👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ Robert Mueller has a draft of a letter outlining Trump’s reasons for wanting to fire James Comey. The letter was blocked by White House counsel, who believed its contents were problematic. A different letter was ultimately sent, written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, focusing on Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. (New York Times)
2/ Senate Republicans accused Comey of trying to clear Clinton before the FBI had completed its investigation. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham, who chairs a subcommittee panel on crime and terrorism, say Comey drafted a statement exonerating Clinton’s use of a private email server. They base their timeline on heavily-redacted transcripts where an unidentified FBI aide says that Comey first wrote a draft of his July statement that the FBI was shuttering its investigation in May 2016. However, Comey was not involved in the day-to-day steps of the investigation and the FBI had already reviewed most of the evidence by the spring of 2016 where it was clear the investigation was unlikely to bring charges. “Wow, looks like James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over,” Trump tweeted. “A rigged system!” (Washington Post / CNN / New York Times)
3/ Mueller has teamed up with the IRS’ Criminal Investigations unit, which focuses exclusively on financial crime, including tax evasion and money laundering. If Mueller wants to bring charges against Trump associates over tax violations, he will need approval from the Justice Department’s Tax Division. Trump hasn’t nominated anybody to run the division, yet. (The Daily Beast)
4/ Black smoke was seen pouring from the Russian consulate in San Francisco. Yesterday, the Trump administration ordered Russia to close the consulate after the Kremlin cut American diplomatic and technical staff in Russia. (Associated Press)
5/ Trump’s head of voter fraud is also a paid Breitbart News columnist. Kobach has published seven columns, most highlighting immigration and sanctuary cities, but also his own Commission on Election Integrity. “I get paid for my columns… just like you’re paid,” Kobach said. (The Hill / Kansas City Star)
6/ Adam Schiff is pushing to defund Trump’s commission on voter fraud, introducing an amendment to the upcoming government spending bill. The California Democrat accused the commission of “appearing to lay the groundwork for a push to place new restrictions on voting that disproportionately disadvantages minority voters.” (The Hill)
7/ Paul Ryan wants Trump to hold off on rescinding Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “I actually don’t think he should do that,” Ryan said. “I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix.” Orrin Hatch added that rescinding DACA would be “an action that would further complicate a system in serious need of a permanent, legislative solution.” Hundreds of business leaders have signed an open letter encouraging Trump to preserve DACA, which allows undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children a two-year eligibility for work permits and deferred action from deportation. Trump will announce his decision on Tuesday. “We love dreamers; we love everybody…the dreamers are terrific,’’ Trump told reporters. (CNN / The Hill / ABC News / New York Times)
8/ Trump backed down from his threat to shut down the government over funding for his border wall. The White House notified Congress that the $1.6 billion needed to build 74 miles of border wall and fencing don’t need to be included in a short-term spending bill that must be passed by the end of September in order to fund the government into December. Trump, however, wants the funding included in the December budget bill. (Washington Post)
- Customs and Border Protection awarded contracts to four companies to build wall prototypes. The four companies each proposed concrete walls. DHS expects to announce contracts for four non-concrete wall prototypes next week. (NBC News)
9/ Another Trump aide will leave the White House. Keith Schiller, director of Oval Office operation, has told people he intends to leave the White House at the end of September. Schiller’s departure comes just over a month after John Kelly became chief of staff and restricted access to Trump in an attempt to instill order inside the White House. (CNN)
10/ The ability for Senate Republicans to repeal Obamacare with 51 votes will end on September 30th when the budget reconciliation process expires, the Senate parliamentarian ruled. It takes 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster, and Democrats are united against a full replacement of Obamacare. (Bloomberg / Vox)
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