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It Was a Wild Day in Washington Yesterday. Here's What Went Down.

The fight between Congress and the Trump administration is escalating.

by David Gilbert
May 9 2019, 1:43pm

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The fight between Congress and the Trump administration over access to the uncensored Mueller report escalated several notches on Wednesday, with Trump invoking executive privilege while House and Senate committees focused their sights on Attorney General William Barr and looked to question Donald Trump Jr.

While lawmakers such as House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the latest events in Washington represented a “constitutional crisis,” seasoned political observers such as journalist Bob Woodward were slightly less alarmed.

"It's a constitutional confrontation. I don't think it's yet a 'crisis,'" Woodward told CNN.

But even by the standards of Trump’s chaotic presidency, it was a day of high drama in Washington. Here are the key things that happened on Wednesday:

Trump invokes executive privilege over Mueller report

Hours before a vote in the House to hold Barr in contempt for failing to present an uncensored version of the Mueller report and its underlying evidence, Trump took things into his own hands.

He invoked executive privilege to block the release of the full report, a move which many saw as a significant escalation in the constitutional confrontation between the government’s executive and legislative branches.

Trump vowed to fight “all” Congressional subpoenas, in what legal experts have called an extraordinary act with little known precedent.

House Judiciary Committee holds Barr in contempt

Just hours after Trump’s announcement, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to place Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over the full, unredacted Mueller report.

The step follows accusations that Barr misrepresented the contents of Mueller’s report before it was released and lied to Congress, something that, in theory at least, could result in Barr spending a year in prison.

Wednesday’s vote tees up a full House vote later this month, but even if the contempt citation is approved, Democrats know they are very limited in avenues left open to them to bring any charges against Barr.

House Intelligence Committee subpoenas Barr

Next up it was the House Intelligence Committee’s turn to try and force the Justice Department to cough up the full report, issuing a subpoena to try force Barr to hand over documents related to the Mueller investigation.

“Congress has a vital constitutional role in evaluating misconduct by the Executive Branch, including the President, and to assess and refine laws that address the ‘sweeping and systematic’ invasion of our democracy by Russia,” Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif) said in a statement. “We therefore need these materials in order to do our job. The Department’s stonewalling is simply unacceptable.”

Schiff said if the DOJ denied the request he would take the fight to the courts.

The Senate Intelligence Committee gets in on the action

Not wanting to be left out, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee announced later on Wednesday that it was going to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. to testify in private about the Russian investigation.

Trump Jr. has already given hours of testimony to both the Senate Intel Committee and the Mueller investigators in relation to Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election — in particular the infamous Trump Tower meeting.

Trump Jr. has not responded publicly to the subpoena, but one source speaking to Axios said the president’s eldest son sees the move as “an obvious P.R. stunt.

Many Republican voiced their criticism of Committee Chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) for issuing the subpoena.

Congress moves closer to getting hold of Trump’s taxes

The New York Senate voted 39-21 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would allow the release of Trump’s state tax returns to Congress.

The TRUST Act would allow the New York tax commissioner to release any state tax return requested by one of three congressional committees — House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation — for any “specific and legitimate legislative purpose.”

The move comes after the Treasury Department blocked efforts by Congress to get hold of Trump’s personal and business federal tax returns on Monday. Trump’s is state tax returns would likely contain similar information to the federal returns.

“This bill is a workaround to a White House that continues to obstruct and stonewall the legitimate oversight work of Congress,” Nadler said in a statement Wednesday. “The state return should generally match the federal return and obtaining it from New York State will enable us in Congress to perform our oversight function and maintain the rule of law.”

On Tuesday the New York Times reported that Trump’s businesses had lost more than $1.1 billion over the course of a 10-year period from 1985 to 1994, based on a review of printouts from Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts.

COVER IMAGE: President Donald Trump speaking to reporters before leaving the White House in Washington on Jan. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)