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A muzzle on Don McGahn? Trump's stonewall keeps getting higher

Then-White House counsel Don McGahn listens as President

Then-White House counsel Don McGahn listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in October 2018. Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Jabin Botsford

Stuck on the mute button

As Robert Mueller laid it out in his Russia investigation report, Donald Trump tried to run many of his suspected efforts at obstruction through the White House counsel, Don McGahn, who wouldn't let them pass. Naturally, the House Democrats who are picking up Mueller's baton want to hear more from McGahn, who moved on from the administration last fall. They sent him a subpoena.

McGahn's successors on the White House legal team are working on plans to prevent testimony by him and other current and former aides, The Washington Post reports. But claims of executive privilege may be harder to assert now because they didn't use it to stop White House officials such as McGahn from talking to Mueller's team. "The moment for the White House to assert some privilege to prevent this testimony … has long since passed," said Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan).

The maneuvers likely will open more fronts in Trump's battle to keep House Democrats from getting information they are demanding, setting up court battles over Congress' power to compel executive-branch cooperation for carrying out its oversight responsibilities.

The IRS and the Treasury Department blew past a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline set by the House Ways and Means Committee to let it see Trump's tax returns. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his department will "take final action on the Committee's request by May 6" after getting legal advice from the Justice Department.

Trump's personal lawyers argue the committee's request is an overreach. Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) says a 1924 law establishes his panel's right to the returns. Tax law experts told Roll Call the panel could move to have Mnuchin and IRS chief Charles Rettig held in contempt, raising the threat of fines or even jail.

Meanwhile, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) warned his panel could vote to hold former White House personnel security director Carl Kline in contempt after he refused to comply with a subpoena to appear on Tuesday. Cummings' panel wants to hear from Kline for its investigation into the White House security clearance process. The president sued Monday to keep Cummings from getting his financial records.

“It … appears that the White House believes that it may dictate to Congress — an independent and coequal branch of government — the scope of its investigations and even the rules by which it conducts them,” Cummings said.

Trump: Enough said

Trump told The Washington Post in an interview that he opposes having current and former White House aides testify on Capitol Hill because Democrats should be satisfied that he allowed them to talk to the special counsel.

“I allowed my lawyers and all the people to go and testify to Mueller — and you know how I feel about that whole group of people that did the Mueller report,” Trump said. "There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it’s very partisan — obviously very partisan.”

Guy on Twitter knows Jack

You don't have to be president to complain on Twitter about Twitter. But Trump also got to air his gripes in a private Oval Office meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Tuesday.

Trump used much of the session to accuse Twitter of deliberately removing followers from his and fellow conservatives' accounts, The Washington Post reported, citing a person with direct knowledge of the conversation. In morning tweets, Trump complained "they don’t treat me well as a Republican" and accused Twitter of playing "political games."

Dorsey reiterated Twitter's explanation that follower figures fluctuate as the company purges fraudulent spam accounts. Dorsey — @jack on Twitter — said his follower count dropped, too, as a result of the removals.

After the meeting, a Twitter statement said, "Jack had a constructive meeting with the president" and they "discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections." Trump tweeted: "Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!"

Kushner's meh to Mueller

Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said Tuesday that Mueller's investigation was worse for the country than Russia's election interference, which he downplayed as a few Facebook ads.

Speaking at the Time 100 Summit, Kushner said, "I think the investigations and all of the speculation that's happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads."

Mueller’s report concluded that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election “in sweeping and systematic fashion,” a multifaceted operation that went well beyond social media posts written and targeted to sow division. The Russian schemes included cyberattacks targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, her campaign and the Democratic National Committee, as well as the distribution of stolen emails from Clinton and others via WikiLeaks and other online outlets.

When pressed why the Trump campaign didn't reject the foreign advances documented by Mueller, Kushner said, "We didn't know that Russia was doing what they were doing." It was Mueller's job to find out.

Thursday is Joe's day

The strength of his name and reputation as Barack Obama's vice president for eight years has given Joe Biden a narrow lead for many months in nearly all Democratic primary polls. On Thursday morning, he will officially join the race and try to put to rest questions of whether he can go the distance.

Biden, 76, would be the second oldest candidate in the race. He also has the longest service in politics, giving him a claim to experience, but also a record of past positions, votes, comments and conduct already getting picked apart as out of sync with today's progressive-tilting Democrats.

Following the money

Hollywood Democrats have discovered Pete Buttigieg and are fighting over who will host fundraisers there for the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, The Associated Press reports.

Movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg is one of those in contention to put on an event for the 2020 contender. Other supporters include Laurie David, producer of Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary about climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth"; former "West Wing” star Bradley Whitford; "Deadpool" actor Ryan Reynolds; and "This Is Us" actress Mandy Moore, whose Twitter feed is dominated by posts about Buttigieg.

Roll Call reports an assortment of Washington K Street lobbyists, many of them openly gay like Buttigieg, also is rallying to his candidacy.

Another 2020 hopeful, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, is aiming to raise $25,000 at a New York City fundraiser on May 13.

Recent filings show a prominent ex-Republican gave to Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar's campaign, which got $5,400 from former FBI Director James Comey and his wife.

Counting on the court

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Tuesday seemed ready to hand Trump a victory on the administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, The New York Times reported.

Critics say the question, not asked since 1950, would undermine the census' accuracy by discouraging both legal and unauthorized immigrants from filling out the forms. Democrats contend the motive is to reduce their party's representation when congressional districts are allocated in 2021. An undercount also would affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending are distributed.

What else is happening:

  • Trump accepted an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II for a three-day state visit to the United Kingdom starting on June 3. He will get a grander reception than during his working trip last July.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he wants to name a new settlement in the Golan Heights after Trump to thank him for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the territory taken from Syria in the 1967 war.
  • A year after encouraging bikers to boycott Harley-Davidson, Trump took up the company's cause and pledged to retaliate against “unfair” European Union tariffs on the motorcycle maker. It was those retaliatory tariffs that led Harley to move some production abroad, which triggered Trump's boycott call.
  • Trump showed some love for journalists — photojournalists, specifically, because he likes their pictures of him — at an awards reception for the White House News Photographers Association. Also on Tuesday, aides said that not only will Trump snub the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, he's ordered all administration officials to stay away, too.
  • Is there something rotten inside Interior? The Washington Post reports six Trump appointees are under investigation by the department's inspector general over whether they violated federal ethics rules by engaging with their former employers or clients on department-related business. Last week, the IG launched a probe into whether Interior Secretary David Bernhardt violated federal conflict-of-interest rules.
  • Interim Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told NBC News the administration isn't looking to revive its migrant family separation policy because it's "not worth it” from an enforcement standpoint.
  • Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been moved to a federal prison outside Scranton, Pennsylvania. His scheduled release date is Dec. 25, 2024, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

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