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🚨: China is backtracking on nearly all U.S. demands made in the 150-page draft trade agreement between the two countries, according to Reuters's David Lawder, Jeff Mason and Michael Martina. The "systematic edits" that landed in Washington from Beijing on Friday night via diplomatic cable "would blow up months of negotiations between the world’s two largest economies, according to three U.S. government sources and three private sector sources briefed on the talks." 

The People

A FORMER PROSECUTOR HAS A BILL FOR PUBLIC DEFENDERS: Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) will today roll out the EQUAL Defense Act, a bill aimed at boosting resources for public defenders to provide more effective counsel to their clients. The 2020 presidential candidate, who has been sharply criticized for her record as California's top prosecutor, wants increased federal funding for public defenders, limits on their work loads and equal pay for prosecutors and public defenders. 

  • “After spending my career around the criminal justice system, I've seen up close how it can fail to ensure that poor defendants receive a fair trial and due process, as guaranteed to all of us in our Constitution,” Harris told Power Up in a statement. “And the person who suffers is the defendant, whose liberty is on the line. It's wrong, and it's the opposite of justice.”
  • “I have introduced the EQUAL Defense Act to give public defenders the tools they need to ensure a more effective criminal justice system and to deliver on Gideon’s promise,” Harris added, referring to Gideon v. Wainwright, a 1963 Supreme Court case finding every individual charged with a crime but unable to afford a lawyer has a right to counsel provided by the state. 

The proposal, praised by public defenders and legal groups with whom Power Up spoke, calls for a $250 million grant program to fund state and local public defender offices, along with limits on work loads for full-time public defenders. It's unclear whether it has any chance of being taken up in the Senate.

  • The bill would authorize $5 million for nonprofit and government organizations to train public defenders.
  • It would reauthorize a student loan repayment program, increasing funding for it from $25 million to $75 million. 
  • Progressive legal organizations like Gideon's Promise, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the National Association for Public Defense, among others, endorsed the bill. 

Derwyn Bunton, New Orleans's chief public defender and the vice chair of the National Association for Public Defense, called the bill a “game-changer” that would immediately help his own office, which announced a hiring freeze this week in the face of a budgetary shortfall and cuts from the state public defender board. Bunton appeared on "60 Minutes” in 2017 after announcing his office would be refusing felony cases: “A lawyer poorly resourced can cause irreparable harm to a client,” Bunton told Anderson Cooper at the time. 

  • “It's a game changer for public defense offices like ours and smaller offices around the country — especially [in] the Deep South where public defense is overlooked, underfunded and over taxed. So in that regard it can go a long way to really balance the scales,” Bunton told Power Up. “I think there needs to be something like this, at least as a first effort to get at the problems that we have with equity and real problems we have structurally in how criminal defense is conducted in our system.”

Dual Purpose: But the bill also serves a political purpose for Harris, a former district attorney in San Francisco and California attorney general who is seeking to win the Democratic nomination to challenge President Trump. The California senator has been criticized for failing to support criminal justice reform efforts in those roles — and for upholding convictions that detractors see as tainted.

  • “I think she knows she needs to make it right with the defense community,” Lara Bazelon, an associate professor of law and the director of the Criminal Juvenile Justice and Racial Justice Clinical Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law, told Power Up. “This isn’t brave. This is smart politics.”
  • “Could she have been more progressive given that she was a prosecutor of color? Yeah,” Jeff Adachi, Harris's former tutor at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law and San Franciso's public defender while Harris was serving as the D.A., told my colleague Michael Kranish before Adachi suddenly passed away. “Did I hope that? Yeah, at times. Was I disappointed? Yeah, but at the same time, you know, I saw her as somebody who was in a position to make a difference.” 

But Inimai Chettiar, the director of the Brennan Center's Justice Program, told us that Harris has been singled out on this issue, arguing the whole field of 2020 Democrats supported tough-on-crime policies “that were not great and now all [of those Democrats] have shifted to try to reduce the prison population.”

And Harris's proposal is the first of its kind among the myriad 2020 Democratic candidates.

  • “To me, almost all of them have the same track record — they weren’t good on the issue and then they became good on the issue. What is going to be important is what these candidates bring forward and who takes mass incarceration seriously,” Chettiar told us.
  • “Whether this is born out of sort of strategy on the campaign or her really acting on her conscience — either way, this is a good idea that goes a long way and lets our communities re-learn that our system is here to make communities better not worse,” Bunton added. 

Observers think the proposal will help Harris stand out from 20-something pack of presidential candidates and that it will highlight more progressive parts of her record, which includes enacting the first statewide implicit bias and procedural justice training program in the country.

  • “What I think she is really doing — and this is the pattern she played in California — get out early and run hard,” said Marcia Godwin, a professor of public administration at the University of La Verne who wrote about Harris in “The Roads to Congress 2016.” 

  • “She is very deliberately rolling out policy proposals that appear to be new initiatives — but really are not that risky,” Godwin added. 

 

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The Investigations

ARE YOU TIRED OF . . . LOSING? President Trump reported $1.17 billion in financial losses to the IRS between 1985 and 1994 — massive losses that came at the same time he was promoting himself as a business savant, the New York Times' Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig report.

The dramatic losses offer at least one potential explanation for why Trump, who campaigned as a successful businessman, has refused to release his tax returns. The Times's report was based on figures from Trump's federal tax returns, but the Times did not obtain Trump's actual returns. Still, this is the most information on Trump's balance sheet that we've seen thus far:

  • The data — printouts from Mr. Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes, information he has kept from public view,” Buettner and Craig report. 
  • It was really bad: “In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners,” Buettner and Craig write.
  • And as a result, Trump had a massive write off: “Over all, Mr. Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years. It is not known whether the I.R.S. later required changes after audits,” Buettner and Craig write.

Just a day before the Times scoop, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a top House Democrat the IRS would not turn over six years worth of Trump's returns to Congress. (Mnuchin also addressed a campaign event for Trump's top donors last night, per my colleagues Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta). 

  • Remember: The Times published an exhaustive exposé last October on the at least $413 million Trump received from his father, Fred Trump. But that 18-month investigation was viewed by some as a flop. The difference? Democrats now have a House majority. 

A note: Trump has previously argued the American public would not understand his tax returns, which he claims are under a continuous audit, because they are "extremely complex” and “people would not understand them.” 

Meanwhile, New York lawmakers in Albany intend to advance a bill today allowing "the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance to release any state tax return requested by a leader of one of three congressional committees for any "specified and legitimate legislative purpose," according to the Times's Jesse McKinley.

  • “A tax return from New York — the headquarters of the president’s business empire and his home state — could contain much of the same financial information as a federal return, which Mr. Trump has steadfastly refused to release. 
  • “The news of yesterday makes New York’s role even more crucial,” State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, told the Times, describing his bill as “assisting Congress in its oversight role.”

BREAKING LATE LAST NIGHT: In a late-night letter issued by the Justice Department, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd notified House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) that it would ask Trump to assert executive privilege over underlying evidence covered by special counsel Bob Mueller's report, which the Judiciary committee has issued a subpoena for, according to my colleagues Rachael Bade and Matt Zapotosky. 

  • " . . . Boyd said that Democrats — who made a counteroffer to the Justice Department in a last-ditch negotiation session to stave off a scheduled contempt vote for [Attorney General Bill] Barr Wednesday morning — 'has responded to our accommodation efforts by escalating its unreasonable demands.'”
  • “In the face of the Committee’s threatened contempt vote, the Attorney General will be compelled to request that the President invoke executive privilege with respect to the materials subject to the subpoena,” Boyd added. 

The move all but assures that Barr will be held in contempt of Congress for failing to heed Democratic demands to turn over the unredacted Mueller report: 

  • “A Judiciary Committee source said the panel’s vote to hold Barr in contempt is still on track for Wednesday morning. House Democrats are then expected to take the matter to court to let a judge decide on the merits,” per Rachael and Matt. 

Outside the Beltway

UBER & LYFT DRIVERS PROTEST: In the some of the biggest cities across the country, including Washington D.C., Uber and Lyft drivers are protesting the ride-hailing apps today for what they say are unfair wages and poor working conditions.

The move comes just weeks after Lyft had its initial public offering and just days before Uber is set to do the same, which is expected to net $90 billion

  • “The work stoppage is part of a growing national campaign for better wages for the independent contractors who support millions of trips daily in the United States and abroad . . . As the ride-hailing services have expanded, they also have become critical for public transit agencies in filling service gaps or providing paratransit services,” our colleague Luz Lazo reports.
  • The push for a strike began in Los Angeles, where drivers have “held protests in recent weeks over a wage restructuring there for Uber drivers, who had their per-mile rates cut by 25 percent.”

What you need to know: “It is unclear how the labor action might affect travel, but experts say disruptions are likely in cities where the app-based rides have become a critical mode of transportation. Riders should anticipate surge pricing and longer wait times due to a possible shortage of drivers, they say. In some markets, drivers are asking passengers to support their cause by boycotting the services in cases where drivers are working,” Lazo reports

  • For our Beltway readers: “In the Washington area, officials said they were working with taxi dispatch teams at Reagan National and Dulles International airports to ensure that extra taxis were available in the event of increased demand Wednesday,” she adds.

QUOTABLE: “They were an influence that has to be dealt with,” Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly said Tuesday during an interview on Bloomberg Television when asked whether it was complicated to have the president’s family working at the White House. “By no means do I mean Mrs. Trump — the first lady’s a wonderful person.”

  • In the interview with David Rubenstein, Kelly did not mention Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner by name but The Post reported at the time of Kelly's departure that he "clashed so often with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s family members and senior advisers, that the relationship became uncomfortable."

The interview took placee at the SALT Conference in Las Vegas, an annual meeting organized by the short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Addressing the president's reaction to the violence that occured during a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Kelly said that Trump was trying to say “that there were good people in the crowd . . . Whether that was articulated properly, I don’t know,” Kelly said.

In the Media

IN OTHER NEWS: 

“I heard a gunshot,” said Makai Dixon, 8, a second grader who had been training for this moment, with active shooter drills and lockdowns, since he was in kindergarten. “I’d never heard it before.”