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An empowered Trump AG gives ground on sensitive probe materials

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler at a committee

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler at a committee hearing Monday. Photo Credit: EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Jim Lo Scalzo

Striking a Barr-gain

A small truce has been reached in Washington's oversight war.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) announced an agreement on Monday with Attorney General William Barr to obtain some of the documents special counsel Robert Mueller gathered that bear on President Donald Trump's conduct in office.

In exchange, Nadler put off his threat of trying to hold Barr in contempt of Congress, which is still expected to reserve the option to do so later in a vote Tuesday. Among issues unresolved is the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn, who balked at Trump's orders to get Mueller removed from the post.

The Justice Department is “providing us with key evidence that the Special Counsel used to assess whether the President and others obstructed justice or were engaged in other misconduct,” Nadler said in a statement.

That is expected to advance the committee's review of the Mueller report.

The agreement follows weeks of tense talks between the lawmakers and the White House.

This comes as Barr is perceived as acquiring increased power and dominance in the Trump administration. “He is the closest thing we have to [ex-Vice President] Dick Cheney,” Charles Cooper, a former senior Justice Department official, told The New York Times. “He is a strong-willed man with a forceful personality” and “well-formed, deeply studied views.”

Dean of witnesses

The symbolic effort of House Democrats to feature Russiagate as the new Watergate has become as subtle as a blow to the head.

John W. Dean III, who testified to Congress 46 years ago as President Richard Nixon's former White House counsel, sat Monday before the first hearing of the Judiciary panel focused on Mueller's findings.

Of course Dean traced parallels between the famous controversies. “Special counsel Mueller has provided this committee with a road map," Dean said. His leadoff role seemed to be for flavor and warmup.

On Twitter, Trump has called Dean a "sleazebag attorney." Dean replied: "Would someone get Trump a dog. He needs a friend so he won’t endlessly vent on Twitter."

Golden State of rebellion

Blue-state pushback to White House policies gained momentum on Monday. California moved toward becoming the first state to provide health care coverage to low-income adults between 19 and 25 who are living in the U.S. illegally. 

Legislative leaders gave their blessing to Gov. Gavin Newsom's $98 million plan due to affect nearly 100,000 low-income adults, seen as a swipe at Trump.

Those in the state without health insurance would be taxed to help pay for the program, reviving a type of mandate that had been imposed under Obamacare and beaten back by the GOP.

The winds of trade war

Faced with criticism, Trump considered it a good day to brandish his tariff authority some more. Late Monday, The Washington Post reported that Mexico promised him to deploy national guard personnel at the border of Guatemala, to make thousands more migrant arrests and to keep asylum-seekers turned away from the U.S. border.

Just what was new or conditional in this remained hazy, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported. 

Myron Brilliant, a top official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had already said Trump's "weaponizing" of tariffs "created uncertainty with our trading partners." Trump called in to CNBC to contest the criticism and blasted the group. 

"China is going to make a deal because they are going to have to make a deal," Trump said Monday, threatening another round of tariffs. "Tariffs are a beautiful thing when you are the piggy bank."

“We do not want a trade war, but we are not afraid of fighting one,” said Geng Shuang, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

What else is happening:

  • The Supreme Court refused to review a case by which it could have expanded legal protections for gun silencers. Two Kansas men will thus remain convicted of failing to register silencers as required.
  • Trump renewed his complaints about the Federal Reserve Bank over interest rates, raising questions as before about the impact of the U.S. trade war with China.
  • Rogue Republican Ken Cuccinelli, picked Monday to become acting head of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, will not be confirmed by the Senate, GOP insiders warned.
  • The acting inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security announced his retirement Monday amid controversy over the whitewashing of audits of agency performance after disasters.
  • Tens of thousands of photos of people and license plates stored by Customs and Border Protection were stolen by hackers.

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