By Dartunorro Clark
President Donald Trump on Wednesday excoriated Democrats for probing his finances and his administration and declared, “We’re fighting all the subpoenas.”
“The subpoenas are ridiculous. I have been the most transparent president and administration in the history of our country by far,” Trump said, referring to recent moves by House Democrats. Trump spoke to reporters the South Lawn of the White House before departing for an event on the opioid crisis.
The Democratic chairs of powerful congressional oversight committees have ramped up their investigations into Trump’s businesses and his administration in the wake of the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. They’ve issued subpoenas for the president’s finances, information about White House security clearances and the 2020 census and for the full, unredacted Mueller report. Earlier in April, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal formally requested Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service, setting up what’s likely to be a prolonged battle with Trump’s administration over documents the president has refused to release.
“I say it’s enough,” Trump told reporters. “Get back to infrastructure, get to back to cutting taxes, get back to lowering prescription drug prices.”
Trump on Wednesday also continued to claim vindication, reiterating that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. He slammed Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation as one conducted by “18 angry Democrats,” but still called it the “most thorough investigation in the history of our country.”
He also said he assumed that Mueller got his taxes in the course of his investigation, suggesting there was no need for Democrats to obtain those documents.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment on whether Mueller obtained Trump’s returns.
Mueller’s report, which lays out Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election, notes “that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” However, Mueller said in the report that he did not find a provable criminal conspiracy.
Muller did not come to a conclusion on the issue of whether Trump obstructed justice over the course of his investigation. Attorney General William Barr, in a letter to Congress sent before the redacted report was made public, said that he had decided that Trump did not obstruct the probe.
Mueller’s report, however, revealed that he weighed charging Trump with obstruction, but didn’t in part because “we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional process for addressing presidential misconduct.”
He added, “The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”
Impeachment chatter has gained steam among Democrats since the report was made public on April 18, with at least four 2020 hopefuls urging the House to begin proceedings based on the conduct Mueller described. But House Democratic leaders on Monday held a conference call with members in which they promised aggressive and extensive investigations into Trump — but would not commit to bringing up impeachment proceedings.
“We don’t have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, according to a leadership aide on the call.
The day after the redacted report was released, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., subpoenaed the Justice Department for the full, unredacted version as well as the underlying evidence. In a statement, Nadler said that the Justice Department must comply by May 1. Department of Justice Spokesperson Kerri Kupec called the subpoena “premature and unnecessary” in a statement, given Barr’s offer to allow lawmakers the chance to review a less redacted version of the report in a “secure reading room.”
Nadler also issued a subpoena Trump’s former White House counsel Don McGahn for testimony and documents as part the panel’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice by the president and others. The report said, for example, that Trump ordered McGahn to tell Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that “Mueller has to go.”
The administration is also fighting subpoenas and formal requests for administration officials to testify into several ongoing probes related to oversight of the administration’s policies.
Lawyers for Trump and the Trump Organization are suing Rep. Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to block a subpoena for years of financial records from several Trump entities.
Additionally, the Justice Department told Cummings Wednesday that it would not comply with a committee subpoena ordering John Gore, an official in its civil rights division, to testify about the 2020 census without a DOJ attorney present. Gore is a key figure in an effort by Democrats to determine Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ rationale for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Cummings called the move “a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction” by Trump’s administration, and said in a statement that the deposition of Gore slated for Thursday before his committee would go on as scheduled.
House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., jointly issued subpoenas earlier this month to Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions for information on Trump’s finances.
They’re pursuing the information as part of their investigation into “allegations of potential foreign influence on the U.S. political process,” adding that the committees issued a “friendly subpoena” to Deutsche Bank, which has longstanding ties with the president. The bank said in a statement that it is cooperating with the committees.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, meanwhile, has missed two deadlines — April 10 and 23 — to hand over Trump’s tax returns. Mnuchin pushed the deadline to May 6 after he said that he was consulting with the Department of Justice.
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Trump administration pulls $1 billion from California rail project
By Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Trump administration canceled nearly $1 billion Thursday in federal money for California’s high-speed rail project, further throwing into question the future of the ambitious plan to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom immediately pledged to take the administration to court, though the state has not yet filed a lawsuit.
The “action is illegal and a direct assault on California,” Newsom said in an emailed statement. “This is California’s money, appropriated by Congress, and we will vigorously defend it in court.”
The official word of the funding cancellation by the Federal Railroad Administration came several months after President Donald Trump first threatened to withdraw it.
His comments came in response to Newsom shifting the project’s immediate focus to a 171-mile stretch of track in the Central Valley, saying there currently wasn’t a path for the full line.
Newsom later said he was still committed to building the entire line but wanted to take a “building blocks” approach that first created a working line in the Central Valley.
The state has only about $20 billion available for the project at this time, far short of the estimated $77 billion it would take to complete it.
Newsom has characterized Trump’s threats to the project as retribution against California for resisting various Trump administration policies.
While the $929 million is a critical piece of the funding plan, the state did not plan to spend it until 2021. If a court battle over the money drags on, that could put the state in a position to win back the money or get more from the federal government if Democrats win the White House and control of Congress in 2020.
Still, rail officials expressed concern about losing the money.
“Losing a billion is, I would say, devastating to the overall project,” said Russ Fong, the project’s outgoing chief financial officer. “We have time to hopefully come to some type of resolution before those dollars are actually needed.”
Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson, who represents Fresno and is one of the project’s harshest critics, said the state is witnessing “the beginning of the end” for high-speed rail.
The Trump administration has also threatened to make California return $2.5 billion that has already been spent on the project.
California was awarded a total of $3.5 billion from the federal government nearly a decade ago. Keeping the money is contingent on the state completing a 119-mile segment of track in the Central Valley by 2022, as well as environmental reviews on the entire 520-mile line.
Rail officials have said they were poised to make that deadline and that revoking the funds was premature.
Federal officials said California has repeatedly failed to make “reasonable progress” and had abandoned the original vision for the rail line.
The state “has not demonstrated the ability to complete the project, let alone deliver it by the end of 2022,” Ronald Batory, administrator of the railroad administration, wrote in a letter to rail officials.
The $1 billion represents about one-twelfth of the money the state was counting on to pay for the initial 119-mile stretch of tracks.
California voters first approved nearly $10 billion in bonds for the high-speed rail project in 2008, and it’s been plagued by cost overruns and delays since. It’s been paid for with federal money, bond dollars and revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program that requires polluters to pay to emit greenhouse gases.
On the low end of cap-and-trade projections, the state would bring in just enough money to complete the segment of track Newsom is promoting in the Central Valley. In that scenario, losing the $1 billion in federal money would leave the state short of funds.
If cap-and-trade revenues come in on the high end, the project should be fine, Fong said.
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