Wall

President Trump said Friday an additional 1,500 troops will be deployed to the Middle East as a bulwark against Iran.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan specified the number in a statement shortly after Trump mentioned it, while answering reporters’ questions on the White House lawn.

“We want to have protection The Middle East, we’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” Trump said. “It’ll be about 1,500 people.”

Shanahan issued the statement shortly after President Trump announced more troops would be deployed to the region. AP reported Thursday troop levels could reach as high as 10,000, while the Wall Street Journal reported 3,000.

“The additional deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility is a prudent defensive measure and intended to reduce the possibility of future hostilities,” Shanahan said in the Pentagon statement. “I remain committed to ensuring U.S. personnel have the force protection resources they need and deserve.”

The deployment will consist of a Patriot missile defense battalion, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, an engineer element tasked with providing force protection improvement in the region, and a fighter squadron, according to Shanahan. The new forces will bolster forces that were deployed to the region earlier this month, including the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group, the USS Arlington amphibious warfare ship, and a task force of B-52 bombers.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated in recent weeks. A rocket exploded close to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday. While it is unclear who launched it, the model is known to be trafficked and used by Iran. Earlier this month, U.S Central Command put troops in Iraq and Syria on high alert in response to perceived Iranian threats. The State Department also evacuated non-emergency personnel from Iraq.

A House Republican blocked the passage of a $19.1 billion disaster relief package that lawmakers hoped to send to President Trump’s desk after months of partisan fighting had stalled the money.

Final passage will now have to wait until the week of June 3, when House lawmakers return from a recess.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, opposed passing the measure by unanimous consent, delaying consideration until the House returns.

Democrats hoped to approve the spending measure by unanimous consent, which does not require a roll-call vote. Republicans are in the minority, so Democrats will be able to pass the measure with a roll-call vote when lawmakers return.

The measures stalled despite a bipartisan accord struck between leaders in the House and Senate, and after Trump agreed to lift some demands that had been holding up the bill. Other lawmakers also agreed to drop some of their funding requests that were stalling talks.

[Related: Senate approves $19.B disaster aid package]

Roy cited the high price tag for the measure, arguing it deserved floor debate. He also pointed to the lack of funding needed to deal with a humanitarian crisis on the border that the president had been seeking.

The House could attempt to pass the measure once again in the next pro forma session on Thursday, but it would again invite a possible GOP objection.

Democrats denounced the move.

“House Republicans’ last-minute sabotage of an overwhelmingly bipartisan disaster relief bill is an act of staggering political cynicism,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “Countless American families hit by devastating natural disasters across the country will now be denied the relief they urgently need.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey offered similar sentiments.

“After President Trump and Senate Republicans delayed disaster relief for more than four months, it is deeply disappointing that House Republicans are now making disaster victims wait even longer to get the help they need,” Lowey, D-N.Y., said.

[Also read: What’s Trump covering up? Democrats seek ‘the impeachable truth’]

“We must pass this bicameral, bipartisan bill, and we will keep working to get it through the House and onto the president’s desk.”

Trump agreed to sign the bill without $4.5 billion in emergency funding to help deal with the recent surge in illegal immigration along the southern border. Removing the border funding eased the agreement. Democrats were opposed to its inclusion, and Trump agreed to leave it out after talks with Republicans Thursday. Senate Republican leaders said Thursday they’ll attempt to move the border security funding separately.

The Senate passed the measure yesterday with overwhelming bipartisan support, but with criticism from GOP leaders.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., criticized Democrats for blocking the money Trump was seeking, arguing the funds are needed for humanitarian aid in response to thousands of migrant families crossing into the United States from Mexico.

“This wasn’t money for the wall, or even for law enforcement. It was money so that the federal government could continue to house, feed, and care for the men, women, and children showing up on our southern border,” McConnell said. “Money for agencies that are currently running on fumes.”

The measure also includes millions of dollars more for Puerto Rico despite Trump’s argument that the island has already received enough disaster aid.

[Read: Trump says he has ‘taken better care of Puerto Rico than any man ever’]

Democrats blamed Trump and the GOP for the delay in passing the package and called the humanitarian funding “extraneous.”

“It’s good that Republicans finally came to their senses and realized that Puerto Rico and other disaster-impacted areas deserve to be treated fairly and that extraneous provisions shouldn’t be added to the disaster relief package,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

It would provide more than $3 billion for farm crop damage due to storms and nearly $1 billion for the Marine Corps and Air Force to repair bases and restore equipment damaged by recent hurricanes.

The measure would also provide $600 million to the Economic Development Administration to provide grants to areas damaged by storms in 2018 and 2019.

[Related: Bipartisan pair introduces Puerto Rico statehood bill in Congress]

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Grab your popcorn ?! Trump gives Barr green light to declassify 2016 campaign surveillance documents; I’m Excited Are You?!

Trump gives Barr green light to declassify 2016 campaign surveillance documents; Travel ban over abortion law

Friday, May 24, 2019

Trump gives Barr the green light to unseal documents on the 2016 surveillance of the Trump campaign
President Trump on Thursday night issued a memo giving Attorney General William Barr the See More authority to declassify any documents related to surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016. Trump also ordered the intelligence community to cooperate with Barr. U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, blasted the move as an attempt to “weaponize law enforcement and classified information.” Trump has long claimed his campaign was the victim of “spying,” though the intelligence community has insisted it acted lawfully in following leads in the Russia investigation.

Last month, Barr ran into a buzz saw of criticism from Democratic lawmakers and media figures for testifying that “spying did occur” against the Trump campaign. But despite the backlash, the attorney general appeared to be referring to intelligence collection that already has been widely reported and confirmed.

Alleged Trump ‘cover-up’: A second generation of the ‘Russia witch hunt’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim of a presidential “cover-up” is the second generation of the Russia collusion “witch hunt,”according to a White House spokesman. Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley made the claim Thursday on “The Story with Martha MacCallum,” describing the continuing Democrat push for further investigations as “the Russia collusion hoax witch hunt 2.0.” Gidley’s comments came asTrump and Pelosi and other Democrats continued to snipe at each other over Wednesday’s scuttled meeting on infrastructure. White House officials insist Trump was calm when he cut short the meeting with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Pelosi and Schumer insist Trump was agitated and threw the equivalent of a presidential temper tantrum when he abruptly ended the session. The president has demanded Democrats end their “phony investigations” before he negotiates with them on issues like infrastructure. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo, TD Bank Thursday turned over Trump’s financial records to Democrats in the House Financial Services Committee led by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

Theresa May says she’ll quit as Conservative leader June 7

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced Friday that she will resign — ending her months-long struggle to keep her job despite seething anger from her own Conservative Party over her handling of Brexit. “I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high. But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort,” she said outside 10 Downing Street.

LA lawmakers approve Alabama travel ban over new abortion law
Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors voted this week to enact a one-year ban on official travel to Alabama over that state’s controversial abortion law, which all but outlaws the procedure. Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who co-authored the motion with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, called the law an “attack not only confined to the residents of those states but an act of aggression upon all of us.” The motion prohibits officials conducting business on behalf of the county from traveling to Alabama except for emergency response, training or assistance or “legally required matters where the failure to authorize such travel would seriously harm the County’s interests,” Solis said in a statement.

Pete Hegseth op-ed: Let’s stop second-guessing our war heroes
In a feature on FoxNews.com, “Fox & Friends” weekend co-host and Iraq war veteran Pete Hegsethexplains why he wants critics to stop questioning the tactics U.S. troops employ on the battlefield. He writes the following: “We send men to fight on our behalf, and too often second-guess the manner in which they fight. Count me out on the Monday-morning quarterbacking — I’m with the American warfighter, all the way. … I’m not talking about massacres or sheer recklessness. None of us ever contemplated the killing of women and children for sport. We didn’t shoot innocent civilians for fun. There may be a few deranged combat troops, and they will get their due. Yet, too often, when warfighters come home they are second-guessed. Prosecuted by lawyers who never left their air-conditioned offices or politicians with ulterior motives.”

CLICK HERE to read Hegseth’s commentary and tune in to “Fox & Friends” today, between 6 and 9 am ET, where he will further explain his point of view.

$44M #MeToo settlement for Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein, the former movie mogul accused of sex crimes by multiple women, hasreached a tentative $44 million settlement to resolve lawsuits filed against him by his accusers, creditors and board members of his former film studio, according to multiple reports Thursday night. Under the proposed settlement, which has not been finalized, $30 million would be paid to the plaintiffs — including former employees of Weinstein Co. — and $14 million would go to pay legal fees, with the funds coming from insurance policies, the Wall Street Journal reported.

TODAY’S MUST-READS
‘Ingraham Angle’ Exclusive: Homeland Security boss defends against family-separation accusations at border.
Dionne Warwick says she doubts Beyoncé will reach icon status. 
Dr. Drew Pinsky warns Los Angeles could be at risk of a deadly epidemic this summer.

MINDING YOUR BUSINESS
Trump rolls out second aid package for farmers worth $16B amid US-China trade war.
House passes major retirement reform bill: What it means for your 401(k), IRA.
McDonald’s not ready to jump on the plant-based meat bandwagon yet.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — She’s calling for an “intervention” to save the nation from him. He says she’s “crazy.”

The enmity between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deteriorated Thursday into rude-and-then-some questioning of his fitness for office and her sanity, with personal attacks flowing from both the nation’s top elected officials after a dramatic blow-up at the White House.

However intended, the exchanges left uncertain ahead of the 2020 election whether Trump and the Democrats will be able to work together on serious, must-pass tasks, such as funding the government and raising the federal borrowing limit, let alone thornier issues such as immigration, national security and more.

Pelosi went first, with demure shrugs and practiced sass. Then, as a tornado warning blared across Washington, Trump followed with a derisive nickname — something he had declined to give her, up to now.

“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 the day before when he walked out after three minutes at a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer.

“Crazy Nancy. … I watched Nancy and she was all crazy yesterday.”

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

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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Pelosi scolded back:

“When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues,” she tweeted.

There was more, before and after that exchange, for political enthusiasts with the time and interest to follow along.

For those who don’t: The theater came a day after Trump stalked out of the Cabinet Room demanding an end to all congressional investigations before he would work with Congress on repairing U.S. infrastructure or other matters. He apparently was wound up generally over the ongoing congressional Trump-Russia probes into whether he obstructed justice, and specifically by Pelosi’s jab a few minutes earlier at the Capitol that he “is engaged in a cover-up.”

“I don’t do cover-ups,” fumed Trump, who is fighting subpoenas for testimony by current and former White House officials.

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 special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which described Trump’s efforts to block his federal investigation. Pelosi has resisted that impeachment pressure, preferring a methodical process by which Congress investigates and lays out the facts on the question of obstruction of justice. She says the House is “not on a path to impeachment,” but she’s been clear this week that an impeachment inquiry is not off the table.

Short of that, she’s been happy to give Trump a hard time all year, including questioning his manhood and forcing him to re-open the government without the border wall money he demanded. On Thursday, she said the White House is “crying out” for impeachment — the idea being that a vindication by the Republican-controlled Senate would help assure his re-election.

On Thursday, subtlety went by the wayside. 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.

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.”

Trump denied he wanted the House to formally charge him.

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

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 what he does isn’t all strategic.

“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 said she thought a reporter had asked about “statutory” intervention, the 25th Amendment.

“That’s a good idea,” she said with a smile. “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 Wednesday that was supposed to be about bridges and other crumbling infrastructure.

“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.”

Trump tweeted back: “Nancy, thank you so much for your prayers, I know you truly mean it!”

___

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

___

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

Counselor Kellyanne Conway, White House communications director Mercedes Schlapp, deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House on Thursday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON—President Trump smiled as he entered the Roosevelt Room in the White House, armed with $16 billion in good news for farmers struggling amid his continuing trade conflict with China. By the time he left, Mr. Trump had effectively carpet bombed what little remained of his relationship with congressional Democrats by mocking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s intelligence, ridiculing her speaking style and calling the first woman to lead the U.S. House “a mess.”

Thursday brought another episode of the Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi show, culminating in a roster of senior presidential advisers lining up along the wall of the historic room attesting to how calmly Mr. Trump had handled Wednesday’s installment.

With more than a dozen American farmers looking on, including an Idahoan wearing a red “Make Potatoes Great Again” hat, Mr. Trump was asked by reporters about comments from Mrs. Pelosi earlier in the day that the president’s family should stage an intervention after his behavior during a meeting on Wednesday. At that gathering, Mr. Trump told Democrats he wouldn’t work with them while investigations of him continued and then abruptly stormed out of the room before anyone else could speak.

Mr. Trump responded to the question by calling upon five White House aides—one after the other—to stand in front of TV cameras and vouch for the prudence and discipline he said he displayed at a meeting a day earlier with Democrats.

“No temper tantrum,” said Kellyanne Conway, his counselor. Hogan Gidley, a deputy press secretary, wasn’t even in the room for the meeting, but still attested to the president’s composure. Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser who is hobbled with a bad hip, leaned on a cane as he limped to the front of the room to tell his boss, in front of television cameras, “You were very calm.”

President Trump lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling her ‘crazy’ after she suggested the president’s family stage an intervention, and asked his staff to vouch for his calm and collected behavior as a dozen farmers looked on. Photo: EPA

“I’m an extremely stable genius,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

After 28 months in office, Mr. Trump has amassed a highlight reel of astonishing, must-see moments on live television, and his impromptu news conference on Thursday provided another. The latest performance demonstrated his concern about Mrs. Pelosi’s comments and his desire to counter. Often that happens on Twitter, but he has twice in two days delivered his ripostes in televised news conferences from the White House.

The round of testimonials from his staff most closely recalled the unusual cabinet meeting in June 2017, when agency heads and senior staff—men and women Mr. Trump had nominated or hired—showered him with adulation as the TV cameras rolled. “We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people,” Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff at the time, told him.

The cabinet meeting two years ago came as the administration’s travel ban had been blocked again by an appeals court and as then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions agreed to testify in public about his connections to an investigation of Russian meddlings in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump unleashed his latest performance amid escalating tensions between he and Mrs. Pelosi.

Before traveling to the White House to meet with Mr. Trump Wednesday, Mrs. Pelosi accused the Republican president of engaging in a “coverup” as a growing faction of Democrats called for Mr. Trump’s impeachment. She described Mr. Trump as having a “temper tantrum” at their meeting in the White House and on Thursday urged his staff and his family to “have an intervention for the good of the country.

“I pray for the president of the United States,” she said, adding that “this is not behavior that rises to the dignity of the office of president of the United States.”

Mr. Trump’s frustration was palpable in the White House on Thursday. He said that he made a point of telling his staff he would be calm with Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer so that they couldn’t accuse him of “ranting and raving.” Mr. Trump had wanted to avoid a repeat of his meeting with leaders in January over a government shutdown, when, frustrated after the lack of progress, he ended it after 20 minutes by putting his hands in the air—two open palms on either side of his face—and said, “Bye-bye,” and left the room.

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Democrats left that meeting saying Mr. Trump had pounded the desk in anger, but he denied acting violently. Mr. Trump said on Thursday that he left his meeting on Wednesday and “went directly to the press conference” to show reporters he was calm and stave off accusations that he was fuming.

“I didn’t want them to say I did it—they said it anyway,” Mr. Trump said, closing his eyes for effect.

Mr. Trump’s complained about “the narrative” from Democrats about him. And accused them of lying to score political points. “They don’t feel they can win the election,” he said about his re-election campaign in 2020. “So they’re trying to do the thousand stabs.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who momentarily left the news conference, returned as staff was praising the president. She added some levity when Mr. Trump asked if he was “screaming and ranting and raving” at the meeting, or if he was calm.

“I’ve seen both,” she said. “This was definitely not angry or ranting. Very calm and straightforward.”

The response drew laughs from much of the room, but not Mr. Trump, who only flashed a brief but tight smile.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who was in the room for the announcement about aid to farmers, said it was “frustrating” that the positive news for farmers likely would be overshadowed by Mr. Trump’s latest back-and-forth with Mrs. Pelosi.

“Obviously he is a very passionate leader,” Mr. Perdue said.

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com

Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., calls on President Trump to replicate former President Ronald Reagan’s example in Grenada, and use military force to remove Nicolás Maduro from power in Venezuela.

Reagan, Graham writes, “intervened militarily, ensuring Grenada didn’t become a satellite state of Cuba. The U.S. must be willing to intervene in Venezuela the way we did in Grenada. Mr. Trump should tell Cuba to withdraw all security forces from Venezuela immediately. If Cuba doesn’t comply, the U.S. should move military assets to the region.”

While I share Graham’s concern over Venezuela’s humanitarian disaster, which will get worse in the coming months, Venezuela is not Grenada.

Absent an attack by Maduro on U.S. interests, or against interim president Juan Guaidó, or against Colombia, it would not be in the U.S. national interest to use force. This is not to say that the United States should avoid a presence of force in and around Venezuelan territory. But invading Venezuela would be a lot more complicated than invading tiny Grenada. Venezuela is 2,629 times bigger than Grenada in land area. As an island, Grenada is also a lot easier to access and control. The U.S. Navy could simply surround Grenada and dominate the mobility of its forces. Venezuela? Forget it.

Venezuela’s military is also significantly more advanced than Grenada’s was when the U.S. invaded in 1983. While many Venezuelan units would likely surrender at first contact with U.S. forces, that cannot be guaranteed. In addition, Venezuelan regime loyalists in asymmetric formations such as the colectivos would pose a continuing challenge even after Maduro was removed. In short, the risks and complexities of a military operation against Venezuela must be weighed against any benefits.

This doesn’t mean that Trump should sit idle. His administration has invested too much credibility to surrender the rightful interim president of Venezuela Guaidó to Maduro. But Trump himself has presented the alternative to military means of driving Maduro out: obstructing Cuba’s oil theft. If the Cubans lose Venezuelan oil, they will be forced to abandon Maduro. That’s the way to move forward, not through an invasion.

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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How big a role should courts play, if any, when the legislative and executive branches of government are at odds? Join the conversation below.

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

According to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Andrew Kaczynski is a sexist shill for the Republican Party. This is news to me, as it will be to anyone who’s been following Kaczynski and his investigative journalism for nearly a decade.

There are about a dozen or so problems with this tweet. For starters, the article shared by Kaczynski wasn’t even written by him; two women at the Washington Post wrote it. And Ocasio-Cortez’s blatant attack on the independent press aside, the notion that Kaczynski is targeting Democrats instead of the agents of Ocasio-Cortez’s much reviled “Big Capitalism” is downright laughable. Kaczynski’s investigative journalism has derailed the careers of multiple Trump appointees. He did it purely by digging up damaging media and writings from years past.

But the article Kaczynski shared didn’t even pretend to tell of a scandal. It was just a story, and a relevant one at that, if only judging by Ocasio-Cortez’s freak-out.

If Ocasio-Cortez had bothered to click on the piece, she probably would’ve made it to the second paragraph, which explicitly states:

Warren’s presidential campaign released a list of 56 cases on her website Wednesday night, revealing a far higher number of cases than Warren (D-Mass.) had previously disclosed and lending detail to an aspect of her career that she rarely discusses in public. The Washington Post had requested a detailed accounting of her outside work and was conducting a review of her work from public records.

Ocasio-Cortez’s outrage and the 11,000 livid comments on Kaczynski’s tweet point to a disturbing trend of the public increasingly expecting journalists to behave like partisans rather than objective reporters and investigators of the facts. Perhaps that’s because far too many in the media have indulged their biases, but it certainly doesn’t help that politicians from Ocasio-Cortez to President Trump alike are cheering on and then deriding the press based on how politically expedient their coverage ends up being.

To be clear, Warren signed up for the scrutiny. All politicians do. Hell, her own party is using subpoena power against the president to acquire financial disclosures without any substantive allegation, let alone evidence of criminal or corrupt financial conduct in office. Should Trump’s professional past be off-limits too? Or does this new standard only apply to poor, helpless women?

The Post’s journalists are only doing their job in reporting on the cases Warren took on while teaching and, given Warren’s demonstrated tenuous relationship with the truth, whether she was honest about her disclosures regarding them. If Ocasio-Cortez thinks that’s sexist, she needs thicker skin. If she can’t handle it, maybe she just doesn’t belong in the spotlight of public office.

Sure, find fault with the Post not immediately contextualizing the cost of Warren’s work. Though, of course, there is great irony that Ocasio-Cortez, whose ideology is based on envy of the rich, should screech that Kaczynski is just jealous of Warren’s wealth. But don’t deny the validity of a story about the professional past of someone who wants to become the leader of the free world.

Exit question: With former Vice President Joe Biden taking the wind out of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., sails in the polls, Ocasio-Cortez still has an endorsement decision to make. Does she back the single most significant socialist in American politics since Eugene V. Debs, or does she send the old white man packing in favor of #GirlPower?

Other than offering some vague nods to “border security,” Democrats never put forth any policy that would prevent the hundreds of thousands of unknown people streaming into the U.S. Yet if you point out that the party doesn’t care about securing the border, a confounded news anchor will insist, “Silly fool! Why, everyone supports border security!”

It’s a cover-up for what Democrats truly believe in: An open border that discriminates against no one from anywhere.

Look at any one of the Democrats running for the party’s presidential nomination, and you will not find a single policy proposal that would stop a single illegal entrant. Or even just the top five of them in the RealClearPolitics national average.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s plan on his website: “We have got to address the root causes of migration that push people to leave behind their homes and everything they know to undertake a dangerous journey for the chance at a better life.” It says nothing about halting the obscene numbers of migrants showing up at the border with bogus claims for asylum or the illegal border crossers with histories of child sex abuse and violent gang affiliations caught daily. Ah, but it does check the empty “secure our border and enforce our laws” banality.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders calls for expanding protections for illegal immigrants already in the U.S., “developing a humane policy for those seeking asylum,” and virtually eliminating the deportation and detention of illegal aliens altogether. Sanders’ website doesn’t even bother nodding to the “border security” cliché.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren doesn’t mention immigration at all on her website. But in interviews, she says the same nothing that every Democrat says. “We need an immigration system that is effective, that focuses on where problems are,” she said Wednesday on CNN, though Democrats never seem to find “where the problems are” when talking about the topic. They deny that even one illegal immigrant might be a rapist or drug dealer, even though there are scores of them. They deny that there’s a “crisis” at the border, where five children have died in recent weeks. They deny that illegal immigrants soak up welfare benefits (even though they do). So where exactly are the “problems”? Warren said in the interview that “we need immigration laws that focus on people who pose a real threat,” but how exactly do Democrats define “real threat”? They apparently see no threat, otherwise they wouldn’t oppose the construction of a border wall with the fury of a volcano god.

California Sen. Kamala Harris has compared Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the Ku Klux Klan, called on Senate Democrats to resist funding any measure or resource on the border that functions to apprehend and detain illegal border crossers, and made protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients among her top issues. I think we know where she stands on “border security.”

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg finally got some policy positions on his website and he proposes “immigration laws to reflect today’s humanitarian and economic needs” as well as “reasonable security measures at the border.” Well, I feel better now, how about you? Last month, Buttigieg said he would be happy to welcome an infinite number of immigrants, legal or not, to his city, where he thought they would contribute to the snowplowing and need for more firefighters. Aw, shucks! Is that what the tiny Guatemalan woman who arrived at the Texas border with seven children wanted to do all along? Why didn’t they say so? Hand them each a helmet and hose!

The 2020 Democrats, with the media’s help, will either avoid the immigration issue as long as possible, or keep repeating “border security, border security, border security” in hopes that no one notices what they’re really after: Open borders and unabated immigration.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A dozen times, Rep. Ayanna Pressley asked the witness for a yes or no answer on housing policy.

Not once did Ben Carson, President Donald Trump’s housing secretary, give her one. Instead, he mocked her: “Yes or no, can you ask me some questions yourself and stop reading?” Other times, he repeated: “You already know the answer.”

“I know the answer,” snapped Pressley. “Do YOU know the answer?”

It was a smaller pop in the epic struggle over who’s in charge in Washington these days, reflecting the dynamics crackling high and low across the battlefield of divided American government. Meeting by meeting, questions of competence, generational change, #MeToo politics, special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, and the 2020 elections are animating the fight for power. Even as Trump and his top Cabinet officials refuse to cooperate with congressional investigations, there is evidence that newly empowered Democrats are slowly — sometimes messily — resetting the balance after Trump’s first two years in office under Republican congressional control.

This week alone, a selection of skirmishes big and small played out in public, including a Trump-size explosion by noon on Wednesday. In the span of three hours: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi jabbed at him, telling reporters that “the president is engaged in a cover-up,” repeating for emphasis, “a cover-up” — and breezily added that she was due at the White House for a meeting on infrastructure.

Two Democratic lawmakers stumped Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in a hearing on Tuesday. They asked him about acronyms that relate to the federal government and housing. (May 22)

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On his turf, Trump blew up that gathering in under three minutes, refusing to shake anyone’s hand or take a seat. He announced he could not do such a deal “under the circumstances” of “phony investigations” — and stalked out. Pelosi then I-told-ya-so’d to the people still in the Cabinet Room: “I knew the president was not serious about infrastructure and would find a way out,” according to a Democratic aide.

“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. In any event I pray for the president of the United States,” Pelosi, going on with her day, said later.

It was the latest sass she’d aimed at Trump after questioning his manhood, clapping and smirking at him at the State of the Union speech and, before that, forcing him to reopen the government without the money he demanded for his border wall.

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

It’s more than a public shoving match between septuagenarians at the pinnacle of American government. The spectacle Wednesday took attention away from dissention among Pelosi’s Democratic ranks over what some say looks like a march toward impeachment proceedings against Trump. But more broadly, it’s part of an ongoing tug-of-war for public perception about who has political power now and who should wield it after the 2020 presidential and congressional elections.

In hearing by hearing, across the warren of Capitol Hill, a new generation of House Democrats, including a record number of women, are transforming what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin last month called “this relationship” between the administration and, in his case, the House Financial Services Committee. There, Mnuchin tried to goad Rep. Maxine Waters, the panel’s first African American chairman, into banging her “gravel” and dismissing him. In a widely shared video, she told him not to tell her how to run the panel.

Mnuchin was back in the witness chair before her panel on Wednesday saying he has no idea who wrote a confidential IRS memo that says, according to The Washington Post, Trump’s tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president asserts executive privilege. Mnuchin said he believes he was following the law when he refused to turn over six years of Trump’s tax returns.

A day earlier, Waters’ committee also was a class in oversight for Carson, and a chance for Democrats to question the former neurosurgeon’s qualifications to serve as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Freshman Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat, lawyer and expert in foreclosure law, asked Carson whether he knew the housing term “REO.” Carson seemed to think she was referring to a popular chocolate sandwich cookie.

“An Oreo?” Carson asked.

“No, not an Oreo,” Porter said. She spelled it back for him and asked again.

Carson replied, “Real estate,” and hesitated.

“What’s the ‘O’ stand for?” Porter pressed.

Carson said, “Organization.”

“Owned,” Porter corrected him. “Real estate owned.” She explained that the term, obscure to most anyone but housing experts, refers to what happens when a property goes to foreclosure.

Later, Carson later sent Porter and a family-size box of double-stuffed Oreos. She countered, “What I’m really looking for is answers.”

His exchange with another woman on the committee — Pressley — grew especially sharp.

“It pains me that your gifted hands and mine are doing the bidding and carrying the water of what I believe is one of the most morally bankrupt presidents in our nation’s history,” Pressley, Massachusetts’ first black congresswoman, began.

Quickly though, she demanded yes or no answers, “reclaiming” her time when he refused. When she pressed, he parried, “Reclaiming my time.”

“You don’t get to do that,” Pressley said.

Waters dropped the gavel. “The time belongs to the lady.”

___

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


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