👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ House Democrats formally requested six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns from the IRS. In a letter to the IRS, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee cited a little known provision in the IRS tax code that grants tax-writing committees in Congress the power to request tax information on any individual. Chairman Richard Neal requested Trump’s personal tax returns from 2013 to 2018, giving the agency until April 10 to comply. Trump claimed his returns are being audited by the IRS and that he would “not be inclined to” turn anything over to Congress. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin previously told the Ways and Means committee that he would protect Trump’s privacy if members of Congress requested his tax returns. (CNN / New York Times / NBC News / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
- 📌 Day 784: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested that he would protect Trump’s privacy if House Democrats request Trump’s tax returns, saying: “We will examine the request and we will follow the law … and we will protect the president as we would protect any taxpayer” regarding their right to privacy. Mnuchin said he “can’t speculate” on how the administration will respond to demands for Trump’s tax returns until it sees the request. House Democrats are preparing to ask the IRS for 10 years of Trump’s personal tax returns under under a 1924 provision that requires the Treasury secretary to “furnish” any individual’s tax return information to the House and Senate tax-writing committees. (Associated Press / ABC News / Politico / CNN)
2/ Trump’s accounting firm wants to be subpoenaed before it will comply with a request for 10 years of Trump’s financial records by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Elijah Cummings said Mazars USA “told us that they will provide the information pretty much when they have a subpoena. And we’ll get them a subpoena.” (Politico)
3/ The House Judiciary Committee authorized the use of subpoenas to force the Justice Department to give Congress a full copy of Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as all of the underlying evidence. Chairman Jerry Nadler said he would not immediately issue the subpoena, but will first negotiate with Attorney General William Barr for the full report and documents. Barr promised to give Congress a redacted version of Mueller’s findings by mid-April. Democrats, however, have said that redactions are unacceptable, “because it is our job, not the Attorney General’s, to determine whether or not President Trump has abused his office.” The committee also voted to subpoena five former White House officials it believes may have documents relevant to Mueller’s probe. (New York Times / Washington Post / NPR / Axios / NBC News / The Guardian)
Adam Schiff suggested that it is “inevitable” that Mueller will testify before Congress. The House Intelligence chairman added that his committee has “a statutory requirement that the Intelligence Community, FBI, brief us on any significant counterintelligence or intelligence activity. And it’s hard to imagine something that rises more to that level than this investigation.” (Bloomberg)
More than half of the House Judiciary Committee’s 81 targets in its obstruction of justice and corruption investigation have declined to produce documents. The deadline to produce documents was March 18th. (Politico)
4/ Trump backed-off his enthusiasm for releasing Mueller’s report publicly after initially claiming that it “wouldn’t bother me at all” if the report was made public. Trump went on to single out congressional Democrats who are trying to obtain Mueller’s report, tweeting that “There is no amount of testimony or document production that can satisfy Jerry Nadler or Shifty Adam Schiff. It is now time to focus exclusively on properly running our great Country!” Sarah Sanders echoed Trump, calling Democrats “sore losers” who “will never be satisfied.” (Politico / CNN)
5/ The House Intelligence Committee asked an organizer of Trump’s inaugural committee to provide documents about how the fund raised and spent $107 million. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, served as a producer and a vendor for the inauguration. In February, federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to the inaugural committee for documents about donors, finances and activities. Prosecutors have been investigating whether foreigners illegally funneled donations through Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Talking Points Memo)
📌 Day 750: Trump’s inauguration committee overpaid to use event spaces at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., despite internal objections at the Trump Organization that the rates were too high. The committee was charged a rate of $175,000 per day. An event planner, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, suggested that an appropriate rate would be closer to $85,000 per day. Tax law prohibits nonprofits from paying inflated prices to entities that are owned by people who also control the nonprofit. (ProPublica)
📌 Day 392: Trump’s inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by Melania’s adviser and longtime friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. The firm was created in December 2016 – 45 days before the inauguration. Trump’s inauguration committee raised $107 million and paid to WIS Media Partners $25.8 million. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
At least 14 major contributors to Trump’s inaugural committee were later nominated to become ambassadors despite not having diplomatic experience. They donated an average slightly over $350,000 apiece. (NBC News)
6/ The House condemned Trump’s support for a lawsuit seeking to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. In a non-binding resolution that passed 240 to 186, the House called the Justice Department’s advocacy for abolishing the ACA “an unacceptable assault” on Americans’ health care. (Washington Post / CNBC / Politico)
- Trump claimed that he was “never planning a vote prior to the 2020 Election” on a replacement to the Affordable Care Act, despite last week saying that the effort was already “moving forward.” Mitch McConnell told Trump this week he would not bring up a vote on the ACA in the Senate. (Politico)
poll/ 59% of voters have little or no trust in Trump to protect or improve the health care system. 58% of voters also have little or no trust in Republicans to improve health care. 53% of voters, however, have “a lot” or “some” trust in Democrats improve the health care system. (Morning Consult)
Mitch McConnell triggered the “nuclear option” to unilaterally reduce debate time on most of Trump’s nominees. Under the new rule, debate time on the Senate floor for lower-level administration nominees will be cut to two hours from 30 hours. Democrats charged McConnell with hypocrisy, citing his refusal to hold a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and the numerous other lower court nominees he blocked in the final two years of Obama’s presidency. (Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)
Wilbur Ross declined a second invitation to testify about Trump’s budget request, claiming his scheduled appearance before a House Appropriations subcommittee would be a distraction from the budget discussion. Separately, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee voted to subpoena documents related to Ross’ decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. (Politico / Reuters)
A group of states are suing the Trump administration over changes it made to school lunch nutrition standards, arguing that the changes go against nutrition requirements put in place by Congress. (ABC News)
⚠️ Editor’s note: Some might be wondering why I’m not covering Joe Biden’s attempt at addressing allegations by four women that he touched them in inappropriate ways, and his claim that he will be “more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.” This is a serious topic and Biden’s non-apology and pinky-promise is predictably weak. However, this story falls outside the scope and mandate of this publication, which is to log the daily shock and awe of the current administration. I generally only cover the people and events outside of that charge when they intersect with the administration in some substantial way (Trump, for example, making fun of Biden for the allegations does not meet the definition of “substantial,” FYI). -MATT
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