👋 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 top economic adviser said the White House “must do better in consistently and unequivocally” condemning hate groups. Gary Cohn, a prominent Jewish member of Trump’s administration, drafted a letter of resignation after Trump defended the white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville. Cohn’s remarks were in contrast to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said that “under no circumstances” was he planning to resign after Trump’s remarks that “both sides” were to blame for the violence. Mnuchin is also Jewish. (New York Times / CNN / Politico / Financial Times)
2/ CIA Director Mike Pompeo has required that the unit investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign report directly to him. Pompeo, who spends more time at the White House than his predecessors, has repeatedly played down Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Officials in the CIA counterintelligence unit say they have to “watch” Pompeo over fear he might report new information directly to Trump. The worry among some at the agency is “that if you were passing on something too dicey [to Pompeo] he would go to the White House with it.” (Washington Post)
3/ Robert Mueller is examining what role, if any, Michael Flynn may have played in an effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers. The effort to seek out the hackers was led by longtime Republican activist Peter W. Smith, who in correspondence and conversations with his colleagues portrayed Flynn as an ally and implied that other senior Trump campaign officials were coordinating with him. Smith also named Flynn’s consulting firm and his son in the correspondence and conversations. At the time Smith was trying to find the emails, Flynn was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. (Wall Street Journal)
4/ The former British spy who put together the dossier of allegations about Trump during last year’s campaign has been ordered to give a deposition in the libel case brought against BuzzFeed News, who published the document. Christopher Steele authored the 35-page dossier while working for Fusion GPS and its founder Glenn Simpson. The document was crafted as opposition research for unknown political rivals of Trump. None of the claims have been corroborated. Steele will now be questioned under oath about his role in producing the dossier. (Fox News)
5/ The White House’s new sanctions against Venezuela explicitly exempt Citgo, which donated $500,000 to fund Trump’s inaugural ceremony. The country’s state-owned oil company has also paid $160,000 to lobby the White House, hiring Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and campaign adviser Barry Bennett to lobby for the exemption. (The Daily Beast)
6/ The Republican National Committee condemned white supremacy but didn’t call it a rebuke of Trump’s remarks, saying “this has nothing to do with the president.” (Washington Post)
7/ Trump is considering ending DACA, the Obama-era policy that shields some illegal immigrants from deportation. Jeff Sessions strongly believes Trump should end DACA, which would affect at least 750,000 people. Trump’s aides have recently pushed him to protect young children brought to the US illegally, despite his campaign promise to deport so-called Dreamers. (Axios / ABC News / NBC News)
8/ A federal court ruled that parts of Texas’ state House maps are intentionally discriminatory and ordered them redrawn ahead of the 2018 elections. Last week, the court required that the state’s congressional maps had to be redrawn because they illegally discriminate against Hispanic and black voters. In both the congressional and state House rulings, Texas’ attorney general signaled that the state would appeal both rulings. (Dallas News / The Texas Tribune)
9/ John Kelly and the White House staff secretary will now review all documents that cross Trump’s desk. The new system is designed to ensure that Trump won’t see any external policy documents, internal policy memos, agency reports or news articles that haven’t been vetted. For months, people wandered into the Oval Office throughout the day giving Trump pieces of unvetted information. Policy decisions were often based on whoever had gotten Trump’s attention last. (Politico / New York Times)
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