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Julian Assange

Julian Assange from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on April 11, 2019 in London, England. Among the charges are three counts that Assange violated the Espionage Act, which prohibits the disclosure of national defense information. | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The Justice Department has hit WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with Espionage Act charges, escalating a legal fight against the high-profile activist and alarming press freedom activists.

DOJ had previously only indicted Assange on a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. Thursday’s revelation of the additional 18 charges, filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, means Assange could face significantly more prison time if found guilty.

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The alleged Espionage Act violations relate to Assange’s complicity with Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army soldier who was convicted in July 2013 of violating the Espionage Act after she shuttled troves of classified government information to WikiLeaks. Officials said Assange solicited the information from and then brazenly published details that put the government’s human sources at risk, disregarding explicit warnings from the government.

Traditionally, the Espionage Act has been used against government officials, like Manning, who reveal such classified information, rather than the journalists or foreign nationals who publish the information.

As a result, the use of the Espionage Act against Assange set off alarm bells among press freedom activists on Thursday. While WikiLeaks isn’t a conventional news organization, press advocates have long feared that charging Assange for the publication of government secrets could open the door to prosecuting reporters for doing the same.

“Any government use of the Espionage Act to criminalize the receipt and publication of classified information poses a dire threat to journalists seeking to publish such information in the public interest, irrespective of the Justice Department’s assertion that Assange is not a journalist,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in a statement.

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who also touched off a debate about the media’s role in publishing secret files when he leaked classified information to reporters in 2013, proclaimed: “the Department of Justice just declared war – not on Wikileaks, but on journalism itself.”

John Demers, head of DOJ’s national security division, pushed back at that argument on Thursday, insisting Assange is “not a journalist,” and alleging that the WikiLeaks founder “purposely published names he knew to be confidential human sources in warzones.”

It’s a debate that Justice Department officials have grappled with for years. The Obama administration previously looked into bringing similar charges against Assange, but decided against it.

“We didn’t bring this [Espionage Act] case for a couple of reasons,” said Matt Miller, an Obama-era DOJ spokesman. “First, we thought it was a dangerous precedent to prosecute Assange for something that reporters do all the time. We didn’t believe Assange was a journalist, but the Espionage Act doesn’t make any distinction between journalists and others, so if you can apply it to Assange, there’s no real reason you couldn’t apply it to [The New York Times]. Second, and it’s related, it’s not at all clear that charging someone with the publication of classified information could survive court scrutiny.”

Assange’s legal case took off in April after Ecuador revoked its seven-year asylum, forcing him out of the embassy in London and paving the way for his extradition to the United States for one of the biggest ever leaks of classified information. Justice Department officials said they could not comment on how this might affect Assange’s extradition from the U.K. to the U.S.

Among Thursday’s charges are three counts that Assange violated the Espionage Act, which prohibits the disclosure of national defense information. The Justice Department alleged that Assange published select State Department cables that contained the unredacted names of human sources in Iran, China and Syria. He also published Afghan activity reports and Iraq activity reports that endangered local Afghans and Iraqis, prosecutors alleged.

“It was explicitly stated in the State Department cables that the identity of sources was to be protected,” a Justice Department official told reporters on Thursday. “Assange was warned by the State Department not to release the names but he did so nevertheless.”

However, the government has not identified any individuals who were directly killed a result of Assange’s disclosures. The U.S. counterintelligence official who led the Pentagon’s review of the bombshell leaks told a court during Manning’s sentencing hearing in 2013 that investigators had not been able to find any such instances.

Still, Zach Terwilliger, the assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, stressed that the government was “not charging Assange for passively obtaining classified information.” Rather, he is being prosecuted for publishing “a narrow set of classified documents in which Assange also published the names of innocent people who risked their safety” to help the United States.

“Assange is not charged simply because he is a publisher,” Terwilliger told reporters on Thursday.

Prosecutors said Manning had contacted Assange as early as November 2009, responding “to Assange’s solicitation of classified information made through the WikiLeaks website.” The appeal included a “Military and Intelligence Most Wanted Leaks” category that solicited CIA detainee interrogation videos.

Assange also encouraged Manning to transfer him Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs in March 2010, according to chats obtained by the government, as well as Iraq rule of engagement files and 75,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports.

John Brown, the FBI assistant director for national security, said the indictment was “the result of nearly a decade” of work.

The original Assange indictment, brought in March 2018 and unsealed in April of this year, charged the WikiLeaks founder with conspiring with Manning to hack a government computer to obtain hundreds of thousands of U.S. military reports about U.S. wars in the Middle East. WikiLeaks later published the leaked information.

Assange faces up to 10 years in prison on each count.

Manning was jailed in March after being held in contempt by a judge in Virginia for refusing to testify before a grand jury about Assange. She is still in prison, and DOJ officials would not comment on her situation on Thursday.

Michael Calderone contributed to this report.

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CASE TESTS FIRST AMENDMENT LIMITS

(Main headline, 2nd story, link)


WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi openly questioned President Donald Trump’s fitness to remain in office Thursday, suggesting a staff or family “intervention” for the good of the nation after his dramatic blow-up at a White House meeting with Democrats. Trump responded by calling her “crazy.”

“She’s a mess,” Trump told reporters at an afternoon news conference in which he lined up White House staff to testify to his calmness at a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. “Cryin’ Chuck, Crazy Nancy … I watched Nancy and she was all crazy yesterday,” he claimed.

As for himself, he declared, “I’m an extremely stable genius.”

Both the Republican president and Democratic leaders dug in a day after Trump stalked out of the Cabinet Room demanding an end to all congressional probes before he would work with Congress on crumbling U.S. infrastructure and other matters. By Thursday as Congress prepared to recess for the Memorial Day break, both sides were questioning each other’s stability, with the president insisting on Twitter that he was calm when he left the White House meeting that was to focus on infrastructure spending after just three minutes.

Pelosi said Trump has established a pattern of unpredictability, and at one point she even joked about the 25th Amendment, the Constitution’s provision laying out the procedure for replacing a president.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi openly questioned President Donald Trump's fitness for office Thursday. At one point she even joked about the 25th Amendment, the Constitution's provision laying out the procedure for replacing a president. (May 23)

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White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says "it's insane" to think infrastructure talks can continue as if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had not accused President Donald Trump of a "cover-up." (May 23)

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“I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference, adding that she prays for him and the nation.

“Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence,” she said. Asked whether she’s concerned about Trump’s well-being, she replied, “I am.”

Pelosi also said the White House is “crying out” for the Democrats to launch impeachment hearings — the idea being that such a move would help him politically. White House aides believe that if Democrats move to impeach — and even if they win approval of articles of impeachment in the House — Trump would be acquitted in the GOP-controlled Senate, supporting his assertion that he’s a victim of Democratic harassment and helping him toward re-election. But the president denied that he’s urging the Democrats on.

“I don’t think anybody wants to be impeached,” Trump said.

However genuine, accusations of infirmity dominated the exchanges on Thursday and raised questions about whether Pelosi and Trump could work together on must-do tasks this year, such as raising the debt limit and funding the government. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said staff-level work on critical policy and spending continues.

Yet Sanders also said on CNN that it was “lunacy” and “insane” for Democrats to think everyone could just proceed after Pelosi accused Trump of a “cover-up” just before the meeting Wednesday.

“It’s very hard to have a meeting where you accuse the president of the United States of a crime and an hour later show up and act as if nothing has happened,” Sanders told reporters outside the White House.

Hanging over the increasingly personal exchanges is a drumbeat among about two dozen Democrats and one Republican to launch impeachment hearings against Trump based on details in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that Trump repeatedly tried to block the investigation . Pelosi has resisted, preferring a methodical process by which Congress investigates and lays out the facts on the question of obstruction of justice. But she’s been clear this week that any such finding could be worthy of a formal indictment by the House — that is, impeachment.

Pelosi also is balancing the calls for impeachment with the concerns of members from divided districts who helped flip the House to Democratic control and now face tough re-elections 2020.

Pelosi, the second in line to the presidency, said she thinks Trump’s actions Wednesday were part of his skill at distraction. But she also suggested that he’s unpredictable.

“Sometimes when we’re talking to him he agrees,” she said, only to change his mind. “He says he’s in charge and he may be.”

During questions, Pelosi also joked with a reporter about the 25th Amendment. “That’s a good idea. I am going to take it up with my caucus. Not that they haven’t been thinking about it.”

She has been insulting Trump since the meeting on Wednesday.

“For some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part … he took a pass, and it just makes me wonder why he did that,” she told reporters back on Capitol Hill. “In any event I pray for the president of the United States.”

“Nancy, thank you so much for your prayers, I know you truly mean it!” Trump tweeted from the White House.

Yet the White House is returning the Democrats’ insults.

Repeatedly pressed on why the president seemed unwilling to multitask and work on legislation as other presidents under investigation have, Sanders maintained, “I think the Democrats have shown that they’re not capable of doing anything else.”

In fact, the Democratic-controlled House has passed several bills on issues including firearms background checks, prescription drugs and campaign finance reforms — though they were dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Sanders insisted that Trump’s walk-out Wednesday wasn’t planned before Pelosi’s comments and that the White House placard that appeared on Trump’s lectern as he denounced Democrats moments later had been printed “weeks ago.” Asked why Trump couldn’t work with Democrats after Pelosi’s comments because he felt insulted, Sanders said, “The president’s feelings weren’t hurt. She accused him of a crime. Let that sink in.”

___

Associated Press Writers Lisa Mascaro, Mary Clare Jalonick, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

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Follow Kellman and Miller on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman and http://www.twitter.com/ZekeJMiller .

The Trump administration on Thursday announced plans to offer $16 billion to farmers who were suffering losses as a result of President Trump’s failing trade war with China, which he once claimed was making the United States rich by bringing in tariff revenue.

Trump authorized the Department of Agriculture to spend up to $16 billion on “trade mitigation programs” to compensate farmers for losses stemming from China’s retaliatory tariffs.

Yet, Trump has consistently boasted about how successful his trade war would be in making the U.S. wealthier.

“Billions of Dollars are pouring into the coffers of the U.S.A. because of the Tariffs being charged to China, and there is a long way to go,” Trump wrote on Twitter last November. “If companies don’t want to pay Tariffs, build in the U.S.A. Otherwise, lets just make our Country richer than ever before!”

This is just one of many times in which he’s lied about the effects of tariffs, even arguing that revenue generated by them would help pay down the federal debt.

As Thursday’s announcement shows, however, his misguided trade war is just another example of how one bad government policy begets another. First, he slaps a tax on imports, which will inevitably lead to retaliatory action on our exports. The solution, then, becomes more government subsidies.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., betrays conservatism by working to avoid existing budget caps rather than embracing them.

McConnell is rightly concerned that the caps will require a $71 billion reduction in planned defense spending if no broader budget deal is reached. The Pentagon does need the money. But it’s not worth the extra $55 billion (or more) per year in utterly unnecessary domestic spending that busting the caps will entail.

If no deal is reached, that’s how much money will be “sequestered,” or saved via blunt, across-the-board spending reductions, from each part of the discretionary budget. Federal agencies should be told now to start planning for those cuts. With a federal debt above $22 trillion, which is more than 100% of gross domestic product, and with unfunded future liabilities exceeding $120 trillion, the United States just cannot afford to keep spending exorbitant amounts for discretionary programs.

Everyone can agree President Bill Clinton was no heartless skinflint. I can testify to that, having worked for the House Appropriations Committee for a few years during his presidency. For a good example of reasonable discretionary spending in a time of economic growth, take the final non-election year of his presidency — 1999, when Congress produced the fiscal 2000 budget, after Clinton had regained clout by routing congressional Republicans in post-impeachment polling.

Domestic discretionary spending in 2000 was $284 billion. In inflation adjusted dollars, that would be the same as $414 billion in 2018. Even also adding 16% for population growth would still raise that spending category only to $480 billion. Instead, our profligate federal government spent $722 billion domestically, not even counting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In other words, it spent, comparing apples to apples, a gobsmacking $242 billion more on domestic discretionary spending than the levels thought adequate, and signed into law, by Clinton. (See table 5.6, here.)

Sure, costs related to “homeland security” rose after the 2001 terrorist attacks, but hardly by that amount. Most of the functions at the since-created Department of Homeland Security were already in the budget before 9/11, just in other parts of the federal government. Still, if the entire $98 billion for homeland security — a one-year anomaly, because the DHS budget both before and after 2019 is some $40 billion less — were removed, domestic discretionary spending would remain nearly $150 billion higher, in inflation-and-population-adjusted dollars, than it was in 2000. (Table 5.4, here.)

The feds could sequester the full $55 billion at issue today, and remove all costs for homeland security, and still be overspending the Clinton baseline by $90 billion.

Note, too, that in times of a strong economy, such as today’s lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, domestic spending should go down, not up, because the need for social spending should diminish.

Rather than buckle to demands for higher domestic spending now, congressional Republicans should be willing to let the existing budget caps kick in via sequestration, if need be. Then, beginning from the lower baseline, make the case for added military spending, which the public largely supports.

Meanwhile, for each additional Democratic demand for “new” domestic spending, Republicans should highlight the average per-family tax cost required to pay for it.

In sum, with just a modicum of strategic public-relations competence, Republicans could and should build the case for more defense spending without much additional domestic spending. To do so would be reasonably good politics and much, much more responsible public policy.


May’s last day in power? PM fills gap in her creaking Cabinet despite possibly being just HOURS away from quitting amid massive pressure for her to go TOMORROW after Leadsom’s dramatic resignation

  • Theresa May’s time in power is drawing to a close after an all-out Tory mutiny over her Brexit Bill concessions
  • The PM proposed offering MPs a vote on a second referendum and joining a temporary customs union with EU
  • Commons leader Andrea Leadsom dramatically resigned last night as Mrs May’s grip on No10 loosened
  • The Tories face being hammered by Brexit Party in European elections taking place across the UK today   

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Theresa May and husband Philip after casting their votes in the Euro elections this afternoon in her Maidenhead constituency

Theresa May and husband Philip after casting their votes in the Euro elections this afternoon in her Maidenhead constituency

Desperate Theresa May could be just hours away from the end of her time in power as she battles to hold on amid a full-scale Brexit mutiny in the Conservative Party. 

The Prime Minister fled London this afternoon to cast a vote in the European election in her Berkshire constituency knowing it could be one of her last actions as Tory leader.

With a resignation announcement seen as almost inevitable after she meets Tory 1922 committee chief Graham Brady tomorrow she could have quit or been forced out before the results – widely tipped to be disastrous for her party – are revealed on Sunday and Monday.

The Prime Minister is trying to maintain dignity as the sun sets on her time in power – She has already bowed to pressure to pull the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which she previously said would happen early next month. 

The prospect of giving MPs a choice on whether to hold another referendum had sparked a furious response from Tories – with Commons leader Andrea Leadsom dramatically quitting last night and putting the last nail in Mrs May’s coffin. 

The PM promoted Treasury Mel Stride to fill the gap this afternoon, and met Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid to discuss how the Bill might be rewritten.

However, there appears little chance that she will be able to avoid agreeing to the start of a Tory leadership contest, potentially as early as next week. 

One of the PM’s last acts as Tory leader is set to be overseeing a catastrophic performance in European elections, which are taking place across the UK today.

Theresa May left Downing Street today (pictured) as she contemplated the end of her premiership after a huge Tory mutiny over the Withdrawal Agreement Bill

Theresa May left Downing Street today (pictured) as she contemplated the end of her premiership after a huge Tory mutiny over the Withdrawal Agreement Bill

Andrea Leadsom's letter

Mrs Leadsom in Westminster today

In her letter to the Prime Minister last night (left), Andrea Leadsom (right) said a second referendum would be ‘dangerously divisive for the country’ and she could not support the concession

A jubilant Nigel Farage outside a polling station in Kent today with his Brexit Party apparently racing towards victory

A jubilant Nigel Farage outside a polling station in Kent today with his Brexit Party apparently racing towards victory

Amid the Brexit chaos and infighting, support for the Conservatives has slumped to just 7 per cent in some polls – with fear that all the party’s MEPs could be wiped out.   

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party has surged and is now on track to top the poll – while the Lib Dems have also overtaken Labour. 

The elections today have put a temporary hold on the frenzied leadership jostling to succeed Mrs May. However, the campaigns by contenders including Boris Johnson, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and others are already in full swing behind the scenes. Ms Leadsom is also considering a run.

Mr Johnson was boosted today by support from backbencher Johnny Mercer.

The PM promoted Treasury Mel Stride (pictured) to Commons leader this afternoon

The PM promoted Treasury Mel Stride (pictured) to Commons leader this afternoon

‘It’s very clear to me that there is one individual that we can go forward and sort of try and govern from the centre/centre-right as a one nation Tory,’ he told ITV’s Peston programme.

‘And that is Boris Johnson… I’ve had many conversations with him. We’re going to try and do it together.’ 

There are expected to be as many as 10 candidates nominated to start with – who will be whittled down to a final two in a series of votes by MPs. The Tory membership will then choose between the last two.

However not everyone believes she will quit this week. 

A 1922 Committee source said they expected Mrs May would stay until June 10, but warned there would be ‘much greater pressure’ for her to go immediately if she introduces the WAB.

‘Hopefully what will happen is she will stand down as Tory leader I think on or before June 10, and she will hopefully remain as caretaker Prime Minister until such time as a new Tory leader is elected,’ they said.

‘My feeling is that she will stay until June 10.’

The source said a new leader would ideally be in place by the end of the summer to get a Brexit deal through Parliament before October 31.

The drama was brought to a head on Tuesday when Mrs May delivered a speech spelling out a series of concessions designed to get her Withdrawal Agreement Bill – known as WAB – past its first Commons hurdle.

The offer of votes on holding a second referendum and joining a temporary customs union with the EU caused uproar among Conservative MPs. And Cabinet anger erupted amid claims that Mrs May had gone further in her speech than had been agreed in a fraught two-hour meeting. 

At one stage yesterday, some aides believed Mrs May was on the verge of quitting on the spot – and even started preparations for a resignation statement.

But chief whip Julian Smith later told the 1922 committee of backbench MPs that Mrs May intended to campaign in today’s elections and would instead meet the group’s chairman Sir Graham Brady tomorrow.

At that point they are expected to set the timetable for a Tory leadership election – although she will remain as PM until a replacement is chosen. 

The MPs on the executive of the 1922 have already staged a secret ballot on whether to change Tory rules so a fresh no-confidence vote can be held. However, they will only count the votes if Mrs May does not set out a resignation timetable tomorrow.     

Mrs May refused to see rebel ministers yesterday afternoon, leading to accusations that she was bunkered down in No 10.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘The sofa is up against the door, she’s not leaving.’ 

Jeremy Hunt in Downing Street this week

Sajid Javid has also opposed the concessions in the WAB

Both Jeremy Hunt (left) and Sajid Javid (right) had demanded meetings with Mrs May to voice opposition to her Brexit concessions in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill

The Mays seemed in good spirits as they cast their ballots in Sonning, despite the mounting pressure on her to resign

The Mays seemed in good spirits as they cast their ballots in Sonning, despite the mounting pressure on her to resign

Philip May, pictured right voting with the PM in Sonning today, is being urged to step in and make his wife accept the 'reality' that her premiership is over - after she dramatically pulled the vote on her hated Brexit Bill

Philip May, pictured right voting with the PM in Sonning today, is being urged to step in and make his wife accept the ‘reality’ that her premiership is over – after she dramatically pulled the vote on her hated Brexit Bill

However sources said meetings with senior ministers were postponed because Mrs May was having her regular audience with the Queen, who she was expected to brief on her intentions. 

Whitehall insiders said the legislation that the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday might never now see the light of day.

She agreed to meet Sir Graham tomorrow to discuss arrangements for the election of a new Conservative Party leader.

An ally said: ‘The chances of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill coming forward now are very slender – there is too much opposition in Cabinet. 

‘That was her last move – she’s made her last move. I think she accepts that.’ 

Another said: ‘We completely understand what has happened over the course of the last 24 hours. 

‘She wants to be able to say that in her own words in short order. You will see that clearly when the elections are done.’

Ms Leadsom’s husband Ben stopped to speak to reporters as he left their London home on his bicycle this morning. ‘It was a tough day yesterday, but she’s happy she made the right decision,’ he said. 

Ms Leadsom's husband Ben stopped to speak to reporters as he left their London home on a bicycle this morning (pictured). 'It was a tough day yesterday, but she's happy she made the right decision,' he said.

Ms Leadsom’s husband Ben stopped to speak to reporters as he left their London home on a bicycle this morning (pictured). ‘It was a tough day yesterday, but she’s happy she made the right decision,’ he said.

Tories braced for a summer leadership campaign: who are the frontrunners to replace Theresa May? 

A huge field of candidates is expected to run to replace Theresa May. 

While as many as 25 could run they will swiftly be whittled down into a workable number as MPs show their allegiances and plot to get their chosen man or woman into Downing Street.

Here we look at the main runners and riders, with their odds with Ladbrokes and how they voted in the 2016 referendum:

Boris Johnson: The long-running thorn in May’s side  who has recently had a ‘prime ministerial’ makeover

Boris Johnson has undergone a prime ministerial makeover as Theresa May’s days appeared increasingly numbered 

  • Former foreign secretary and mayor of London
  • Voted leave and has become an increasingly hardline Brexiteer 
  • As likely to make headlines over his private life
  • Has recently lost a lot of weight and smartened up his appearance
  • Leadership odds 6/4 

The former foreign secretary, 54, who quit last July and has been tacitly campaigning for the leadership ever since. He finally went public last week to confirm he would run.

Never far from the limelight the father-of-four recently split from his wife Marina and is in a relationship with former Conservative staffer Carrie Symonds, 20 years his junior. 

As an increasingly hawkish Brexiteer who says we should not be afraid of leaving without a deal he is hugely popular with the party faithful.

At the start of the year he underwent what might be deemed a ‘prime ministerial’ makeover, losing weight and taming his unruly mop of blonde hair.

Popular with the rank-and-file membership he has less fans in the parliamentary party and may face a concerted campaign to block his succession. Received the surprise backing of Johnny Mercer last night.

Dominic Raab: Brexiteer who quit rather than back Mrs May’s deal

Dominic Raab has become a cheerleader for a hard Brexit since stepping down as Brexit secretary in November

  • Shortlived Brexit secretary last year, replacing David Davis in the hot seat 
  • But walked in November over terms agreed by PM
  • Voted for Brexit in 2016
  • Leadership odds 4/1 

Mr Raab, 45, is another Vote Leave member who became Brexit secretary after David Davis quit alongside Mr Johnson last July over the Chequers plan.

But he lasted just a matter of months before he too jumped ship, saying he could not accept the terms of the deal done by the Prime Minister.

Like Mr Johnson and Mr Davis he has become an increasingly hardline Brexiteer, sharing a platform with the DUP’s Arlene Foster and suggesting we should not be afraid of a no-deal Brexit.

The Esher and Walton MP’s decision to quit in November, boosted his popularity with party members but he lacks the wider popular appeal of Mr Johnson.

And like Mr Johnson he might benefit from having quit the Cabinet at an earlier stage and dissociating himself with the dying days of the May administration.  

His odds have shortened as he is seen as possibly a more palatable alternative Brexiteer to Boris by MPs seeking to block Mr Johnson’s run.

He recently posed for a glossy photoshoot with wife Erika at their Surrey home, seen as a sign he will run. 

Andrea Leadsom: May’s former rival who finally decided she could take no more

Ms Leadsom (pictured today) quit the cabinet yesterday. She is a Brexiteer who frequently clashed with Speaker John Bercow

Ms Leadsom (pictured today) quit the cabinet yesterday. She is a Brexiteer who frequently clashed with Speaker John Bercow

  • The Commons’ Leader challenged May in 2016
  • Voted for Brexit 
  • Hosted Brexiteer ‘pizza party’ plot last year 
  • Increasingly outspoken Brexiteer
  • Leadership odds 16/1 

The former Commons’ Leader piled pressure on the Prime Minister by announcing her own resignation from the Cabinet last night. 

In a parting blast, the Commons Leader said she could not stomach the latest version of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, with its offer of a second referendum.

It was the final act by an MP whose departure had seemingly been on the cards for months.  

Mrs Leadsom, a mother of three, stood against Mrs May for the party leadership in 2016 before conceding defeat before it was put to a vote of MPs.

As collective responsibility largely broke down among ministers she became an increasingly vocal and clear Brexiteer voice in the Cabinet along line similar lines to Mr Johnson and Mr Raab.

She was the host of a Brexiteer ‘pizza party’ in Parliament that included Michael Gove and Liz Truss as the vying wings of the Cabinet plotted to shape the Brexit deal they wanted.

In her role as Commons’ Leader she frequently clashes with Speaker John Bercow over issues including bullying in Parliament.

It is something that will do her no harm among the Tory backbenches where he is widely loathed. 

Jeremy Hunt: Remainer turned Brexiteer unity candidate who wants to heal the party

Jeremy Hunt, a born-again Brexiteer after supporting Remain, toured Africa last month with wife Lucia

Jeremy Hunt, a born-again Brexiteer after supporting Remain, toured Africa last month with wife Lucia

  • The Foreign Secretary voted Remain 
  • But has become an increasingly vocal Brexiteer
  • Former health secretary backs May’s deal
  • Has approached ministers about running as a unity candidate
  • Leadership odds 10/1 

The Foreign Secretary who has undergone a Damascene conversion to the Brexit cause and is seen as a safe if uninspiring pair of hands.

The 52-year-old South West Surrey MP has reportedly been selling himself to colleagues as a unity candidate who can bring together the fractious Tory factions into something approaching a cohesive party. 

A long-serving health secretary, the father-of three replaced Mr Johnson as the UK’s top diplomat and has won some plaudits over issues like the imprisonment of British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran.

But critics point to tub-thumpingly comparing the EU to the USSR at the party conference last year – which was very badly received in Brussels – and a gaffe in which he referred to his Chinese wife  as ‘Japanese’ as a reception in China.

Last month he went on a tour of Africa in which his Chinese wife Lucia made a major appearance, after he gaffed by forgetting her nationality.

Last week he called for a ‘decisive’ hike in defence spending to see off the rising threat from Russia and China – in a speech seen as a clear signal of his leadership ambitions. 

Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet Mansion House in the City of London, he said the UK’s hard power must be strengthened, with billions more spent on new capabilities to tackle drones and cyber attacks.

Michael Gove: The boomerang cabinet minister with a Machiavellian reputation

Michael Gove has made a remarkable political comeback after being sacked by Theresa May in 2016

Michael Gove has made a remarkable political comeback after being sacked by Theresa May in 2016

  • Leading Vote Leave figure in 2016 who now backs PM’s Brexit deal
  • Former journalist, 51,  who stood for leadership in 2016
  • Was sacked as education minister by Theresa May
  • Later returned as Environment Minister
  • Leadship  odds 12/1

A Brexiteer with a Machiavellian reputation after the 2016 leadership campaign in which he first supported Boris Johnson for the leadership and then stood against him, to their mutual disadvantage.

The former education secretary –  sacked by Mrs May –  was rehabilitated to become a right-on environment secretary – complete with reusable coffee cups and a strong line on food standards after Brexit.

Despite being a former lead figure in the Vote Leave campaign alongside Mr Johnson the former journalist and MP for Surrey Heath has swung behind Mrs May’s Brexit deal –  which might count against him.

But while he noisily supports the deal – he views the alternatives as worse – the father-of-two – married to Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine –  is quieter when it comes to supporting the Prime Minister and practically mute when it comes to her future.

Seen as one of the Cabinet’s strongest political thinkers and having stood once it is unthinkable that he would not stand again.

But like many others he has yet to publicly declare his candidacy. 

If he did it would again pitch him pitched against Mr Johnson in a battle for Brexiteer votes. 

Penny Mordaunt: The highly regarded Brexiteer promoted to take on defence

Ms Mordaunt is an outsider for the leadership but is highly thought of in Brexiteer groups

  • The MP for Portsmouth North is a Royal Navy reservist
  • Highly regarded in Brexiteer circles 
  • She has been consistently tipped to quit over Brexit but remains in the Cabinet 
  • Once appeared in a swimsuit in a reality TV show 
  • Leadership odds 20/1 

The new Defence Secretary – the first woman ever to hold the post – is highly regarded in Brexiteer circles. 

The Royal Navy reservist, 46, carved out a niche at International Development with some eye-catching suggests about changing how the UK spends disperses aid cash.

She has become an increasingly serious politician after initially being seen as lighthearted when she appeared in a swimsuit in ITV reality TV show Splash!

She was promoted earlier this month to replace Gavin Williamson when he was sacked for leaking details from a confidential meeting about Huawei.   

Over the preceding few months she was at the heart of persistent rumours that she would be the next Brexit-supporting minister out the door over Brexit. 

She has yet to announce she is running but last month she backed a thinktank report saying the party needed to attract new voters.

She said the party needed to ‘act swiftly’ to win over the younger generations who were turning away from the centre-Right in ‘unprecedented’ numbers. 

Yesterday, after other Cabinet Brexiteers including Andrea Leadsom were notable by their absence during Prime Minister’s Questions, she remained at her post. It remains to be seen whether this loyalty will count for or against her. 

Sajid Javid: Remainer star who has run into trouble over knife crime and refugees

Sajid Javid has seen his stock take a hit over the knife crime crisis and migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats

Sajid Javid has seen his stock take a hit over the knife crime crisis and migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats

  • The most senior cabinet contender
  • Voted Remain but wants to see Brexit delivered
  • Faced criticism as Home Secretary 
  • But has taken a hard line on Shamima Begum case 
  • Leadership odds 20/1

The Home Secretary, a Remainer who wants to see Brexit delivered, was the leading candidate from inside the Cabinet to replace Mrs May.

After replacing Amber Rudd last year he consciously put clear ground between himself and the Prime Minister on issues like caps on skilled migrants after Brexit.

But his credentials have taken a hit recently. He finds himself facing ongoing criticism of his handling of the knife crime crisis affecting UK cities, which sparked a Cabinet row over funding for police.

He also lost face over his handling of the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel in January, being seen to move slowly in realising the scale of the problem.

But more recently the 49-year-old Bromsgove MP has made a serious of hardline decision designed to go down well with Tory voters. 

Most notably they have included moving to deprive London teenager turned Jihadi bride Shamima Begum, 19, of her British citizenship, after she was discovered among former Islamic State members in a Syrian refugee camp.

Matt Hancock: Waffle-loving health secretary who wants Tories to choose a younger leader 

Mr Hancock took stroopwafels in for Cabinet the day after he was pulled up for eating them on television

Mr Hancock took stroopwafels in for Cabinet the day after he was pulled up for eating them on television

  • The youngest front-runner at 40
  • A Remainer who now backs Theresa May’s Brexit deal
  • He wants the party to look to the future and attract younger voters
  • Leadership odds 25/1

The Health Secretary is, like his predecessor Jeremy Hunt, seen as something of a unity candidate.

The 40-year-old father of three is seen as a safe pair of hands despite a few teething problems in his latest Cabinet role.

Last year he was accused of breaking ethics rules after he praised a private health firm app in a newspaper article sponsored by its maker.

But he has since make some hard-hitting interventions in ares like the impact of social media on health. 

Last month he joined Ms Mordaunt in backing the Generation Why? report showing that the Tories needed to become more relevant to younger voters. 

He called on the party to change its ‘tone’ towards modern Britain or face Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, in a speech widely seen as setting out his leadership credentials.

This week he showed his human side by unashamedly chomping calorific stroopwafels before a TV broadcast, saying he people should enjoy things in moderation. 

Rory Stewart: Remainer rising star and friend of royals who is not short of confidence 

The father of two is married to Shoshana, whom he first met when they worked together in Iraq and she was already married

The father of two is married to Shoshana, whom he first met when they worked together in Iraq and she was already married

  • Penrith MP, 46, is a former tutor to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex
  • Old Etonian ex-soldier worked for Foreign Office in Iraq and set up a charity for the Prince of Wale sin Afghanistan
  • Voted for Remain and still backs a soft Brexit
  • Leadership odds  25/1

The former prisons minister who once vowed to quit if they did not improve within a year declared his candidacy almost as soon as he was promoted to the Cabinet.

He stepped up to International Development Secretary earlier this month to replace Ms Mordaunt and days later declared he will run for the Tory leadership.

The Theresa May loyalist praised the PM for her ‘courageous effort’ to pass her Brexit deal but admitted he would throw his hat in the ring when she steps down.

Urging his party not to ‘try to outdo Nigel Farage’, the development secretary said the Tories should ‘stretch all the way from Ken Clarke to Jacob Rees-Mogg’.

The Old Etonian former tutor to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex previously worked for the Foreign Office in Iraq and set up a charity for the Prince of Wales in Afghanistan.

He has also written several books about walking. 

The father of two is married to Shoshana, whom he first met when they worked together in Iraq and she was already married.   

Seen as highly intelligent his staunch Remainer and soft Brexit credentials look likely to count against him in a race set to be dominated by the Brexiteer wing of the party.  

Esther McVey: Former TV presenter and minister who quit Government over Brexit 

The former television journalist, is engaged to fellow Tory backbench Brexiteer Philip Davies, 47

The former television journalist, is engaged to fellow Tory backbench Brexiteer Philip Davies, 47

  • The 51-year-old was Work and Pensions Secretary until quitting in November
  • She was a presenter on GMTV before entering politics
  • Is engaged to fellow Tory MP Philip Davies
  • This week launched a ‘blue collar Conservatism’ project 
  • Leadership odds 50/1 

The former Work and Pensions Secretary declared her leadership bid last month and has set out a stall as a right-wing blue-collar candidate from a working class  Liverpudlian background.

The former television journalist, is engaged to fellow Tory backbench Brexiteer  Philip Davies, 47, having previously had a romance with ex-minister Ed Vaizey. She has no children.

This week she set out her leadership pitch by calling for the party to use £7billion of foreign aid cash on buckling British police forces and schools.

Launching a ‘blue collar conservatism’ campaign the Brexiteer MP, 51, said her party had ‘lost the trust’ of working people by failing to leave the EU already and must pursue ‘radical conservative agendas’ to win it back’.

She said that keeping cash in the UK that is currently sent abroad would allow an increase of £4billion in spending on schools and £3billion for police, which are both demanding more money.

And she declined to rule out doing a post-election deal with Nigel Farage – but said that if the Tories got the UK out it would mean that his Brexit Party would have no reason to exist. 

Speaking in Westminster she reiterated her call for the next party leader to be ‘someone who believes in Brexit’ – a dig at Mrs May, who supported the Remain campaign in 2016. 

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May backed down Thursday from plans to seek Parliament’s support for a Brexit bill already rejected by much of her Conservative Party. But she has not, as yet, caved in to demands she resign and let a new leader try to complete the U.K.’s stalled exit from the European Union.

With her authority draining away by the hour, May delayed plans to publish the EU withdrawal bill — her fourth and likely final attempt to secure Parliament’s backing for her Brexit blueprint.

Conservative lawmakers increasingly see May as an obstacle to Britain’s EU exit, although her replacement will face the same dilemma: a Parliament deeply divided over whether to leave the EU, and how close a relationship to seek with the bloc after it does.

Conservative legislators scheduled a Friday meeting, where they want May to announce her departure date.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the committee that oversees Conservative leadership races, said that if May did not agree to leave, there would be “overwhelming pressure” for a no-confidence vote in her.

If May does name an exit date, she will likely remain prime minister for several more weeks while Conservative lawmakers and members vote to choose a successor.

May’s spokesman, James Slack, said she would still be in office when U.S. President Donald Trump comes to Britain for a June 3-5 state visit.

“She looks forward to welcoming the president,” he said.

But few doubt this is the endgame for May’s term, which has been consumed by Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Senior Conservatives, including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and several members of her Cabinet, are already jockeying for position in the coming leadership race.

House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom — another likely contender — helped seal May’s fate when she resigned late Wednesday, saying she could not support May’s withdrawal bill. The draft contains measures aimed at winning support from the opposition, including a promise to let Parliament vote on whether to hold a new EU membership referendum.

That concession, which could ultimately lead to Brexit being halted, was the final straw for many Conservative lawmakers and ministers, who also balked at May’s offer of a close customs relationship with the EU, which would limit Britain’s trade autonomy.

Leadsom said May’s Brexit plan did not “deliver on the referendum result” that saw voters in 2016 opt to leave the EU.

“No one has wanted you to succeed more than I have, but I do now urge you to make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this government and our party,” Leadsom wrote in a resignation letter to May.

May moved quickly Thursday to replace Leadsom with former Treasury minister Mel Stride.

But she also delayed the bill, which May previously said would be published Friday and put to a vote during the week of June 3.

On Thursday, the government only promised an “update” on the bill during that week.

The political turmoil weighed on the pound, which fell to $1.2601 on Thursday, its lowest point against the dollar since early January.

May met Thursday with two of her most senior ministers, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who underscored Cabinet concerns about her bill.

Slack said May was “listening to colleagues’ views” and still hoped to secure backing for her Brexit deal.

But he said delivering Brexit had “proved more challenging even than she had imagined.”

May became prime minister soon after the June 2016 EU membership referendum and has spent her entire tenure trying to deliver on that decision.

She seemed close to success when she struck a divorce agreement with the EU late last year. But lawmakers have rejected it three times, and Britain’s long-scheduled departure date of March 29 passed with the country still in the bloc.

Many Conservatives blame May for the delay, and want her replaced with a more ardent Brexiteer such as Johnson or former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.

May says another leader won’t be able to strike a better deal with the EU, which insists it will not renegotiate Britain’s departure terms.

Digital Minister Margot James stood up for May, saying the prime minister was being “hounded out of office because Parliament will not make a decision and the parties just have an inability to compromise.”

If May stays on until next week, pressure is likely to increase when results come in from this week’s elections for the European Parliament, with Conservatives expecting to receive a drubbing. Many British voters on both sides of the Brexit debate look set to use the election to the EU legislature to express displeasure over the political gridlock.

Opinion polls show strong support for the single-issue Brexit Party — largely from angry former Conservative voters — and for pro-EU parties including the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

The election is being held on Thursday in Britain, but results won’t be announced until all 28 EU countries have finished voting late Sunday.

British newspapers were unanimous Thursday in declaring that the end was nigh for May.

The Conservative-backing Daily Telegraph said in an editorial that “either Mrs. May must go as soon as humanly possible, or the Conservative Party must finally remove her.”

The Daily Mail, which has been supportive of May, said that “despite her valiant efforts to deliver an honorable Brexit, she has finally run out of road.”

___

Associated Press writer Carlo Piovano contributed.

___

Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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By Peter Alexander, Alex Moe and Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told her Democratic colleagues Thursday that President Donald Trump “wants to be impeached” so that he can be vindicated by the Senate.

Pelosi made the comments at a closed-door morning meeting, two Democratic aides told NBC News, who also said that Pelosi called Trump’s actions “villainous.”

The aide said that Pelosi was implying that she will stick to her current plan to keep investigating the president and his administration without jumping to impeachment, though she didn’t explicitly address strategy in her remarks.

“Let me be very clear: the president’s behavior, as far as his obstruction of justice, the things that he is doing, it’s in plain sight, it cannot be denied — ignoring subpoenas, obstruction of justice,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference Thursday following the closed-door meeting.

May 23, 201901:23

But she continued to stress a focus on process. “I do think that impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country,” she said. “Get the facts to the American people in our investigation … it may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment, but we’re not at that place.”

Thirty-two members of the House Democratic caucus have so far voiced support for opening an impeachment inquiry against Trump, many of whom came out in support of such a strategy just this week.

The House speaker’s message comes a day after she and Trump tangled over her claim that he had engaged in a “cover-up,” as vocal support for impeachment surged in the Democratic caucus.

“We do believe that it’s important to follow the facts. We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up,” Pelosi told reporters in the morning, following a closed-door caucus meeting with Democratic lawmakers focused on impeachment.

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The president later cut short a previously scheduled White House visit with Democratic leaders including Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that had been planned to discuss infrastructure policy.

Pelosi said Thursday that the president pulled a “stunt” at the White House on Wednesday and “stormed out” of the room, throwing “another temper tantrum again.”

“I pray for the president of the United States,” she told reporters. “I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.”

May 23, 201902:02

Asked what she meant when she referenced a presidential “intervention,” Pelosi appeared to joke about the 25th Amendment, which allows for a process that could lead to the removal of the president through the vice president and Cabinet.

“Statutory intervention? That would be good. Article 25. That’s a good idea. I’ll take it up with my caucus, not that they haven’t been thinking about it.”

Following his brief White House meeting with Democratic leaders, Trump held an impromptu Rose Garden event blasting her statement, and the mounting congressional probes into his conduct and finances.

“I don’t do cover-ups,” he said, adding that legislative cooperation would be on hold until Hill investigations ended.

Pelosi said Thursday that the president was clearly unsettled by the string of legal setbacks, an apparent reference to court decisions this week that would require the release of previously withheld financial documents.

“What really got to him was these court cases and the fact that a House Democratic caucus is not on a path to impeachment, and that’s where he wants us to be,” she said. “When he saw that that was not happening that — again with the cover-up, which he understands is true — just really struck a chord.”

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled Wednesday that President Trump can’t block subpoenas House Democrats sent to two banks asking for financial documents related to his business. Photo: jane rosenberg/Reuters

WASHINGTON—The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is playing an unusually active role in federal courtrooms, where the fate of key Trump administration policies as well as the powers of Congress to investigate the president are at stake.

Douglas Letter, general counsel of the House, over the past two weeks has argued—and won—two cases involving congressional subpoenas seeking Trump financial records. That includes one Wednesday in which a New York federal judge announced his decision against the president from the bench on the same day as the hearing; typically days or weeks pass before rulings are issued.

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He has also argued a case on the legality of Mr. Trump’s plans to pay for a southern U.S. border wall without appropriations from Congress, and is set to present a second case on that issue Thursday in Washington, D.C., where the House sued the administration to block its plans.

“We’re going to do this as a traveling roadshow,” Mr. Letter joked Friday during an Oakland, Calif., court hearing in which he argued that Mr. Trump “cannot build this wall without Congress.”

The House general counsel last month argued in the Supreme Court against the Trump administration’s plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. And Mr. Letter’s office has persuaded a federal appeals court to allow the House to intervene in a case where Republican-led states are seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, the Obama-era health law that the Trump administration is no longer defending in court.

Other cases are likely coming soon, including a potential challenge to the Trump administration’s refusal to turn over Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

The House Judiciary Committee voted in May to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress after he defied their request for an unredacted Mueller report. WSJ reporters break down what legal options Congress has for enforcing a subpoena. Photo Illustration: Nailah Morgan

Over recent decades, “the trend line seems to be toward an increasing amount of litigation between the executive and the legislature. We’re seeing a spike now,” said William Pittard, a lawyer with KaiserDillon PLLC who served in the House general counsel’s office from 2011 to 2016, when Republicans controlled the chamber.

Irvin Nathan, House general counsel from 2007 to 2010, when Democrats held the majority, said the current crop of court battles is unprecedented. “And it’s basically because of the scorched-earth policies of the Trump administration,” he said.

The legal face-offs are a byproduct of Mr. Trump’s deadlock with Democrats since they won the House in the midterm elections. Disagreement over a border wall led to a 35-day partial government shutdown, and when a congressional spending deal didn’t give the president the money he was seeking, he declared a national emergency as a way to access other funds without Congress’s approval.

Several House committees, meanwhile, have issued subpoenas for financial statements and other records from entities connected to Mr. Trump, saying the information is needed to evaluate ethics and conflict-of-interest issues stemming from the president’s personal financial holdings, as well as to explore questions related to banking regulations and any Trump empire links to foreign interests.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have accused Democrats of using the subpoenas as a political weapon against an adversary they don’t like.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) tapped Mr. Letter, a former top appellate official at the Justice Department, to be the House’s top lawyer once Democrats took control in January. His Justice Department service spanned four decades, where he defended executive branch prerogatives of both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Now fighting for legislative interests, Mr. Letter in his recent court appearances has told judges that Mr. Trump views Congress “as just a nuisance” and is disregarding the constitutional structure creating coequal branches of the government.

The general counsel has started some of his cases by thanking judges for their time on behalf of Mrs. Pelosi, to whom his office reports.

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“Tell her she’s welcome,” Chief Justice John Roberts responded in the census case, prompting laughter in the Supreme Court audience. Courtesies aside, the chief justice and other justices went on to question the arguments Mr. Letter was advancing. The high court is expected to decide the census case in June.

Mr. Letter has enjoyed smoother sailing in the subpoena cases, winning two rulings on behalf of House committees this week. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C., ruled Monday that Mr. Trump couldn’t block a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee seeking Trump financial records from accounting firm Mazars U.S.A. LLP. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in New York allowed subpoenas by the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees requesting records on Mr. Trump’s business and family from Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp.

Mrs. Pelosi has pointed to the House’s early success on subpoena litigation as a reason for Democrats to hold back from pursuing impeachment of Mr. Trump.

Neither Pelosi representatives nor the general counsel’s office responded to requests for comment.

The House also was involved in high-stakes litigation when Republicans controlled the chamber during the Obama administration, though observers say there weren’t as many big cases all at one time.

The House in 2011 intervened in litigation to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, a law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The Obama administration had abandoned a defense of the law and the Supreme Court struck it down in 2013.

In a 2014 lawsuit, the House, under Republican control, alleged the Obama administration was paying reimbursements to health insurers under the Affordable Care Act that Congress never appropriated. The House won a ruling that disallowed the payments.

A House committee also sued the Obama administration over documents it sought related to a botched gunrunning probe called Operation Fast and Furious. After years of litigation, the case settled in April, underscoring that a subpoena battle can have a longer legal life than a political one.

Write to Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com


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