'Start Here': Democrats push for 'inherent contempt' power as China vows to retaliate against tariffs

Here's what you need to know to start your day.

It's Monday, May 13, 2019. Let's start here.

1. ‘Inherent contempt’

How far are congressional Democrats willing to go to get what they want from the White House?

As President Donald Trump continues to block their demands for documents and information related to oversight of his administration, some House Democrats are pushing leadership to look at the rarely-used "inherent contempt" power Congress has to enforce congressional subpoenas through fines or arrests.

"Although these powers are not directly stated in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that they are implicit as an essential legislative power held by Congress," according to the National Constitution Center.

It’s unlikely that any members of the Trump administration would face jail time under this doctrine, but “it’s shown just how divisive Washington has become and the extreme measures that they are now talking about at this point,” ABC News’ Kyra Phillips says today on “Start Here.”

"We are right where we want to be with China," the president declared on Twitter on Sunday, days after more than doubling tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods from 10% to 25%.

Investors have been wary of the escalating trade war as China has vowed to retaliate against the tariff hikes, but as of Sunday night no countermeasures have been announced.

China "could make life very difficult for American companies," according to Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi, who speculates that tensions will build between now and the end of the month when goods impacted by tariffs arrive at U.S. ports.

"If these tariffs stay in place, if it's 25 percent going forward, these businesses are going to have to figure out something very different," he said. "It's going to be very disruptive."

3. Giuliani’s canceled plans

The president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani came under fire last weekend over his now canceled plans to travel to Ukraine and push for investigations that could help the president’s re-election campaign, including digging up information on actions former Vice President Joe Biden may have taken in office while his son was involved in a Ukrainian energy company.

Democrats blasted Giuliani, accusing him of asking a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election, but Giuliani brushed away the criticism to the New York Times, "We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do."

Giuliani has raised concerns that former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, who Biden as vice president pushed to oust over corruption allegations, was investigating Burisma Holdings, the firm that was paying Hunter Biden’s consulting partnership and on whose board he served.

A spokesperson for the former vice president told the New York Times and later ABC News that Biden’s push to oust the former prosecutor general in 2016 was undertaken "without any regard for how it would or would not impact any business interests of his son, a private citizen.” Hunter Biden told the newspaper in a statement, “At no time have I discussed with my father the company’s business, or my board service, including my initial decision to join the board."

4. American hostage mystery

Mystery surrounds a hostage rescue in West Africa involving an American who was held for weeks without U.S. officials knowing.

French soldiers were leading a deadly raid in Burkina Faso on Friday to rescue two French hostages when they discovered the American, described by a U.S. official as a woman in her 60s, and a South Korean were also being held captive.

The woman has asked authorities not to reveal information about herself, according to U.S. sources who say she is simply a private citizen trying to recover from the ordeal. Sources close to the hostage recovery operation told ABC News there are ongoing efforts to try and "debrief" her for more information about the abduction.

"The details surrounding this particular operation are still pretty murky, but experts do tell us that jihadi groups are proliferating in this particular part of Africa and they trade in hostages," ABC News' Erielle Resheff explains on "Start Here."

"Start Here," ABC News' flagship podcast, offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or the ABC News app. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content and show updates.


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From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

Batters in the Major Leagues are getting hit by pitches at historic rates: ...more than 450 times as of last week, in fact. The painful era in MLB history is the worst in more than a century. .

Doff your cap:

Today we doff our caps to Ben Hofer, an eighth-grader from St. Andrews Episcopal School in Texas, who raised $8,000 to help eliminate school lunch debt in the Austin Independent School District.

"I was never expecting to raise this much money, really honestly," Ben told "Good Morning America" of his crowdfunding success. "It's pretty crazy but the more the better, I guess, because it's more kids we could pay off."

The district said that children are never denied a full lunch but praised Ben's initiative.

"I think Ben is an amazing leader and is so compassionate," said said Anneliese Tanner, executive director of Austin ISD Food Services and Warehouse Operations. "Especially at his age, to recognize that there are students his age and younger who are struggling with food insecurities and facing hunger. He's taking steps to try and do something about it -- how admirable."