👋 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/ Rudy Giuliani: Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 hush payment to Stormy Daniels, repaying Cohen through a series of payments over several months until the transactions were completed either in 2017 or early 2018. “The president repaid it,” Giuliani told Sean Hannity, but Trump “didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this with my clients.” Giuliani said that Cohen had “settled several problems for” Trump, and the payment was one of them. (Washington Post)
- Giuliani: There’s were “a few other situations that might have been considered campaign expenses” of a “personal nature” that Cohen took care of. “The president would have always trusted him as his lawyer, as my clients do with me. And that was paid back out of the rest of the money. And Michael earned a fee out of it.” (Washington Post)
2/ Giuliani’s comments directly contradicted Trump’s earlier statement to reporters that he didn’t know of any payments to Stormy Daniels or where Cohen got the money. Reporters asked him about both issues last month aboard Air Force One. (New York Times)
- Stormy Daniels’ former manager is cooperating with the FBI as part of its investigation into arrangement she struck with Cohen. (CNN)
3/ Trump tweeted that campaign funds “played no roll in this transaction” — misspelling the word “role.” Trump and Giuliani both argued that the Stormy Daniels money came from Trump’s personal funds. Legal experts say that since it came right before the election, the transaction could be considered an in-kind campaign political contribution, making it subject to campaign finance laws. The Trump team never reported it. Trump tweeted that he paid Cohen a monthly retainer, suggesting that the payment by Cohen to Daniels could not be considered a campaign contribution. “The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,” Trump tweeted, “despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair.” Later, Giuliani said, “this was never about the campaign. This was about personal reputation. The money wasn’t paid to help the campaign or hurt the campaign.” (New York Times / USA Today)
Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway, tweeted the Federal Election Commission’s personal gifts and loans rules, which state that “If any person, including a relative or friend of the candidate, gives or loans the candidate money ‘for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office,’ the funds are not considered personal funds of the candidate even if they are given to the candidate directly. Instead, the gift or loan is considered a contribution from the donor to the campaign, subject to the per-election limit and reportable by the campaign. This is true even if the candidate uses the funds for personal living expenses while campaigning.” (The Hill)
The former White House ethics chief suggested that Trump admitted to filing a false financial disclosure by revealing he reimbursed Cohen. (The Hill)
4/ Giuliani: The special counsel’s request for an interview is an effort to “trap” Trump “into perjury, and we’re not suckers.” Giuliani added that Robert Mueller’s “silly deposition is about a case in which he supposedly colluded with the Russians but there’s no evidence.” He called on Jeff Sessions to “step in and close it and say enough is enough.” (Washington Post)
Giuliani also called Jared Kushner “disposable” and warned that Mueller should stay away from Ivanka Trump, saying “the whole country will turn on” the special counsel if he doesn’t. (CNBC)
Trump “fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation,” Giuliani said during his appearance with Sean Hannity. He added that Comey was a “disgraceful liar” and a “very perverted man.” (Daily Beast / Politico)
5/ The FBI monitored Michael Cohen’s phone lines and at least one call between a Cohen line and the White House was logged. The monitoring was limited to a log of calls – known as a pen register – and was in place before the April 9th raid on Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office. Giuliani called for “the Attorney General to step in, in his role as defender of justice,” arguing that monitoring Cohen is a transgression of attorney-client privilege. (NBC News / CNBC / The Hill / Daily Beast)
[Editor’s Note: NBC News originally reported that Cohen’s phones were wiretapped, citing two sources. Later, three senior U.S. officials disputed that, saying that monitoring of Cohen’s phones was limited to a log of calls made from a specific phone line or lines. Following the wiretapping news, Giuliani said: “We don’t believe it’s true” that Cohen was wiretapped. “You can’t wiretap a lawyer, you certainly can’t wiretap his client who’s not involved in the investigation. No one has suggested that Trump was involved in that investigation.”]
6/ Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo said it’s clear that Mueller’s team is “still really focused on Russia collusion,” adding that Mueller’s team knows “more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there.” Caputo was interviewed this week behind closed doors by the Senate Intelligence Committee. (CNN)
7/ Mueller is focusing on alleged interactions between Rick Gates and Roger Stone during the campaign. Stone is a subject in Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Stone publicly praised the hacker who claimed to have broken into the DNC’s servers in 2016 and had dinner with Julian Assange — the founder of Wikileaks, which published the emails — in August 2016. The link between Gates and Stone goes back to their work at a D.C. lobbying firm which was founded by Stone and Paul Manafort. (CNBC)
8/ Mueller filed a request for 70 blank subpoenas in the Virginia court presiding over one of two criminal proceedings involving Paul Manafort. The two-page filing reveals little, but says that each subpoena recipient must appear in the Alexandria, Va., courthouse on July 10th to testify in the case. The 70 blank subpoenas amount to 35 total possible witnesses — in each case, a subpoena is needed for the witness and another is needed for the defense. (Washington Examiner / Courthouse News Service)
Executives at Cambridge Analytica, SCL Group, and the Mercer family created a new data firm last year called Emerdata. An executive and a part owner of SCL Group, Nigel Oakes, publicly described Emerdata as a way of rolling up the two companies under a new banner. (New York Times / Business Insider)
Trump has all but decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal. The administration wants to withdraw from the deal on May 12th, and the only question that remains is how Trump will go about announcing it. There is still a chance that the U.S. will remain a party to the deal by taking actions that don’t amount to “a full pullout,” but the source was unable to describe what that might look like. (Reuters)
The White House is exploring plans to host multiple summits on race between athletes, artists, and Trump following last week’s lovefest between the president and Kanye West. (Politico)
A third top EPA official is leaving the agency amid scrutiny of Scott Pruitt’s travel, spending, and condo rental. Associate Administrator Liz Bowman, the top public affairs official at the EPA, is leaving to become a spokeswoman for Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa. (Bloomberg)
The House chaplain rescinded his forced resignation, saying he would like to serve out his full two-year term, “and possibly beyond,” unless he is officially terminated. Paul Ryan does not have the authority to fire him. (New York Times)
Trump doesn’t believe John Kelly called him an “idiot,” concluding that it was “fake news.” (New York Times)
💬 What’d I miss? It’s been a busy news day and I’m sure I’m overlooking some news of note. Let me know by hitting that button in the lower right-hand corner, tweeting @WTFJHT, or by using the hashtag #WTFJHT.
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