Todd Ruger

Justices ask in Census case: ‘Congress is silent. Should the court then step in?’
Conservative majority appears ready to let citizenship question stand

The House came to the Supreme Court to argue against the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — and ended up getting quizzed about why lawmakers didn’t take their own action if they wanted to stop it.

In about 90 minutes of lively questioning Tuesday, the conservative majority of the court appeared ready to defer to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add the question even though it could reduce census responses among noncitizen households.

Supreme Court to decide whether LGBTQ people are covered by Civil Rights Act
It's the first time the Supreme Court will decide a major LGBTQ rights case since the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh

The Supreme Court will decide next term whether federal law protects LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination, a major case on the politically divisive social and religious issue that will play out against the backdrop of the 2020 presidential election.

The justices announced Monday they will consider a trio of cases about prohibiting employment discrimination based on “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and whether it also covers sexual orientation and transgender persons.

House gets its say as Supreme Court takes up census citizenship question
Stakes are high as decision could affect how many House seats each state gets

The House gets a relatively rare chance to directly address the Supreme Court on Tuesday in a legal showdown about whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The case is one of the most significant for members of Congress during the current Supreme Court term. The census results determine how many House seats each state gets and affect how states redraw congressional districts. The results are also used to distribute billions of dollars from federal programs that are based on population count to state and local governments.

Mueller report’s second act: congressional scrutiny
CQ on Congress podcast, Episode 149

CQ legal affairs reporter Todd Ruger says House Democrats now have plenty of leads from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report to investigate, especially as to whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct justice.

Mueller cites ‘fairness’ in reasons not to decide if Trump obstructed justice
Such an evaluation ‘could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes,’ Mueller wrote

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III lists in his report which of President Donald Trump’s actions his team scrutinized to determine whether the president tried to obstruct justice — enough that they could not rule out that Trump committed a crime.

But Mueller’s team decided they should refrain from deciding whether Trump should be prosecuted because of several factors — including “fairness,” the unique role of the president in government and previous Justice Department opinions that a sitting president could not be indicted.

Barr declares ‘no collusion’ ahead of redacted Mueller report release
Redacted version of long-awaited report will be released Thursday before noon, attorney general says

Trump, Meadows aim to discredit Mueller report before Thursday release
Timing of report’s release confirmed by Justice Department

President Donald Trump and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows are continuing to discredit the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Russian election meddling and obstruction of justice.

A redacted version of the long-anticipated report is expected to be released Thursday, the Justice Department confirmed Monday. The president and the North Carolina Republican took to Twitter, calling the probe a hoax and suggesting that Democrats will spin findings, no matter what the report says, in a way that looks bad for Trump.

Did you say ‘spying?’ Barr walks back testimony after making a stir
Barr clears up his Senate testimony after cable news and social media buzz over one of his word choices

Attorney General William Barr sought to “please add one point of clarification” at the end of his testimony Wednesday before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee — and the veteran law enforcement official needed it.

Cable news and social media were abuzz with one of Barr’s earlier word choices, when he told senators that he would look into the work of U.S. intelligence agencies directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election because “spying did occur.”

Mueller report to be released ‘hopefully next week’ Barr says Wednesday
Barr said his redactions will not include the reputational interests of the president

Attorney General William Barr told senators Wednesday that Robert S. Mueller III has a fuller explanation of why he did not reach a conclusion about whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice in the special counsel report that will be publicly released “hopefully next week.”

That’s slightly different than “within a week” as he told House appropriators Tuesday about his plans for releasing a redacted version of Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats ponder power of the purse to get full Mueller report

Top Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee aren’t ready to wield their power over Justice Department funding to pressure Attorney General William Barr to provide the full special counsel report from Robert S. Mueller III — but they aren’t ruling it out either.

Rep. Jose E. Serrano, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the DOJ budget, told reporters that appropriators could prescribe that no dollars be used to block Mueller’s full report from being released — not that he’s saying that would happen.

Mueller’s report could be out within a week, Barr says during hearing
The attorney general appeared in front of House Appropriations to discuss the Justice Department budget

Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers Tuesday that he will be in a position to release a version of the special counsel report “within a week,” with color-coded notes explaining why he redacted any information.

Barr, before an appropriations subcommittee, reiterated that he would withhold information from the report such as grand jury material or information that could reveal counterintelligence methods or interfere with ongoing prosecutions.

Barr makes no mention of Mueller ahead of Tuesday testimony
Attorney general filed a statement with House Appropriations focused on Justice Department priorities

If House lawmakers want to hear more from Attorney General William Barr about the status of the special counsel report, it looks like they will have to bring it up themselves.

Barr filed a written statement Monday with the House Appropriations Committee ahead of his testimony Tuesday that focuses on the Justice Department’s priorities for its $29.2 billion request for fiscal 2020 — and leaves out any mention of the Russia investigation.

House Democrats launch push on VAWA expansion
The effort does more than extend the law — it adds a contentious gun control provision

House Democrats take their first step this week to expand the Violence Against Women Act in an effort to prompt the Senate to do more than simply extend the lapsed domestic violence law — and they've included a contentious gun control provision.

The House is expected to pass the bill to reauthorize the 1994 law and add language to expand housing protections for victims, give more help to Native American women and enhance law enforcement tools through grants.

Subpoenas won’t spell quick end to Mueller report fight
House Democrats don’t have a way to quickly enforce executive branch compliance

If Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee authorize congressional subpoenas Wednesday for the full special counsel report and underlying evidence, it won’t immediately start a legal showdown between the legislative and executive branches.

But the resolution would give Chairman Jerrold Nadler the discretion to throw the first punch, even as the terms of that looming separation of powers fight remain unsettled.

Trump’s district court picks are languishing. That could change
Senate rules change would shift focus to lower court nominees

As much as Senate Republicans pushed to confirm President Donald Trump’s appeals court nominees, the picks for the district courts have taken a backseat when it comes to getting a final confirmation vote on the floor.

That could all change with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s move to reduce the floor time needed for those lower court confirmation votes, a rules change the Senate could vote on as early as this week.

Supreme Court skeptical on stopping partisan gerrymandering
The court grappled with the issue last term, before punting back to lower courts without deciding the main issue

The Supreme Court did not appear ready to put constraints on partisan gerrymandering after oral arguments in two cases Tuesday, as conservative justices aired concerns about how judges would decide when politics weighed too heavily in drawing congressional maps.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and other justices who make up the conservative majority of the court repeatedly voiced concerns about what standard the Supreme Court could establish to guide state legislatures when carving up their state into federal districts.

Lindsey Graham wants attorney general to testify on Mueller report

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham plans to call Attorney General William Barr to testify in a public hearing about the Russia investigation and his conclusions that President Donald Trump did not obstruct justice.

“I’m asking him to lay it all out,” the South Carolina Republican said Monday at a press conference at the Capitol. But he stopped short of saying Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III would be asked to testify as well.

Lawmakers urge Supreme Court to leave redistricting to Congress

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Tuesday in two partisan gerrymandering cases that could scramble congressional districts and change the way states redraw maps after the 2020 Census, marking the second consecutive year the justices will consider the issue.

In a sign of how much could change if the justices decide states can’t use the maps to entrench an advantage for a political party, the North Carolina and Maryland lawmakers who benefited from that process urged the Supreme Court to stay out of it and leave any overhaul of the redistricting process to Congress.

Congress set aside $1 billion after Parkland. Now schools are starting to use it
From panic buttons to metal detectors, communities take a page from Fort Knox

Amid the rolling farmland of southwest Iowa sits the 7,800-population town of Creston, where the school district boasts of a “state-of-the-art school safety and security system” with a command center to monitor nearly 200 cameras, or roughly one for every seven students.

But the school superintendent isn’t done yet, thanks to a $500,000 grant from a program Congress stuffed into an omnibus spending bill a year ago. He plans to buy mobile metal detectors that could also be set up at football games, a shooter alert system that can sense when a gun goes off in one of the three schools and notify police, a “panic button” system and a new entry system.

A year later, how Congress is spending school safety grants 
 

Last March, Congress designated nearly $1 billion for school safety funds, which started going out as grants this fall. CQ's legal affairs reporter, Todd Ruger, took a closer look at how the money is being distributed one year later....