👋 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 told Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Robert Mueller’s investigation. Following the meeting, Trump told his advisers that it’s not the right time to remove Rosenstein or Mueller since he’s not a target of the probe. Yesterday, at Mar-a-Lago, Trump told reporters “they’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of [Rosenstein and Mueller] for the last three months, four months, five months.” He added: “And they’re still here.” While Trump may not officially be a target now, he could become one in the future. (Bloomberg)
2/ Trump’s congressional allies threatened to impeach Rod Rosenstein if he didn’t provide them with documents about the FBI’s conduct related to the Russia probe and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. Representatives Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan said Rosenstein could also be held in contempt of Congress if he doesn’t satisfy their demands for documents. Critics say the two Republicans are attempting to build a case against Rosenstein in hopes of closing the Mueller investigation. (Washington Post)
3/ The Justice Department will send James Comey’s memos to three congressional committees, which document the former FBI director’s interactions with Trump. It’s unclear if the memos will be redacted, but the House Intelligence, Oversight and Judiciary committees requested copies of the memos in both redacted and de-classified/un-redacted form last week. The memos are believed to be central to Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation. (CNN / ABC News / Politico)
4/ The special counsel suspects that Paul Manafort served as a “back channel” between the Trump campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the presidential election. Manafort “had long-standing ties to Russia-backed politicians,” Justice Department attorney Michael Dreeben said. “Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will naturally look at those things.” Manafort’s lawyers argued that Robert Mueller exceeded his authority when he indicted Manafort on charges of laundering millions of dollars while acting as an unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government. (Bloomberg)
5/ Trump: We’ll put sanctions on Russia “as soon as they very much deserve it,” adding that “there has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.” The third-person comment capped a four-day stretch of confusion over whether the Trump administration would punish Moscow for its role in a recent chemical attack in Syria. (The Hill)
6/ Michael Cohen dropped a pair of libel suits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over the publication of the dossier that details alleged ties between Trump and Russia. The dossier claims Cohen met with Russian operatives somewhere in Europe to “clean up the mess” created by the public disclosures of Trump associates’ ties to Russia. Pursuing the suit would require Cohen to “face a discovery process that would have forced him to defend his reputation and address the allegations of the Steele dossier under penalty of perjury.” (Politico / Washington Post)
7/ Trump’s legal advisers warned that Michael Cohen would flip and cooperate with federal prosecutors if faced with criminal charges. “They’re going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings,” said lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who met with Trump and his staff over two days at the White House last week. Jay Goldberg, who represented Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s, told the president not to trust Cohen, and on a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Cohen “isn’t even a 1.” (Wall Street Journal / Politico)
8/ The Justice Department’s inspector general referred its finding to federal prosecutors to determine whether Andrew McCabe should be charged with a crime for repeatedly misleading investigators. The referral came days after the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released a report accusing McCabe of demonstrating a lack of candor and releasing sensitive information related to an ongoing criminal investigation. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)
9/ Rudy Giuliani is joining Trump’s personal legal team to “negotiate an end” to the special counsel’s investigation “for the good of the country.” Giuliani added: “I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller.” (CNBC / Washington Post)
poll/ White evangelical support for Trump is at an all-time high, with 75% holding a favorable view of the president and 22% holding an unfavorable view. (Public Religion Research Institute)
Trump will skip his summit with Kim Jong Un if he thinks the talks aren’t going to be “fruitful,” but said he’ll “remain flexible.” (Politico)
North Korea said it no longer demands that the U.S. remove troops from South Korea as a condition for denuclearization. For decades, North Korea demanded the withdrawal of 28,500 American troops, citing their presence as a pretext to justify its development of nuclear weapons. (New York Times)
A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration’s cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program were unlawful. The administration notified 81 organizations last summer that their five-year grants would end in 2018, rather than in 2020. (The Hill)
More than two dozen House and Senate Republicans have refused to endorse Trump’s bid for re-election. Trump announced his re-election bid immediately after taking office. (CNN)
43 House Republican incumbents have raised less money than their Democratic challengers in the first three months of 2018, and 16 Republican incumbents have less cash on hand than their Democratic challengers. (Politico)
The Senate confirmed Trump’s pick for NASA administrator, despite deep concerns from Democrats that he lacks the scientific and management expertise to lead the space agency. (Washington Post)
A federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration from making federal grant funding contingent on cooperation with immigration enforcement. A three-judge panel on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the administration exceeded its legal authority in trying to implement the conditions without approval from Congress. (Politico / The Hill)
Trump tweeted that he will not pay for California’s new deployment of National Guard troops after Gov. Jerry Brown said the troops will focus on combating transnational crime and drug smuggling and not immigration enforcement on the Mexican border, as Trump envisioned. (Los Angeles Times)
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