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Pelosi Raises Impeachment as a Way to Break Trump’s Information Stonewall

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WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Thursday that House Democrats could always open an impeachment inquiry to pry free documents and testimony from stonewalling Trump administration officials — a sharp response to the White House’s blanket claim that House requests served no “legitimate” legislative purpose.

“The courts would respect it if you said we need this information to carry out our oversight responsibilities — and among them is impeachment,” Ms. Pelosi said during her weekly news conference at the Capitol.

“It doesn’t mean you’re going on an impeachment path, but it means if you had the information you might,” Ms. Pelosi said. “It’s about impeachment as a purpose.”

Her threat was the first time Ms. Pelosi suggested using impeachment as an information-gathering tool, although she had made the suggestion in private before, according to a person familiar with her thinking.

For weeks, the speaker has fought back efforts by many in her caucus to move ahead with impeachment proceedings based on President Trump’s order to ignore all House subpoenas on a broad range of investigations. Her stance has not changed, her aides said.

But Ms. Pelosi’s statement reflects her mounting anger at the White House over a block-and-deny strategy that has stymied efforts to marshal public outrage over Robert S. Mueller III’s report on the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia during the 2016 campaign and his findings on whether the president obstructed justice.

Many of the speaker’s allies in the House have suggested using impeachment as a pry bar for compliance — in the belief that formally convening an impeachment inquiry would effectively turn the House into a grand jury. That would compel the administration to be more cooperative. It would also ease mounting pressure from the party’s left wing to begin a full-scale impeachment process immediately.

But her comments also reflect caution: Ms. Pelosi pointedly refused to say on Thursday whether she personally supported fining or jailing administration officials for failing to comply with the House’s requests.

“This is one of the possibilities that is out there,” the speaker said when asked about the idea, put forward by members of the six committees investigating Mr. Trump, that the House pursue such a strategy under a concept called inherent contempt of Congress.

“I’m not saying we’re going down that path, but I’m just saying that nothing is off the table,” she added.

On Wednesday, the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, sent Representative Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, a letter rejecting the committee’s broad request for documents from administration aides and demanding that he narrow his inquiry.

The broadside, which stopped short of an assertion of executive privilege, challenged the committee’s assertion that its investigation was a fundamental part of the congressional oversight function protected by the Constitution.

“Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation, not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized ‘do-over’ of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice,” Mr. Cipollone wrote.

Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, has yet to appear before two House committees that have expressed interest in his testimony, so members of the House majority were forced to read aloud his 448-page report for dramatic effect to a handful of reporters in a Capitol committee room on Thursday.

Ms. Pelosi played down the likelihood that she would put an impeachment inquiry to a vote any time soon, saying that the committees had to exhaust other legal and legislative options.

“We want to see what we can get respectfully,” she said. “First we ask. Then we subpoena, friendly. Then we subpoena otherwise. And then we see what we get — so let’s not leapfrog.”



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‘Game of Thrones’ Series Finale Recap: All Hail King Who?

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In the end, “Game of Thrones” was about blowing up the game of thrones.

At times Sunday’s series finale rendered this literally, as when the Iron Throne itself, the inspiration for most of the terrible things we’ve seen over eight seasons, was grief-torched by Drogon after Jon Snow killed its mom.

More thematically, the show that has been broadly about a society’s transition from murderous, dysfunctional dynastic rule and entitlement politics to a more collectivist model consummated that concept, killing off yet another conquering monarch and replacing her with an elected king.

Of course the thing is, that king is Bran.

Bran is in some ways a fitting choice. On a show frequently about how those who forget history are doomed to repeat it — in dynastic revenge cycles, conquering tyrants, sacks of King’s Landing — Bran can access all of history. In a tale in which pride and ego can lead to travesty, Bran has neither.

Tyrion leaned hard into the humility argument and also into a cornier one about stories being the most powerful thing on earth. Bonus: Bran can’t sire a lunatic like Joffrey because he can’t have kids at all.

But it doesn’t change the fact that Bran has long been one of the most unsatisfying characters on the show. He’s almost a man, as he told Jon back in the season premiere, but he’s mostly a tool of convenience designed to relay narrative information we couldn’t get otherwise — whether its scouting the White Walkers, revealing “Thrones” prehistory or dropping knowledge bombs.

Bran theoretically has access to all information but seems to access it only when and in which way the story needs him to. This was reflected perfectly by his response to Tyrion’s pitch: “Why do you think I came all this way?” O.K., then why were you so hyped about telling Jon he’s supposed to be king a few weeks ago?

This can sound like nit-picking, but internal logic is part of what gives a story power and resonance. In a show that was once defined by a kind of gritty realism within a fantastical setting, Bran is the ultimate cheat.

So his promotion to the Rolling Throne was a sort of final confirmation that over the past couple seasons, at least, the series became something different from what most of us signed up for.

“Game of Thrones” became a global phenomenon largely by upending expectations, and one way it achieved that was by using the calcified conventions of the fantasy genre against us. The noble patriarch defined by his morals? Gone in the first season. The prince valiant son who followed his heart? Slaughtered along with his pregnant wife.

This was a Shakespearean saga about power, blood and loyalty, we once told our skeptical, fantasy-averse friends. Not some show about dragons and wizards.

And then in its final episode, a dragon committed the story’s most potent symbolic act and a wizard was put in charge.

The council that elected him included some of our favorite people, at least. This included the future Small Council members Sam (grand maester), Davos (master of ships), Brienne (lord commander of the kingsguard, maybe?) and Bronn, who in a fun twist, was made master of coin. (As political commentary, putting a louche mercenary in charge of the treasury is pretty great.)

Yara Greyjoy and Gendry were there, too. Randomly, so was the former Suckling Robin, Yohn Royce (I think?), and some other people I didn’t recognize. Edmure Tully made it out of Walder Frey’s cell, apparently, but he’s still the same goober he was when he went in.

The mix of highborn and low was meaningful, and combined with the depictions of the Targaryen Regime — the Nurembergish rally, the tyrannical doublespeak about “liberating” people who had just been butchered — it unsubtly hammered home the show’s main themes: Power corrupts. Working together is our only hope.

Along the way we got a variety of “Thrones” greatest hits. There was yet another regicide, yet another jailing of Tyrion, yet another scattering of Starks. The parting of Sansa, Arya and Jon inspired real emotion, intensified by the fact that just as they would never see this family together again, neither would we. Other nice moments included the dragon-wing shot of Daenerys and the nobles’ guffaws at the mere thought of actual democracy, one of the night’s funnier moments.

But the episode, directed by the creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff (who in the past few weeks have become the show’s biggest villains to a vocal fan segment), was also plagued by the same incoherence that has inspired abundant Twitter rage this season and at least one effigial petition.

There was Jon killing Daenerys and then escaping the immediate wrath of both Drogon — maybe his Targaryen blood helped — and the Unsullied, who instead took him prisoner hours after cutting peoples’ throats just for supporting Cersei, much less murdering their queen. (And how did they know, without a body? Did he confess?) There was the oddly sudden appearance of the council — who summoned them? — and the still fungible size of the Unsullied and Dothraki forces.

Am I saying the show has been ruined, as so many former fans claim? Not at all. (I’m certainly not signing any goofy petitions.) I will always admire “Game of Thrones” and never forget the artistry and wonder of its most provocative moments (Hardhome, the Red Wedding, Cersei’s takeover) and the sense of disbelief that such stunning and audacious artistry could be delivered into my living room.

But endings are hard, and this one was always going to be harder than most.

That’s partly thanks to a story that methodically killed off its most interesting characters (and some of its best actors) as it winnowed into a more traditional good-vs.-evil tale centered on its least interesting ones (Jon and Dany). And it’s partly because the things that established “Game of Thrones” as a phenomenon — the epic scale, the shocking twists — began to work against it as moves got more abrupt and story was sacrificed at the altar of spectacle.

And it’s partly because Benioff and Weiss failed to anticipate the ways in which dramatically abbreviating the last two seasons would exacerbate all of the above.

I’ll go deeper into all of this soon. But for now, here’s what else happened in the series finale:

• It was sad to see the Starks go their separate ways again, but they each got fitting ends. Sansa got a crown and an independent North, making her one of the few people in the show actually qualified for the job they have. Arya is off for further adventures in the land beyond the map. Jon is going back North to where he fit in best of all, a poignant end for a man who was always an outsider, even when he was at the center of things. And he has already made up for his diss of Ghost a couple weeks ago.

• “There’s still a Night’s Watch?” he asked Tyrion, speaking for all of us, when it was proposed to him. Yep, Tyrion said, but maybe there wasn’t after all? It just looked like Tormund and a bunch of Wildlings, and then they all headed north of the Wall.

• Freed of their pillaging and storm-trooping responsibilities, the Unsullied are on their way to Naath, all 100 or 10,000 or however many of them are going to live the dream that Grey Worm hatched with Missandei back at Winterfell. Also, if you had Grey Worm in your survival pool, congratulations. Drinks are on you.

• A popular theory held that Sam was ultimately going to be the one who wrote the story we’ve just watched. Close. Turns out it was Archmaester Ebrose (the head guy played by Jim Broadbent). But Sam helped with the title.

Please check back for a more in-depth version of this recap.



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P.G.A. Championship: Brooks Koepka Lets Lead Evaporate but Hangs On to Win

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Brooks Koepka’s heart rate, he said Saturday night, probably would not vary much whether he was sitting on the couch watching the 101st P.G.A. Championship or sizing up a putt on Bethpage Black’s 72nd green to win it.

“I’d say I’m pretty flatlined most of the time,” he said.

Fast forward to dusk on Sunday. Koepka’s face was flush with anxiety as he stood on the par-3 14th green studying his fourth consecutive bogey putt. Poised to become the first man to hold back-to-back titles in two majors simultaneously, Koepka suddenly was staring at a more ignominious piece of history: He was in danger of becoming the first player to blow a seven-stroke, final-day lead in any PGA Tour event, much less a major.

“I was just in shock,” said Koepka, who weathered a back-nine wobble precipitated by wind that gusted to 30 miles per hour to successfully defend his P.G.A. title. He closed with a four-over-par 74 for a 72-hole total of eight-under 272, two strokes better than his close friend and training partner, Dustin Johnson, who whittled Koepka’s lead to one before bogeying two of his last three holes for a 69.

Koepka, 29, supplanted Johnson as the world No. 1 and joined Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only men to win four major titles in less than two years. He will seek his fifth major title, and his third straight United States Open crown, next month at Pebble Beach.

“That was a stressful round of golf,” Koepka said, adding that Johnson “did an unbelievable job of putting pressure on me.”

[Does golf have a new king? Brooks Koepka’s peers aren’t so sure.]

The conditions took their toll on everybody. Harold Varner III, who played with Koepka in the final pairing, posted an 81 — 14 strokes higher than his Saturday score. Paul Casey, who teed off more than five hours before Koepka and Varner, said the dog adorned in an emotional support jacket that he passed on his way to the scoring area “is what I feel like I need after playing that golf course.”

And Casey carded a 69, one of 11 sub-70 scores on Sunday.

The course is a beast in the most benign conditions, but on Sunday afternoon the winds kicked up, causing CBS’s blimp to evacuate the airspace above the course while Koepka was on the front nine. The wind wreaked havoc with Koepka’s shots throughout his bogey binge, which began at the par-4 11th. Koepka looked incredulous when his tee shot at the 149-yard par-3 14th got caught in gust and sailed the green.

The chants of “D. J.!” on 14 were meant to rattle Koepka. Instead, the fan’s embrace of his nearest rival helped him to refocus.

“It was like ‘I’ve got everybody against me — let’s go,’ ” he said.

Koepka’s success is a victory for late bloomers. He much preferred baseball as a child but grudgingly gave up the sport, he said, as he approached high school, “because I couldn’t hit a home run to save my life and I was a sucker for the curveball.”

That left golf, which Koepka learned on the public courses of West Palm Beach, Fla. He did not distinguish himself on the national stage as a junior player and was lightly recruited out of high school. Koepka wound up at Florida State, where he became a three-time all-American but did not win a college tournament until his senior year.

After college, he honed his game on Europe’s minor league circuit, the Challenge Tour, winning four times by a total of 23 strokes.

Koepka’s not one to cogitate over any shot; if he had his way, golf would be an anaerobic sport. And he does not lean on a sports psychologist to maintain a healthy outlook. He doesn’t have to because he isn’t one to let his score, good or bad, dictate his self-worth.

“If I would have bogeyed all the way in,” Koepka said, referring to the back nine, “I still would have looked at it like I tried my hardest. Sometimes, that’s all you’ve got.”

Most players can better relate to Jordan Spieth, who spoke earlier this year about letting his bad rounds seep into his life off the course, or Rory McIlroy, who is building an impressive library with books that spread the perspective he articulated after winning the Players Championship in March: “I am not my score; I am not my results.” With this victory, Koepka passed Spieth, 25, who has three major titles but none since 2017, and equaled the major title total of McIlroy, who won his fourth at the 2014 British Open.

“He obviously gets into these mind-sets in the majors, and he really goes and gets into a different sort of state,” McIlroy said of Koepka, who has two PGA Tour titles outside the majors.

Koepka is like the baseball slugger Reggie Jackson in October, the hockey forward Justin Williams in May or the swing man Andre Iguodala in June; he is at his best when the pressure is at its greatest, as evidenced by the fact that all but two of Koepka’s career PGA Tour titles have come in the majors.

The one-time P.G.A. champion Rich Beem said Koepka reminded him of another four-time major winner, Raymond Floyd. “Just the way he attacks the game,” Beem said on Sunday after carding a 69. “The way that he thinks, the way that he talks, the way that he acts — nobody is going to intimidate him.”

In Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., just up the road from where Koepka grew up, Floyd watched most of the final round.

“I’m totally impressed with his play,” Floyd said of Koepka, adding. “When I got into the zone I always felt like I was playing the golf course — it was me against every hole — and I felt very confident leading and that’s what I see watching him.”



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Morehouse Graduates’ Student Loans to Be Paid Off by Billionaire

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The federal government has some programs for loan forgiveness, but they are tailored for particular categories of students — those who take jobs in public service, for example, or those who were misled by for-profit institutions — or they take effect only after many years of faithful repayment. Some of the forgiveness programs have stalled or have raised doubts about whether the government will make good on them.

Some institutions have responded to the student debt crisis by reducing or eliminating tuition. The New York University School of Medicine recently announced that it would be free for all students, citing the “overwhelming financial debt” facing graduates. That was made possible in part by a large gift from Kenneth Langone, the founder of Home Depot, and his wife, Elaine, for whom the medical school is named.

Loan cancellation generally has not come straight from the pockets of billionaires, however, despite the many calls in recent years for them to provide it. Ms. Warren’s plan, for instance, would tax ultra-wealthy citizens like Mr. Smith to relieve much of the nation’s $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.

For the Morehouse graduates, debt relief will be immediate, sparing them what could be a decade or more of monthly payments that can be particularly hard to shoulder in the unsettled years just after graduation. The standard repayment plan for federal student loans is up to 10 years, but research indicates that most students take far longer than that to pay off their balances. The average debt for students with federal loans is $32,000, according to government data.

Forbes estimates Mr. Smith’s fortune at about $5 billion, built mainly through Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that focuses on buying and selling software firms. The firm has about $46 billion in assets under management, according to Forbes. It is privately held and does not publicly report its results, but it is believed to be one of the best-performing firms in the country, with annualized returns of more than 20 percent since its founding.

Mr. Smith, who was among the largest donors to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, has long been an active philanthropist. The Morehouse grant is his latest effort in Atlanta to support causes directly related to African-American history, culture and education.

Earlier this year, Mr. Smith’s foundation purchased the house where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was born, along with the house where Dr. King lived with his wife and children, and donated both properties to the National Park Service. Dr. King was a Morehouse graduate.



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