👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ Jeff Sessions will not recuse himself from the ongoing criminal investigation of Michael Cohen. By staying involved in the Cohen case, Sessions will receive briefings on the investigation, which puts Sessions in the position of being asked by Trump for information about the Cohen investigation. Trump condemned the FBI raid on his longtime lawyer and has called Sessions weak for recusing himself from the Robert Mueller probe. (Bloomberg / CNBC)
2/ The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee postponed Ronny Jackson’s confirmation hearing following reports that Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs oversaw a hostile work environment as the White House physician, allowed the overprescribing of drugs, and drank on the job. Jackson administered Trump’s annual physical in January, reporting that there is “no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes,” and that Trump could live to 200 years old if he had a healthier diet. (New York Times / Washington Post)
- A 2012 inspector general report suggested removing Ronny Jackson and a rival physician from their White House roles after finding a “lack of trust in the leadership” and the two having exhibited “unprofessional behaviors” as part of a power struggle over the White House medical unit. (Associated Press)
3/ The White House stands by Ronny Jackson, but Trump hinted that Jackson might withdraw from consideration because the process is “too ugly, and it’s too disgusting.” Trump said he doesn’t want to “put a man through a process like this” over “ugly allegations.” (Washington Post / New York Times)
4/ Iran warned that it could withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty after Trump threatened to restore economic sanctions unless European allies fix what he has called a “terrible deal” by May 12. “If they restart their nuclear program,” Trump said, “they will have bigger problems than they ever had before.” French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K. prime minister Theresa May have been coordinating potential side agreements they hope will convince Trump to remain part of the pact. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Reuters)
5/ The White House will host its first state dinner for France’s President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, tonight. As a candidate, Trump argued that “We shouldn’t have [state] dinners at all. We should be eating a hamburger on a conference table.” Melania Trump, meanwhile, has instructed her staff not to worry about the details of the dinner. “Do not worry,” she wrote in an email to staff. (New York Times / NBC News)
- No Democrats or members of the press were invited to the state dinner – a departure from past dinners. Sen. John Kennedy, who was one of four members of Congress to be invited, said “it would have sent a better message, just my opinion, if we included a cross-section of Congress.” (The Hill)
6/ The FBI interviewed Paul Manafort in March 2013 and July 2014 while he was working as a political consultant for a Ukrainian political party. Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, who also held a top role with Trump’s campaign, was interviewed by the FBI in July 2014. Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI in February of this year and is cooperating with Robert Mueller’s investigation. (Washington Post)
7/ Mueller’s raid on Paul Manafort’s condo and storage locker last July was to gather documents related to the Trump Tower meeting between Russian lobbyists and Manafort, Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner. A new court filing by the special counsel confirmed that Mueller’s team raided Manafort’s home in July 2017 to recover “Communications, records, documents, and other files involving any of the attendees of the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, as well as Aras and Amin Agalorov.” Manafort has been indicted on five counts, including conspiracy against the U.S., money laundering, and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, and is fighting to suppress evidence collected in the raid. (Newsweek / Politico / Bloomberg / Law and Crime)
8/ Republicans expect to win today’s special House election in Arizona, but the race in the conservative 8th Congressional District is being looked at closely, after Democrats recently won House and Senate seats in Pennsylvania and Alabama, respectively. Trump won the district by 21 points in 2016, but many GOP operatives believe the best-case scenario is a high single-digit margin of victory, which would be “a wake-up call to Republican elected officials that this is a radically different off-year,” and that “this anti-Trump mood has reached new a stratosphere [sic].” (Politico / NPR)
9/ Arizona state Democrats blocked Republicans from changing how the state fills vacant Senate seats. The GOP measure would have ensured that John McCain’s seat wouldn’t be on the November ballot if he leaves office early for reasons related to his ongoing treatment for brain cancer. The measure would have allowed the governor to appoint individuals to open seats – and hold them for two full years – if the seat becomes vacant within 150 days of a scheduled primary election. (Associated Press / The Hill)
study/ People voted for Trump because they were worried about losing their social status – not economic anxiety. A new study finds that Trump voters weren’t losing income or jobs. In particular, white, Christian, and male voters felt their status in society was threatened, and that Trump would restore it. (The Atlantic / New York Times)
Sean Hannity’s real estate venture bought properties through a dealer who was involved in a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently buy foreclosed homes. Jeff Brock pleaded guilty in 2016 to federal charges of bank fraud and conspiracy for rigging foreclosure auctions between 2007 and 2012. Brock purchased 11 homes in Georgia following foreclosures and sold them to Hannity’s shell company in 2012. There is no evidence that Hannity was aware of Brock’s involvement in fraud. (The Guardian)
George H. W. Bush is alert but remains in intensive care. Bush was admitted to the hospital Monday morning after he contracted an infection that spread to his blood and led to sepsis. His doctor said he is “responding to treatments and appears to be recovering.” (CNN)
Scott Pruitt will face two congressional hearings this week. The hearings will focus on the EPA’s budget, but they will also give lawmakers an opportunity to grill Pruitt about other concerns and allegations about the agency’s use of taxpayer money under Pruitt’s leadership. (ABC News)
Pruitt proposed a “transparency” rule that would limit the EPA’s ability to use the best science to write new regulations. Under the rule, only studies where the raw, underlying data – including participants’ personal health data – is made publicly available would qualify. (Washington Post)
Russian hackers likely targeted more than 21 states before the 2016 election, a top Department of Homeland Security official said. (The Hill)
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