In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The Democrats on the House Oversight Committee on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Trump administration over its refusal to share documents about President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel.

“This hotel is not just a building with Donald Trump’s name on it,” House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings said in a statement announcing the lawsuit Thursday. “It is a glaring symbol of the Trump Administration’s lack of accountability and a daily reminder of the refusal by Republicans in Congress to do their job. This may be standard operating procedure in foreign countries—but not here. Not in America.”

“We regret that we have to go to court to obtain these basic documents, which are clearly within our Committee’s jurisdiction,” Cummings added. “We would not be here today if Chairman Gowdy and his Republican colleagues would do their jobs. In my opinion, House Republicans are aiding and abetting President Trump’s ongoing abuses. Republicans are essentially walling off President Trump from credible congressional oversight.”

In the lawsuit, 17 Democratic members of the committee asked the court to compel the Trump administration to turn over the documents they have requested about the hotel’s operation and the General Services Administration’s oversight of the lease.

Since Trump took office, his hotel in Washington, D.C. has come under scrutiny from Democrats and outside groups who charge that the hotel presents a conflict of interest for the President. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have sought information on payments to the hotel from foreign entities, which may violate the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution. Democrats have also argued that the hotel presents a conflict of interest for Trump since the lease appeared to prohibit an elected official from being a party to the lease, but the GSA ruled otherwise in March.

Democrats on the committee have sought documents on the Trump hotel from the GSA, but the administration has refused to comply with the requests, according to the complaint. The Obama administration provided minority members of the Oversight Committee with documents, including information on the Trump hotel. But the Trump administration has taken a different tack, the Democrats on the committee allege in the complaint.

In the lawsuit, the Democratic members argue that they have a right to obtain this information under the “Seven Member” statute, which states the federal government must turn over requested documents to any seven members of the House Oversight Committee. The statute has not been used frequently since it became law in 1928, but a district court judge ruled in 2002 that the Bush administration were required to turn over data to Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, based on the “Seven Member” rule. The federal government appealed the ruling, but the matter was resolved in a separate Freedom of Information Act case.

As the Democrats noted in their complaint, they have requested information from the GSA on the Trump hotel’s operating costs, the GSA’s correspondence with Trump’s company and information on the President’s potential conflict of interest as a party to the hotel lease. However, the GSA declined to share the documents several times, and ultimately told the committee Democrats in July 2017 that it would only comply with requests from the full committee or chairman, according to the complaint.

This decision from the GSA came after the administration said it would comply with a request from seven members of the committee in February 2017, per the complaint.

In the complaint, the Democratic members argue that they need the documents from the GSA in order to evaluate the GSA’s oversight of the lease, determine whether Trump is benefitting from the lease, and determine whether the Trump hotel has received payments from foreign entities.

Read the complaint:

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Republican lawmakers confirmed to TPM Thursday morning, hours before the rollout of the long-awaited GOP tax bill, that contrary to President Trump’s demands, the legislation would not include a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

But many lawmakers, including the head of the large and influential Republican Study Committee, said despite fears of tanking the entire bill over the controversial health care provision, they still may fight for its inclusion in the weeks to come.

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House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) on Wednesday afternoon called out the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for their failure to fully respond to the committee’s document requests regarding air travel by Trump administration officials.

Cummings said in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) that the White House has failed to respond to the committee’s request by the Oct. 31 deadline and said that HHS did not completely fulfill the committee’s document request.

“By now, the White House and HHS should have produced complete manifests with lists of all passengers who joined these flights, as well as the full costs of each flight,” Cummings wrote. “Unfortunately, the White House has provided no response whatsoever to the Committee’s bipartisan follow-up request on October 17, 2017. We have received no manifests, destinations, dates of use, purposes, or costs of trips. We have received no information on why the White House has failed to respond to this Committee’s second request for these documents.”

Without documents from the White House, the Oversight Committee cannot determine how often White House counselor Kellyanne Conway joined former HHS Secretary Tom Price on non-commercial flights, Cummings said. Conway joined Price for several flights on private planes, according to Politico.

While HHS did submit documents to the Oversight Committee, the documents were “so highly redacted that it is impossible to tell which other government officials or non-government officials joined Secretary Price on his charter flights,” Cummings wrote.

“For example, if Ms. Conway in fact joined any of these trips, it appears that her name has been intentionally concealed from these documents to eliminate any public reference to her participation,” Cummings said in the statement.

In the letter to Gowdy on Wednesday, Cummings called on Gowdy to issue subpoenas to the White House and HHS for the documents requested by the committee.

After several Cabinet officials came under scrutiny for using non-commercial planes, the Oversight Committee asked the White House and all departments to turn over their air travel records to the committee. Gowdy threatened to subpoena the Justice Department and Agriculture Department for not complying with the request, extending the deadline until the end of October. It’s not clear if those two agencies have yet to comply with the request. Gowdy also warned several agencies, including HHS, that they had not fully complied with the request.

Price pledged to repay the government for his seats on the non-commercial flights, but Cummings said in his Wednesday letter that neither HHS nor the Treasury Department have provided the committee with a copy of the check.

Check out an example of the documents redacted by HHS published by Cummings:

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday night called for the suspect in Tuesday’s attack in New York City to face the death penalty, continuing his calls for the perpetrator to face harsh consequences for the attack that left eight dead and 11 injured.

Since the attack, Trump has been quick to call for changes to immigration procedures, as well as swift punishment for the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old who came to the U.S. legally from Uzbekistan in 2010.

On Wednesday afternoon, Trump told reporters in the White House that there should be “punishment that’s far quicker, and far greater, than the punishment these animals are getting right now.” Asked if he would consider sending the suspect to Guantanamo Bay, Trump said he would “certainly” consider it.

The President was also quick to blame the attack on the immigration system in the U.S., targeting the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. He called for an end to that program and has called several times for more intense “vetting” of immigrants.

Trump’s speedy reaction and calls for harsh punishment and policy changes differs from the tack he took in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. In that instance, Trump often focused on the law enforcement response to the attack that left nearly 60 people dead. The White House also said it was “premature” to discuss changes to gun control policy a few days after the shooting.

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Cameron Joseph contributed reporting

President Donald Trump’s Twitter demand Wednesday morning that a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate be inserted in the Republican tax bill came out of the blue—and it’s going over like a lead balloon on Capitol Hill.

The lead author of the tax plan, set to be unveiled on Thursday, as well as moderate Republicans whose votes are crucial for its passage and conservative allies of the President, say they’re opposed to adding in the mandate repeal this late in the game, and warn that doing so could put the entire bill in jeopardy.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning suggested using the tax reform bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, echoing comments Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) made earlier this week.

A spokesperson for Cotton confirmed to TPM that the senator spoke with Trump about the proposal over the weekend and that Trump indicated support for the measure.

Cotton told reporters Monday night that he is leading a push to use the tax bill to nix the individual mandate, working with the House and Senate committees leading the process. The senator said that several lawmakers are supportive of the provision.

The senator claimed that repealing the individual mandate would save the federal government $300 billion over 10 years without causing any Americans to lose their health insurance. As TPM has pointed out, the Congressional Budget Office found in 2011 that nixing the individual mandate would save the government money because fewer people would purchase health insurance. Healthy people would leave the insurance market, causing premiums to rise and leaving insurance coverage unaffordable for sicker Americans, that same report found.

Trump published the tweets on nixing the individual mandate on the first day of open enrollment during his presidency. The administration plans to promote open enrollment by sending notices and text messages encouraging people to enroll or re-enroll and staffing call centers at the same level the government did last year. However, the administration has axed partnerships with outside groups to promote open enrollment and has made significant cuts to the Health and Human Services’ overall budget for Obamacare promotion and education.

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Hispanic lawmakers are demanding answers from the Department of Health and Human Services after months of the agency stonewalling them on changes to the Affordable Care Act they fear will hurt the Latino population.

“There’s a fundamental lack of transparency and accountability from this administration,” Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) told TPM Wednesday. “You would think as members of Congress we would have some kind of communication, but even we are not getting answers. So imagine your average American out there looking for answers as to how to enroll in health insurance—it’d be impossible.”

This week, as the first full open enrollment period of the Trump administration kicks off, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus fired off a letter to HHS demanding a meeting right away. The letter is a follow-up to one the group sent over the summer demanding answers after a TPM investigation revealed HHS had severed partnerships with dozens of Latino organizations that worked with the government in past years to promote open enrollment. Since that August letter, HHS never met with the Hispanic lawmakers or answered their questions about the rollback of Latino outreach.

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Following an attack in New York City on Tuesday that left eight people dead and 11 injured, President Donald Trump quickly called for the Department of Homeland Security to intensify its vetting procedures for immigrants.

Trump also linked the attack to the Islamic State, even though authorities had yet to determine that the suspect has any ties to the terrorist group. NBC News reported that law enforcement found a note from the suspect indicating he carried out the attack on behalf of the Islamic State, but that report surfaced after Trump published his tweet.

Trump did offer his condolences to the victims of the attack, but only after linking the attack to the Islamic State.

Authorities have identified the suspect in the attack as Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old man from Uzbekistan who immigrated to the U.S. legally. Uzbekistan is not one of the countries listed in the Trump administration’s travel ban targeting majority Muslim countries.

Saipov drove a rented truck down a bike path in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, mowing down people before exiting the vehicle. He then pulled out two handguns and yelled “God is great” in Arabic, according to law enforcement.

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On the eve of the first full open enrollment period of the Trump era, several independent studies estimate that enrollment will drop this year as a result of the administration’s actions to gut outreach funding, cancel planned subsidy payments to insurers, and sow confusion with public statements declaring the Affordable Care Act “dead.”

S&P Global Ratings published a report Tuesday projecting that enrollment will drop between 7 and 13 percent compared to last year—meaning between 0.8 and 1.6 million more people will go uninsured in 2018.

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Three Republican senators told TPM on Tuesday that they oppose calls from former White House adviser Steve Bannon to defund Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and administration and the Russian government. Because Republicans only have a 52-seat majority in the Senate, those three would be enough to block such a bill from passage if it ever came to the Senate floor.

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