👋 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/ In a 12-count indictment, Robert Mueller charged Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates with conspiracy to launder more than $18 million, making false statements to the Justice Department, and other charges stemming from probes into possible Russian influence in US political affairs. The indictment of Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Gates focused on their work advising a pro-Russia party in Ukraine between 2006 to 2015, laundering money through 2016, and continuing the conspiracy against the US in 2017. The charges – the first by Mueller – make no mention of Trump or Russian election meddling. Both Manafort and Gates surrendered to Justice Department and pleaded not guilty on all counts today. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Politico)
Read the unsealed federal grand jury indictment against Manafort and Gates. (CNN)
The 12-count Manafort and Gates indictment, annotated. (Washington Post)
A conservative website funded by a major Republican donor was the first to hire Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Trump. The Washington Free Beacon, funded in large part by the New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, hired Fusion GPS in October 2015. (New York Times)
2/ Trump’s former foreign policy adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about an April 2016 conversation with a professor with close ties to the Russian government that said Moscow had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” George Papadopoulos repeatedly tried to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials. Papadopoulos was arrested in July 2017 and has been working with Mueller ever since as a “proactive cooperator,” court documents show. The single felony count against Papadopolous directly relates to the 2016 presidential campaign. (New York Times / Bloomberg / NBC News / Politico)
Trump, Pence, and Jeff Sessions are schedule to meet today. Sessions was invited to Trump’s weekly lunch with Pence. (The Hill)
Trump will not interfere with Robert Mueller’s investigation or try to fire the former FBI director, Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow said. Sarah Huckabee Sanders added that Trump has “no intention or plan” to fire Mueller. (Reuters / Politico)
Russian agents began reaching out to Trump’s campaign as early as March 2016, the Justice Department established in documents released Monday. (NPR)
3/ Trump tweets loud noises in response to the indictment news. Starting Sunday, Trump in a tweet storm challenged Republicans to “DO SOMETHING!” about Obamacare, Hillary Clinton, Democrats, the Fusion GPS dossier, tax cuts, and the Mueller investigation. He continued Monday following the indictments: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” Trump continued: “….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” The White House added that “today has zero to do with the” Trump campaign. (NBC News / The Hill / Vox)
Fox News discussed the cheeseburger emoji instead of the Manafort indictment. (Vox)
4/ Tony Podesta will step down from his lobbying firm after coming under investigation by Robert Mueller. Podesta (the brother of John Podesta) and the Podesta Group had worked on a campaign with Paul Manafort to promote Ukraine’s image in the West. Podesta’s decision to leave the firm came on the same day that Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted on multiple charges. The Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs are the two unnamed companies in the grand jury indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, which were referred to as “Company A” and “Company B” in the indictment. (Politico / NBC News)
5/ Puerto Rico cancelled its contract with Whitefish Energy. The $300 million contract awarded to a two-person Montana utility company linked to the Trump administration to repair Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure has drawn criticism. FEMA said it has “significant concerns” about the contract. (NPR / Washington Post)
- The FBI is investigating the decision by Puerto Rico’s power authority to award a $300 million contract to a tiny Montana energy firm to rebuild electrical infrastructure damaged in Hurricane Maria. (Wall Street Journal)
6/ More than 50% of Trump’s nominees are tied to the industries they’re supposed to regulate. Of the 341 nominations Trump has made to Senate-confirmed administration positions, more than half (179) have some notable conflict of interest. One hundred and five nominees worked in the industries that they were being tasked with regulating; 63 lobbied for, were lawyers for, or otherwise represented industry members that they were being tasked with regulating; and 11 received payments or campaign donations from members of the industry that they were being tasked with regulating. (The Daily Beast)
- One of Trump’s judicial nominees has been deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. The ABA says members of its standing committee unanimously concluded, with one person abstaining, that Leonard Steven Grasz was not qualified to serve as a federal judge. (Politico)
7/ A federal judge blocked enforcement of Trump’s ban on transgender troops in the military. US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said Trump’s reasons for the ban “do not appear to be supported by any facts.” Kollar-Kotelly added that current and aspiring transgender service members “fear that the directives of the Presidential Memorandum will have devastating impacts on their careers and their families.” (HuffPost / Washington Post / USA Today)
poll/ 38% of voters approve of Trump’s job performance – down five points since September – while 58% of voters disapprove. (NBC News)
poll/ 33% of voters approve of Trump’s job performance. 60% disapprove. (Gallup)
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