👋 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/ Michael Avenatti: Trump is in “panic mode” and expects Michael Cohen to cooperate with investigators. “We’re going to be able to prove that the president knew about the agreement,” Stormy Daniels’ attorney said, “and knew about the $130,000.” Trump has denied a relationship with Daniels or knowledge of the payment to her, but told Fox and Friends that Cohen was representing him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal” – contradicting what he said on Air Force One. (The Guardian / The Hill)
2/ The Trump campaign spent nearly $228,000 to pay for part of Michael Cohen’s legal fees. Federal Election Commission records show three “legal consulting” payments made from the Trump campaign to a firm representing Cohen between October 2017 and January 2018. Cohen did not have a formal role in the Trump campaign and it’s illegal to spend campaign funds for personal use. (ABC News)
3/ A federal judge granted a 90-day delay in Stormy Daniels’ suit against Trump, saying it appeared “likely” that Michael Cohen would be indicted in a related criminal investigation. The judge called Cohen “the alleged mastermind” of the deal, which makes his testimony “indispensable.” Cohen plans to assert his Fifth Amendment rights if asked to answer any further questions about Daniels’ suit, which seeks to void an agreement that led to a $130,000 payment Cohen facilitated before the 2016 presidential election. (Politico / Washington Post)
4/ Stormy Daniels filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump for his “total con job” tweet about the forensic sketch of a man who allegedly threatened her in 2011. The filing says the tweet was “false and defamatory,” arguing that Trump was speaking about Daniels and that he “knew that his false, disparaging statement would be read by people around the world, as well as widely reported.” (NBC News / ABC News / CNBC)
5/ Trump threatened to shut down the federal government in September if Congress doesn’t agree to include more funding for his border wall in the next spending bill. “We come up again on September 28th,” Trump said during a rally in Michigan on Saturday, “and if we don’t get border security we will have no choice, we will close down the country because we need border security.” (Reuters)
6/ John Kelly referred to Trump as “an idiot,” according to four officials who heard the comments. Some current and former White House officials expect Kelly to leave by July – his one-year mark. Trump fired Rex Tillerson for calling him a “moron” in front of colleagues. (NBC News)
7/ Ronny Jackson will not return to his former job as the president’s personal physician. A series of allegations caused Jackson to withdraw from consideration to become the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sean Conley took over for Jackson last month and will continue in that role. (Politico / Washington Post)
- ✌️ Who the f*ck has left the Trump administration: A timeline of all the departures so far… (WTFJHT Community)
8/ Trump called on Montana Senator Jon Tester to resign and threatened to spread allegations about him in retaliation for releasing a document summarizing the allegations against Ronny Jackson. Trump said the allegations against Jackson were fabricated. “Tester started throwing out things that he’s heard,” Trump told the crowd. “Well, I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said them, he’d never be elected again.” (New York Times)
9/ The Justice Department removed language from its manual related to gerrymandering, freedom of the press, and limits on prosecutorial power. Jeff Sessions’ tough-on-crime policies were added to the manual, as well as language that underscores his focus on religious liberty, and Trump’s attempts to crack down on government leaks. The last significant update to the manual happened in 1997. (BuzzFeed News)
10/ Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov maintained a direct line of communication before and after the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. The two continued to communicate via a series of text messages until at least December 2016. (BuzzFeed News)
11/ Natalia Veselnitskaya also followed up with the Trump campaign in the wake of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Veselnitskaya reached out to the Trump family after the election and continued to lobby for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act. (CNN)
12/ The FBI questioned a Russian mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter linked to Putin, Trump, and Michael Cohen. The FBI showed up unannounced at Fedor Emelianenko’s hotel room in Chicago. “All I can say is that, yeah, they showed up unannounced, knocking on our doors,” Emelianenko’s manager Jerry Millen said. Trump announced a joint venture involving MMA and Emelianenko in 2008. Cohen was the project’s chief operating officer. (Associated Press / The Telegraph / NY Daily News)
poll/ 46% of Millennial voters support Democrats over Republicans for Congress – down about 9 percentage from two years ago. 28% expressed overt support for Republicans in the 2018 poll - about the same percentage as two years earlier. (Reuters)
Kim Jong-un told South Korea that he would abandon his nuclear weapons if the U.S. promised not to invade his country. The South Korean government also said Kim would invite experts and journalists to watch the shutdown next month of the country’s only known underground nuclear test site. (New York Times)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Trump deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. (Reuters)
ICE’s acting director will retire and leave his post in June. Thomas Homan was nominated for post by Trump, but the Senate hasn’t acted on his confirmation. (Wall Street Journal)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection doesn’t plan to increase its capacity to process or temporarily house the roughly 150 Central Americans waiting in Tijuana. (NBC News)
The EPA granted a financial hardship waiver to an oil refinery owned by billionaire Carl Icahn. The waiver enables Icahn’s CVR Energy Inc to avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs related to the Renewable Fuel Standard program that is meant to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports, and support corn farmers by requiring refiners to mix biofuels into gasoline and diesel each year. (Reuters)
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