👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ U.S. attorney Preet Bharara was investigating HHS Secretary Tom Price when he was fired. Trump’s head of the Department of Health and Human Services traded stocks of health-related companies while working on legislation affecting the firms. Bharara was overseeing the investigation into the trades made by the health secretary. (ProPublica)
2/ U.S. breaks with allies over trade issues amid Trump’s “America first” vow. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signaled that American policy would follow the campaign promises to not accept existing trade norms and pursue a more antagonistic approach with trading partners around the world. (New York Times)
3/ Tillerson calls the North Korea nuclear program an “imminent” threat while ruling out negotiations with the country. He left open the possibility of a pre-emptive military strike to eliminate its nuclear program while China’s foreign minister urged the U.S. to remain “cool-headed.” (Politico)
- The Trump administration is prepared to scrap nearly a decade of U.S. policy toward North Korea in favor of a more aggressive effort to eliminate the country’s nuclear weapons program. Whether that means pre-emptive action, which he warned was “on the table,” will depend a great deal on how China responds. (New York Times)
- Tillerson says “all options are on the table” when it comes to North Korea. The Trump administration challenged China to do more to pull its ally North Korea back from the nuclear brink as Tillerson bluntly declared that the U.S. will do whatever is necessary to prevent a North Korean attack. (Washington Post)
4/ Trump seeks proposals for 30-foot-high, “physically imposing” wall at the Mexican border. The request from Customs and Border Protection also said that wall designs should make it essentially impossible for a person to climb or gain access with a ladder. (Associated Press)
5/ Trump administration files notice that it will appeal the ruling against its second version of the travel ban. The Justice Department filed papers in federal court in Maryland, setting up a new legal showdown in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. (Washington Post)
6/ Trump optimistic on new health law, saying he expects the House Republican health plan will be passed “substantially pretty quickly.” Trump called it a “great plan” and says it is “getting more and more popular with the Republican base, the conservative base and with people generally.” (Associated Press)
7/ Trump seems to ignore Merkel’s handshake request. In the exchange, photographers gathered around Trump and Merkel in the Oval Office and suggested that the two leaders shake hands for the camera. Merkel turned toward Trump and asked, “Do you want to have a handshake?” Trump did not respond. When Japan’s prime minister visited Trump, they exchanged a 19 second handshake. (Politico)
8/ Rex Tillerson blocked reporters from his first diplomatic trip to Asia, then defended the decision, saying “I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it.” For decades, newspapers have paid the state department for airplane seats when the diplomat travels. This time, however, the only one reporter that was allowed to join him was from the conservative Independent Journal Review, a website partly owned by a top adviser to Vice-President Pence. (The Guardian)
9/ Kellyanne Conway’s husband is set to lead the Justice Department’s civil division. The job would put George Conway at the forefront of defending immigration executive orders and other lawsuits against Trump administration. (Wall Street Journal)
10/ Russian elites invested nearly $100 million in Trump buildings. At least 63 people with Russian passports or addresses have bought $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida. (Reuters)
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