👋 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/ The Justice Department’s No. 3 official resigned. Rachel Brand was next in line behind Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian influence in the 2016 election. Trump has called the investigation a witch hunt and even considered firing Rosenstein. (New York Times / CNN)
2/ Top White House officials knew about the allegations of Rob Porter’s verbal and physical abuse for months. White House Counsel Donald McGahn knew in January 2017 that accusations by Porter’s ex-wives could threaten his security clearance. John Kelly learned this past fall that the domestic violence claims were delaying Porter’s security clearance after the FBI flagged its findings to the White House. He gave Porter more responsibilities. Until his resignation on Wednesday, Porter was one of Trump’s most senior aides. The White House has said Kelly was not “fully aware” of the abuse until this week. (Washington Post / New York Times)
- John Kelly sent a memo to White House staffers Thursday night addressing the allegations made against Rob Porter. Kelly wrote, “While we are all processing the shocking and troubling allegations made against a former White House staffer, I want you to know that we all take matters of domestic violence seriously. Domestic violence is abhorrent and has no place in our society.” (CNN)
3/ Trump is frustrated with Hope Hicks’ role in the Porter scandal and is placing much of the blame on John Kelly. Trump is questioning the White House’s response and has told associates that he thinks Hicks put her romantic relationship with Porter ahead of his own priorities. Trump was not consulted on the White House statement, which defended Porter. Kelly, meanwhile, initially defended Porter and urged him to fight the allegations and to remain in the job. But after graphic photos emerged of the abuse, Kelly accepted Porter’s resignation. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)
4/ Meanwhile, Trump said the allegations of domestic abuse are “very sad,” but that he wishes Rob Porter “well” because “he did a very good job while he was in the White House. We hope he has a wonderful career ahead of him.” Trump added that he believes Porter is innocent, because Porter said “very strongly” that he was innocent. (Reuters / CNN)
5/ Trump has recently asked advisers what they think of Mick Mulvaney as a possible replacement for John Kelly as chief of staff. Mulvaney currently holds two posts, as director of both the White House budget office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Kelly has told Trump in the last 24 hours that he’s willing to resign, but has not offered his resignation. (New York Times / ABC News)
6/ Trump doesn’t read the President’s Daily Brief, which outlines the most important information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from around the world. Instead, he receives an oral briefing on select intelligence issues, because reading is not Trump’s preferred “style of learning.” (Washington Post)
7/ The government shut down for five hours last night, the second shutdown in three weeks. The House passed a spending bill late last night, which Trump signed into law early Friday morning. The measure keeps the government open until March 23. The bill also increases federal spending for the military and domestic and disaster relief programs by hundreds of billions of dollars. (Washington Post / New York Times)
The FBI was monitoring Carter Page when he spoke to Steve Bannon about Russia in January 2017. The details of the call are vague, but national security experts say the FBI would have retained the conversation as evidence if it seemed pertinent to their investigation into allegations that Trump associates coordinated with the Kremlin. (Politico)
Dozens of White House employees still don’t have permanent security clearance. Employees have been working for months with temporary approvals as they continue to handle sensitive and classified information while they wait for the FBI to issue permanent clearances. (Washington Post)
Tim Kaine wants Trump to release a secret memo outlining his interpretation of his legal authority to wage war. Kaine sent a letter to Rex Tillerson seeking the seven-page memo the administration has kept under wraps for months. (NBC News)
Trump said the White House would release a letter regarding the possible release of the Democrat’s memo written which rebuts a Republican document claiming FBI and Justice Department bias against him in the federal probe of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election. (Reuters)
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