👋 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/ Trump’s now deputy chief of staff received an email in June 2016 from a person attempting to set up a meeting with Putin. The email occurred around the time that Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. At the time, Rick Dearborn served as Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff. Investigators want to know if Dearborn played a role in arranging the two meetings that occurred between the then-Russia ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, and Sessions. (CNN)
2/ Kislyak downplayed his contact with the Trump campaign, calling allegations that he tried to recruit people within Trump’s orbit as spies “nonsense.” Kislyak is considered to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington. He left the US for Russia last month after concluding his tour of service. (CNN)
3/ The private investigator behind the infamous Trump dossier spent almost 10 hours behind closed doors with the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. Glenn Simpson, who cofounded the private research firm Fusion GPS, answered questions about the 35-page document. Fusion GPS hired a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, to compile the dossier, which alleges that Trump had a long-running relationship with Russia and that the Kremlin holds compromising material on him.
Fusion GPS was initially hired by Republicans and later Democrats to explore then-candidate Trump’s past. Simpson did not reveal who paid for the research, but Fusion GPS said it remains “proud” of the work and “stands by it.”
Simpson is the first of three major players to speak with judiciary staff in the ongoing Russia probe. Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort both cut deals to speak with committee staff in private, but their dates have not been scheduled yet. (ABC News / NPR / CNN)
4/ The White House set guidance for implementing Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military. The policy will give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authority to expel transgender people from the military. The memo also directs the Pentagon to stop recruiting transgender troops and to stop paying for sexual reassignment surgery and other medical treatments for those already serving. Mattis has six months to prepare to fully implement the ban. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times)
5/ White House staffer paid to spot and distribute positive stories from the mainstream media has left his position. Andy Hemming worked at the White House from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. every weekday, sending reporters stories favorable to the administration. Sarah Huckabee Sanders told us that it was a “[m]utual decision that he could best help promote the president’s agenda on the outside.” (Politico)
6/ Seven members of Trump’s infrastructure council resigned this week, citing his Charlottesville response and other issues. The National Infrastructure Advisory Council is made up of appointees from the private sector, academia, and government to advise the president on security for critical infrastructure. (HuffPost)
7/ Trump blamed Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan for the debt ceiling “mess,” saying it could have been avoided had they listened to him. The two GOP leaders refused to package legislation raising the debt ceiling to a measure on veterans affairs, which Trump advised them to do. “They didn’t do it,” Trump tweeted, “so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy-now a mess!” Congress needs to pass both a debt ceiling increase and a spending measure by the end of September. Both could pass the Republican-led House by a simple majority vote, but the Senate will need 60 votes to pass, requiring support from Democrats. (Reuters / Bloomberg)
8/ Trump is reportedly “serious” about shutting down the government if he doesn’t get funding for his border wall. Kellyanne Conway said Trump was “steadfastly committed” to building the wall, and that he expects the funding to do it. “Anybody who’s surprised by that has not been paying attention for over two years,” Conway said. “So he’s telling Congress he’s building the wall, he expects the funding, and it’s up to them to work collaboratively. We hope they do.” (NBC News)
9/ A web hosting company was ordered to turn over information about an anti-Trump website to the DOJ despite arguments that doing so would impinge on users’ First Amendment rights and stifle online political discourse. The DC judge ruled that DreamHost was obligated to turn over subscriber data as long as it was limited to individuals linked to the Inauguration Day riots and not people merely using the site. The DOJ originally requested that 1.3 million IP addresses from disruptj20.org be turned over. (The Hill / Bloomberg / Politico)
poll/ 71% agreed Trump’s behavior is not what they expected from a president. 68% believe his words and actions could get the US “accidentally” involved in an international conflict. (George Washington University Battleground Poll)
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