👋 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/ Michael Cohen used his Trump Organization email to arrange the $130,000 transfer to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about her affair with Trump. Trump’s personal attorney regularly used the same email account during 2016 negotiations with the actress – whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford – before she signed a nondisclosure agreement. Daniels filed a civil suit against Trump alleging the contract she signed is invalid because it’s intentionally missing Trump’s signature “so he could later, if need be, publicly disavow any knowledge of the ‘Hush Agreement’” or the affair. (NBC News / NPR)
2/ Michael Cohen’s use of Trump Organization email address to organize payment to Stormy Daniels may have violated federal election law. Corporations and labor organizations are prohibited from making contributions to candidates or political committees. Daniels alleges that the money was paid to keep her from talking about a sexual relationship she had with Trump. Cohen, meanwhile, has argued that he used his personal funds to “facilitate” the payment and that he did not get reimbursed by the Trump Organization or campaign. (Washington Post / CNBC)
3/ Trump has added another lawyer in his outside legal team to take on Stormy Daniels. Lawrence Rosen, a New York attorney described as a “pit bull,” will join Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in responding to the growing legal issues surrounding reports that Cohen paid the adult-film star to keep quiet about her affair with Trump. (ABC News / The Hill)
4/ Trump will meet with Kim Jong-un to negotiate “permanent denuclearization” of North Korea, which will cease all missile testing while the negotiations are being held. The two leaders are expected to meet in the next 60 days. News of a potential meeting has been met with positive reactions from China, Russia, and South Korea. (New York Times / Fox News)
- Dennis Rodman is one of two people who have met both Trump and Kim Jong-un. The other is South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, who extended the invitation from Kim to Trump during a visit to Washington this week. (Washington Post)
5/ Trump’s lawyers want to trade a Trump interview with Robert Mueller in exchange for ending the Trump-related portion of the special counsel’s Russia investigation. Trump’s legal team wants Mueller to commit to ending the probe 60 days after the interview, as well as limiting the scope of the questioning. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC)
6/ Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation to tighten gun restrictions, which raises the legal age for gun purchases to 21, institutes a three-day waiting period, and establishes a program to arm some school personnel. The NRA’s Florida lobbyist denounced the bill as an unconstitutional infringement on the Second Amendment and said it passed the state House in “a display of bullying and coercion.” (Washington Post / NPR)
7/ John Kelly stopped Scott Pruitt from staging a public debate to challenge climate change science. The EPA administrator wanted to hold military-style exercises known as red team, blue team debates in which one team attacks and another defends the robustness of climate change science. (New York Times)
8/ Sen. Dean Heller believes Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire this summer, which would set up Trump to fill a second Supreme Court seat. Last year he nominated Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016. Heller is one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2018, and he’s hoping a Supreme Court vacancy “will get our base a little motivated because right now they’re not very motivated. But I think a new Supreme Court justice will get them motivated.” (Politico / The Hill)
Obama is negotiating a deal to produce a series of shows for Netflix. Netflix reportedly plans to pay Barack and Michelle Obama for exclusive content, which is expected to highlight inspirational stories. (New York Times)
Joe Biden is preparing for a 2020 run. He’s discussing with aides about announcing his candidacy either really early or really late in the primary process so that he’d either define the field around him or let it define itself. (Politico)
The U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs in February while the unemployment rate held steady for the fifth straight month at 4.1%, a 17-year low. (Washington Post)
The head of Veterans Affairs now has an armed guard standing outside his office. He has also revoked access to his 10th-floor executive suite for several people he believes have lobbied the White House to oust him. David Shulkin has canceled his morning meetings with his senior management team and instead meets with the aides he trusts. (Washington Post)
The Interior Department spent almost $139,000 on new doors for Ryan Zinke’s office. Zinke was apparently unaware of the expenditure until a reporter from the Associated Press reached out to him to confirm the cost. (Associated Press / Politico)
The White House rejected a House Oversight Committee request for a “list of employees” in the White House with pending security clearances or clearances that have been resolved since Trump’s inauguration. The panel’s senior Democrat called for a subpoena to compel the White House to respond. (ABC News)
Sam Nunberg appeared at a federal courthouse in Washington to deliver federal grand jury testimony as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Nunberg made no comment to reporters as he entered the courthouse, other than to say that he would not make a statement after his grand jury testimony. (Reuters / CNN)
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