👋 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/ Rick Gates knowingly communicated with “a former Russian Intelligence Officer” during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to documents filed by Robert Mueller’s investigators. Gates was in frequent contact with “Person A” – who has been identified as Konstantin Kilimnik – during the time he worked for Trump’s campaign, including September and October 2016. The documents Mueller filed indicate that the communications between Gates and Kilimnik are “pertinent to the investigation.” Kilimnik worked with Paul Manafort for four years on behalf of a Kremlin-aligned Ukrainian political party. (New York Times / Washington Post)
Gates is a longtime business associate of Paul Manafort and served as Manafort’s deputy when Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager.
Gates pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy and lying to the FBI in a cooperation deal with Mueller.
2/ Gates told Alexander van der Zwaan that Kilimnik was a former intelligence officer with Russia’s foreign intelligence service. The London-based lawyer, who previously worked with Gates and Manafort, pleaded guilty last month to lying to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about his interactions with Gates and Kilimnik. Gates communicated with Kilimnik and van der Zwaan in a “series of calls” in September and October 2016. (CNN / Politico / The Hill)
- Mueller’s office is asking for jail time for Alexander van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty to lying to special prosecutors and the FBI. The special counsel’s office didn’t say how much jail time van der Zwaan should receive, but it did push back against van der Zwaan’s argument that he should receive no jail time at all. Earlier court filings show he faces up to six months behind bars. (BuzzFeed News)
3/ Trump discussed the idea of pardoning both Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn with his lawyers last year as Robert Mueller was building cases against both men. John Dowd, who resigned last week, was hired last year to defend Trump during the Mueller inquiry. Dowd told Flynn’s lawyer last summer that Trump was prepared to pardon Flynn. Dowd also discussed a pardon with Manafort’s attorney before Manafort was indicted in October 2017 on charges of money laundering and other financial crimes. (New York Times)
4/ Paul Manafort expects Trump to pardon him. Manafort doesn’t plan to cooperate with Robert Mueller and will fight the charges of conspiracy, money laundering, tax and bank fraud, and making false statements to investigators. Manafort’s co-defendant, Rick Gates, has agreed to work with the special counsel. (CBS News)
- Paul Manafort asked a federal judge in Virginia to dismiss an indictment brought by Robert Mueller, saying the case falls outside the scope of Mueller’s authority and is unrelated to Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The motion to dismiss was similar to one filed this month in another federal court in Washington, DC, where Manafort is facing a separate but related indictment also brought by Mueller. (Reuters)
5/ Pro-Trump media outlets have been circulating tweets and videos critical of Robert Mueller’s investigation in an effort to undermine it. “It looks like the beginnings of a campaign,” a person familiar with Trump’s legal strategy said. “It looks like they are trying to seed the ground. Ultimately, if the president determines he wants to fire Mueller, he’s going to want to make sure there’s ample public record that he can fall back on.” (Politico)
6/ A pair of senators called on Trump to let Robert Mueller’s investigation proceed “without impediment.” In a bipartisan bill, Senators Thom Tillis and Chris Coons “urge President Trump to allow the Special Counsel to complete his work without impediment, which is in the best interest of the American people, the President, and our nation.” (Politico)
7/ A federal judge will allow an emoluments lawsuit against Trump to proceed. The ruling from the US District Court of Maryland said the District of Columbia and Maryland may proceed with an unprecedented lawsuit against Trump alleging that Trump’s business dealings have violated the Constitution’s ban on improper payments from individual states and foreign governments. The case is required to focus on payments made by foreign officials for services at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. It cannot include visits to Mar-a-Lago in Florida or other Trump properties. (CNN / Washington Post)
8/ Stormy Daniels’ attorney filed a motion to depose Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, about their knowledge of an agreement to pay the porn star $130,000 a week and a half before the 2016 election. In the court filing, Michael Avenatti said each deposition would last for no more than two hours. He also filed a motion seeking a jury trial in no more than 90 days. (CBS News / NBC News)
9/ At least 12 states plan to sue the Trump administration over the proposed addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington will join New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman in a multi-state lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from including the question on the next census. California has filed a separate suit. (New York Times)
10/ The EPA sent staffers a list of eight “approved talking points” about how to downplay climate change. The memo, sent by the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs, encourages staffers to suggest that humans are only responsible “in some manner” for climate change and that there are “clear gaps” between “our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.” (Huffington Post / The Hill)
poll/ Overall, 45% of Americans surveyed said global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetimes – the highest overall percentage since Gallup first asked the question in 1997. However, just 18% of Republicans consider global warming a serious threat compared to 67% of Democrats. Meanwhile, 69% of Republicans think global warming is exaggerated, compared to 4% of Democrats. (Gallup)
poll/ 56% of Americans believe Trump had an affair with Stormy Daniels and 51% believe Daniels’ allegations that they had an affair. 91% said honesty is “very important” for elected officials to embody and 75% said the same about morality. 80% said extramarital affairs were morally wrong. (Politico)
Trump secured a bilateral trade deal with South Korea ahead of nuclear talks with North Korea. The deal, expected to be announced this week, opens South Korea’s markets to American automobiles, extends tariffs for South Korean truck exports, and restricts the amount of steel South Korea can export to the United States by nearly a third. (New York Times / Politico)
Trump: “THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!” Trump tweeted the all-caps statement in response to retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens calling yesterday for the Second Amendment to be repealed, citing the right to bear arms is outdated and misunderstood. (New York Times)
A Democratic candidate challenging House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes raised more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2018. The California congressman has aligned himself closely with Trump. (CNN)
A former Disney Channel star will join the Trump administration as a White House press aide. Caroline Sunshine is known for her role as Tinka Hessenheffer in “Shake It Up,” a 2010 show about teen dancers. (CNN)
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