👋 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/ Robert Mueller is investigating Trump’s request to Jeff Sessions that he reverse his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation in March 2017. Trump berated Sessions in public and in private over his decision to step away, but Sessions refused Trump’s request. Mueller is investigating the previously unreported confrontation as part of the ongoing obstruction of justice probe. Mueller’s interest in Sessions suggests the investigation may be even more broad than Trump’s interactions with and subsequent firing of James Comey. (New York Times / Washington Post)
- Trump again expresses regret for choosing Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Trump said Wednesday that he wishes he had picked someone else to be attorney general. (Washington Post)
2/ Federal prosecutors investigating Michael Cohen are set to receive 1 million files from three of Cohen’s cell phones that were seized last month in raids on his apartment, office, and hotel room. A court filing submitted by special master Barbara Jones on Tuesday says investigators for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York have already received nearly 300,000 pieces of potential evidence from the raids. So far, only 252 seized items have been flagged by Cohen’s or Trump’s attorneys as privileged materials. An additional 292,006 items were turned over to prosecutors on May 23. (Washington Post)
3/ A federal judge in Manhattan ordered Michael Cohen’s lawyers to complete their review of the huge trove of seized documents and data within two weeks. Judge Kimba Wood warned that she would allow the government to take control of the review process if Cohen’s attorney’s don’t meet her June 15 deadline. The purpose of the review is to determine whether any of the materials seized by the FBI last month should be protected under attorney-client privilege. (New York Times / Washington Post)
4/ The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to interview Roger Stone. The committee also wants Stone’s attorneys to hand over certain electronic communications. The email from the committee to Stone’s lawyers includes a list of search terms it wants his attorneys to use to identify which communications to hand over. Stone says he hopes the interview with the committee will be public, and that he has “already begun to think about what to wear.” (Daily Beast)
5/ Trump bragged about a classified battle between U.S. forces and Russian mercenaries in Syria while speaking to donors at a closed-door fundraiser. Trump said he was amazed by the actions of American F-18 pilots, suggested that the strikes lasted “10 minutes,” and claimed they killed up to 300 Russians. The details of the battle remain classified. (Politico)
6/ The Trump administration will impose restrictions on Chinese visas as part of its attempt to counter alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property by Beijing. Under the new policy, U.S. consular officers may limit how long the visas will be valid, instead of simply issuing them for the maximum possible length. Chinese graduate students studying robotics, aviation, and other high-tech fields will be limited to one-year visas. Chinese citizens seeking visas will require clearance from multiple U.S. agencies in order to work as researchers or managers at certain companies. The restrictions are set to go into effect on June 11. (Associated Press)
7/ A new U.S. intelligence assessment concludes that North Korea does not intend to give up its nuclear arsenal any time soon. The CIA analysis is consistent with expert opinion on the subject, but it conflicts with Trump’s recent claims that Kim intends to give up his nuclear stockpile in the near future. The assessment does note, however, that Kim Jong Un might open up a burger joint inside North Korea as a display of good will. (NBC News)
8/ Senior House Republican Trey Gowdy said the “FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got” from an informant inside Trump’s 2016 campaign. Gowdy attended last week’s highly classified Justice Department briefing about the FBI informant who approached multiple members of Trump’s foreign policy team, including Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. Contrary to Trump and Giuliani’s “spygate” conspiracy claims, Gowdy said the effort to place an informant inside the campaign had “nothing to do with Donald Trump.” (Politico / Daily Beast / Washington Post)
9/ Trump accused Democrats of siding with MS-13 gang members over the American people during a rally in Nashville. “They don’t want the wall, they want open borders,” Trump said. “They’re more interested in taking care of criminals than they are in taking care of you.” Trump also reiterated his claim that immigrants who commit crimes are “animals,” turning it into a chant for the crowd: “What was the name?” Trump called to the crowd. “Animals!” they shouted back. Trump also called Marsha Blackburn’s Democratic opponent Phil Bredesen “an absolute, total tool” of Chuck Schumer, and referred to the House Democratic leader as “the MS-13 lover Nancy Pelosi.” (New York Times)
10/ Federal bank regulators announced a plan to considerably weaken the Volcker Rule, which was put in place after the financial crisis to prevent risky trading. The rule also dictates that banks can’t be the ones to make the rules about what constitutes a risky trade. The revisions make it so banks no longer have to prove that each trade serves a clear purpose — that it’s not just a speculative bet. (New York Times)
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens resigned after a series of personal and political scandals. He gave a brief but defiant statement at the governor’s office on Tuesday: “I am not perfect, but I have not broken any laws,” he said. Greiten’s resignation will go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m. (Washington Post)
Kim Kardashian will meet with Trump at the White House and ask him to pardon a woman serving a life sentence without parole for a first-time drug offense. The meeting is the result of months of back-channel talks between Kardashian and Jared Kushner. (Vanity Fair)
The Russian journalist who was believed to have been killed yesterday in Kiev showed up at a press conference today, very much alive. Arkady Babchenko apologized to friends and family who believed he was dead. “I’m still alive,” he said. Babchenko’s death was faked as part of a sting operation by the Ukrainian Security Service. (NPR / Associated Press)
Ivanka Trump abruptly left a conference call about an upcoming fitness event after reporters asked her about her company’s trademarks in China. A White House official previously said Ivanka would take a few questions before leaving for a meeting, but reporters started asking questions about the trademarks, which she refused to answer. Ivanka was gone by the time they got around to questions about her father’s fitness regime. (New York Times / CBS News)
Paul Manafort’s friends launched a legal defense fund to help Manafort fight the charges brought against him by the special counsel. In an email announcement, fund organizers wrote, “The Defense Fund is urging anyone who values civil liberties and wishes to show the ‘Deep State’ that they cannot exert their will on ordinary citizens, to join them in supporting the Manafort family as they grapple against the Special Counsel to clear their name.” (NPR / BuzzFeed News)
Trump complained that Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, apologized to Valerie Jarret for Roseanne’s racist tweets but hasn’t apologized to Trump for all the mean jokes people have made about him on Disney-owned networks. During a press conference, Sarah Huckabee Sanders went through a laundry list of things Trumps feels warrant an apology from Iger. (Boston Globe / Salon)
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