👋 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/ Rod Rosenstein authorized Robert Mueller to investigate Paul Manafort for allegedly “colluding with Russian government officials” in a classified August 2017 memo. Mueller was also given authority to probe Manafort’s work for the Ukrainian government. The memo was disclosed in a court filing as Mueller’s prosecutors seek to counter arguments by Manafort’s lawyers that his indictment should be thrown out. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)
2/ Alex van der Zwaan is the first person sentenced in Robert Mueller’s investigation. The Dutch attorney, who admitted to lying to federal agents about his work in Ukraine with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, was sent to prison for 30 days and will pay a $20,000 fine. (Politico / Bloomberg / ABC News)
3/ Mueller’s investigation is asking about a private consulting firm working with the United Arab Emirates. Mueller’s team is asking about Wikistrat’s business relationship with George Nader, a Lebanese-American who serves as a top adviser to U.A.E. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and was also close to the Trump administration last year. Wikistrat was contracted by the U.A.E. beginning in 2015 to conduct war game scenarios on Islamist political movements in Yemen. (Wall Street Journal)
4/ The EPA will revoke an Obama-era standard requiring cars to average more than 50 mpg by 2025. “The Obama Administration’s determination was wrong,” Scott Pruitt said, adding that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will establish a new standard that “allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford.” The EPA will also “reexamine” a waiver that allows California to set stricter standards than those mandated by the federal government. (New York Times / ABC News / Washington Post / Los Angeles Times)
5/ Scott Pruitt bypassed the White House in order to give substantial pay raises to two of his closest aides. After the Presidential Personnel Office rejected Pruitt’s raise request, the EPA administrator reappointed the aides using an obscure provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act. The move gave Pruitt total control over their contracts to grant the raises on his own. (The Atlantic)
6/ The EPA approved a pipeline-expansion project last year while Scott Pruitt was renting a $50-a-night condo linked to the company’s lobbying firm. The expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline, an Enbridge Inc. project, would allow for hundreds of thousands more barrels of oil a day to flow through this pipeline to the U.S. from Canada’s tar sands. At the time, Pruitt was living in the condo owned in part by Vicki Hart, the wife of J. Steven Hart, the chairman of Enbridge. (New York Times)
7/ The DC energy lobbyist and his wife helped fund Pruitt’s campaigns for Oklahoma attorney general starting in 2010. J. Steven Hart, as well as two principals at his firm, donated to Pruitt’s Oklahoma Strong Leadership PAC. The firm hosted a fundraiser for Pruitt’s reelection effort in 2014. Steven and Vicki Hart rented a room in their Capitol Hill home to Pruitt for $50 per night last year. (The Daily Beast)
8/ Trump called Pruitt to say “we’ve got your back,” urging him to “keep his head up” and “keep fighting.” John Kelly reiterated those sentiments in a call to Pruitt Tuesday morning. According to a senior administration official, Kelly has considered firing Pruitt, but is waiting for the outcome of an EPA inspector general’s report into Pruitt’s travel expenses. (Associated Press / Politico)
9/ Trump wants to deploy the U.S. military to guard the southern border until he can build a wall and tighten immigration restrictions. “We are going to be guarding our border with our military,” Trump said. “That’s a big step.” At a separate press conference, Trump said: “We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States. We have a meeting on it in a little while with [defense secretary] Gen Mattis and everybody and I think its something we have to do.” (Bloomberg / The Guardian / New York Times)
poll/ Trump’s support among women fell from 41% to 35% this month. Trump’s support among men rose 3 points to 53%. (The Hill)
The Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that it identified cellphone spying devices in Washington, DC last year. The unauthorized cell-site simulators are known as Stingrays and often used by foreign powers to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages. (Associated Press)
A senior leader in Russia’s spy agency has agreed to plead partially guilty to sharing information with foreign intelligence. Dmitry Dokuchaev is wanted by the FBI and suspected to be linked to Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. (McClatchy DC)
Trump’s lawyers are asking a federal judge to order that an arbitrator resolve a dispute with Stormy Daniels over the alleged “hush money” agreement she signed just before the 2016 presidential election. (Politico)
Stormy Daniels’ lawyer wants the Treasury Department to release the “suspicious activity report” filed by the bank that Michael Cohen used to facilitate the $130,000 payment. (CNN)
Beto O’Rourke raised more than $6.7 million in the first quarter of 2018 to take on Ted Cruz. The $6.7 million came from more than 141,000 contributions. O’Rourke has outraised Cruz for three of the last four reporting periods. (Texas Tribune)
An Ohio State University study suggests that fake news stories dissuaded 4.2% of Obama voters from voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Hypothetical, fake news cost Clinton about 2.2 or 2.3 points apiece in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Clinton lost Michigan by 0.2 points and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by 0.72 and 0.76 points, respectively. (Washington Post)
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