👋 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/ Trump is informally preparing for a potential interview with Robert Mueller. The preparation efforts were described as “in its infancy” and include going over potential topics with Trump that Mueller would likely ask in an interview. Trump has not formally agreed to sit for an interview with Mueller. (CNN)
2/ Robert Mueller has evidence that questions Erik Prince’s congressional testimony about a chance meeting last year in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, the manager of a state-run Russian investment fund close to Putin. George Nader, a cooperating witness with limited immunity, told investigators that he facilitated and personally attended a meeting between Prince and Dmitriev days before Trump was inaugurated. The goal of the meeting was to discuss foreign policy and to establish a line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration. Prince told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in November that “I didn’t fly there to meet any Russian guy,” and the meeting with Dmitriev was unexpected. Prince founded the private military contractor Blackwater USA and is the brother of Betsy DeVos, who serves as Trump’s secretary of education. As of late March, Mueller’s team has not asked Prince to appear before the grand jury. (ABC News)
3/ Mueller’s investigators questioned a Trump Organization associate about Michael Cohen’s involvement in business deals in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. The special counsel’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate this week with a subpoena seeking information about the efforts by Trump’s personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee to expand the Trump brand abroad. (McClatchy DC)
- Last year, Mueller seized three bank accounts a day before Paul Manafort was indicted. The previously unknown move was revealed in a list of warrants prosecutors submitted to a federal court in Washington after Manafort’s defense team complained that the government was withholding information about how the warrants were obtained. The special counsel also obtained a search warrant for information on five phone numbers last month. (Politico)
4/ A Trump foreign policy adviser asked the FBI, State Department and the Intelligence Community Inspector General to review materials from the dark web that he thought were Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails during the summer of 2016. Joseph Schmitz also took a memo outlining his claims to the House Intelligence Committee. The FBI interviewed him as a part of its ongoing criminal investigation into Clinton’s emails. Officials at the State Department and the Inspector General also interviewed Schmitz, but they declined to review or accept the information. The material was never verified. (CNN)
5/ The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on 17 Russian government officials, a state-owned weapons company, and seven oligarchs and 12 companies affiliated with them. “The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. “Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.” The sanctions were in response to the “totality of the Russian government’s ongoing and increasingly malign activities in the world,” including interfering in the 2016 election and aggressions in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News)
6/ Trump proposed an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese products beyond the $50 billion in tariffs the White House announced earlier this week. China responded by announcing $50 billion in tariffs on American goods. Trump said the move was a direct response to “unfair retaliation” by China. (CNBC / New York Times / NBC News)
7/ Trump’s top economic adviser learned about the president’s latest tariffs last night. The White House announced the move at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said he found out about Trump’s decision to impose an additional $100 billion in tariffs “last evening.” (Politico)
8/ John Kelly urged Trump to remove Scott Pruitt last week following a series of negative reports about his spending habits and management style. Trump, however, is not ready to fire the EPA chief, who he sees him as an ally in his effort to roll back environmental protections. Trump tweeted that Pruitt is doing “a great job,” and that he is “TOTALLY under siege.” White House aides believe that Pruitt’s position is untenable. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times)
- The lobbyist couple that Pruitt rented the Capitol Hill condominium from changed the locks in order to push him out. Pruitt reportedly didn’t leave when his lease end, causing Vicki and Steve Hart to kick him out. (Politico)
9/ 64 House Democrats called on Trump to fire Pruitt or force him to resign. “Scott Pruitt’s unethical behavior, wasteful use of taxpayer money, and his efforts to undermine the EPA’s core mission to protect our environment and public health demand an appropriate response: his resignation or his firing,” they wrote. (The Hill / Politico / Axios)
poll/ 20% of Americans attended a political protest, rally or speech since 2016. Among rallygoers, 44% are 50 or older, and 36% earn more than $100,000 a year. (Washington Post)
poll/ 41% of voters approve of Trump’s job performance – a record low in the Morning Consult poll. 54% disapprove of Trump’s job performance. (Morning Consult)
The economy added 103,000 jobs in March while the unemployment rate stayed at 4.1%. The average hourly pay grew 2.7% from March 2017. March’s figures were below analysts’ expectations. (Washington Post / NBC News)
Trump will again skip the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year. He’ll send Sarah Huckabee Sanders instead. (Politico)
Corey Lewandowski to House Intelligence Committee Democrats: I’m not answering your “f—ing” questions. Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, was the final witness in the yearlong House investigation, which resulted in two separate partisan reports. (CNN)
Blake Farenthold abruptly resigned from the House of Representatives today following news that he used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment suit. He had promised to repay those funds but apparently has not done so. (Dallas Morning News / Texas Tribune / CNN)
A group of “concerned” evangelical leaders plan to meet with Trump amid sex-scandal allegations. “We’re very concerned” about the payout to Stormy Daniels to cover up a sexual encounter, said a leader of a faith-based ministry. (NPR)
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