, who introduced the proposal to tackle climate change by radically transforming the economy, posted a series of Instagram videos filmed in her home state talking about community gardens as a ‘core component’ of her proposal. … She went on to add that growing cauliflower in such gardens is a ‘colonial approach’ and the reason communities of color oppose environmentalist movements. ‘But when you really think about it -- when someone says that it’s ‘too hard’ to do a green space that grows Yucca instead of, I don’t know, cauliflower or something -- what you’re doing is you’re taking a colonial approach to environmentalism,’ Ocasio-Cortez said.”
Trump will have an infrastructure meeting with congressional Democrats and later participate in the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor presentation ceremony. He will then go to Trump International Hotel for a roundtable discussion with supporters and a fundraising reception.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"We've asked since April about Mr. Mueller coming. But every time we seem to get close to Mueller, Mueller just gets pushed on a little bit. Haven't seen a subpoena here, and this is what's really amazing -- we'll get back to subpoenas in a moment -- but just think about that. You wanted the work of the author, but you don't want to talk to the author," Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) on the Democrats' apparent lack of urgency in scheduling Mueller's testimony. (CNN)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Good news: You can expect sunshine and warmth all day. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: "Make sure you get outside and enjoy the weather today because this is as good as its going to get for at least a few days. After today’s pristine conditions, heat and humidity are continuously pumped into the area through the holiday weekend."
-- The Nationals lost to the Mets 6-5. (Jesse Dougherty)
-- Eastern Virginia Medical School will today release the findings of the three-month investigation into the origins of a racist photo that appeared on the personal page of Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in the school’s 1984 yearbook. The school launched the investigation after the photo became public on February. (Laura Vozzella)
-- A Senate employee died after an altercation outside a Navy Yard restaurant. Peter Hermann reports: “Berner Richard Johnson III, 48, known as ‘Bud,’ was pronounced dead Sunday at MedStar Washington Hospital Center following four days in intensive care. His family said they believe he was involved in a verbal argument inside the restaurant that turned physical outdoors. They said he suffered severe head trauma. Authorities said they are investigating the circumstances. Police said Tuesday that they had not been provided a ruling from the medical examiner on the cause and manner of death. No arrests have been made. The altercation occurred about 11:30 p.m. May 15 in the 100 block of K Street SE, around the corner from the Scarlet Oak restaurant and bar on New Jersey Avenue SE.”
-- D.C. has the nation’s best park system, a new study found. Justin Wm. Moyer reports: “The survey, released Wednesday by the San Francisco-based nonprofit the Trust for Public Land, ranked the nation’s 100 largest cities on park access, acreage, investment and amenities. The District came in at No. 1, with a ‘ParkScore’ of 83.8 out of 100. The report noted that 98 percent of D.C. residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park and 21 percent of the city is park land. … Arlington, meanwhile, scored an 81.3, earning top marks for its large number of basketball hoops — 7.8 per 10,000 residents — and dog parks, 3.5 per 100,000 residents. (Arlington is a county but is treated as a city for the purposes of the report).”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert celebrated the fact that Trump's records are headed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which is headed by Judge Merrick Garland:
His show also offered help to any Pennsylvanians who might feel abandoned by Joe Biden:
Seth Meyers shared the kind of story we need right now:
And two Democratic lawmakers discussed the "Game of Thrones" finale: