👋 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 Cohen has signaled that he is “willing to give” investigators information on Trump in order to alleviate pressure on himself and his family. Cohen has hired New York lawyer Guy Petrillo to represent him in the federal investigation into his business dealings and wants Trump to pay his legal fees. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)
2/ Trump accused Democrats of wanting “illegal immigrants … to pour into and infest our country.” Trump also rejected a proposal by Senator Ted Cruz to end family separations, calling the plan to hire thousands of new immigration judges “crazy” and suggesting the judges could be corrupt. Trump argued that undocumented immigrants could “game the system” by taking counsel from immigration lawyers and reading statements prepared for them. (CNN / BuzzFeed News / New York Times / Washington Post)
3/ The Trump administration has lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children – thousands more than the Department of Health and Human Services had previously acknowledged. HHS placed more than 42,497 unaccompanied children with sponsors in fiscal year 2017. Officials tasked with reaching out to sponsors and children to check on their well-being said 14% of calls were not returned – meaning the Trump administration has lost track of 5,949 children. (McClatchy DC)
4/ More than 600 members of Jeff Sessions’ church filed a formal complaint accusing him of “child abuse,” “immorality,” and “racial discrimination” for his “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has led to children getting separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. (ABC News)
- A bipartisan group of former U.S. attorneys called on Jeff Sessions to end the policy of separating families at the border. “Like a majority of Americans,” they wrote, “we are appalled that your Zero Tolerance policy has resulted in the unnecessary trauma and suffering of innocent children.” (Medium)
5/ Trump threatened to shut down the government in September if Congress doesn’t provide $25 billion for his border wall. Senators are currently willing to send Trump $1.6 billion this fall. If Trump follows through with his threat, a government shutdown would happen weeks before the midterm elections. (Politico)
- Trump Jr. has withdrawn from a fundraiser for George P. Bush because of criticism from the Bush family over immigration policy. Yesterday, Jeb Bush tweeted: “Children shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool. @realDonaldTrump should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.” (CNN)
6/ The U.S. backed out of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the council “a cesspool of political bias” that is a “hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights” and “is not worthy of its name.” The withdrawal comes a day after the U.N.‘s human rights chief called Trump’s policy of separating children from parents crossing the southern border illegally “unconscionable.” (Bloomberg / Politico / Reuters / ABC News / Washington Post / CNN)
7/ Trump threatened China with another $200 billion in tariffs if Beijing refuses to narrow the trade deficit, which he says has put the U.S. “at a permanent and unfair disadvantage.” China’s Commerce Ministry accused Trump of initiating a trade war. In total, the Trump administration has threatened to impose tariffs on as much as $450 billion worth of goods. The U.S. imported $505 billion in goods from China last year. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC)
- The Dow fell nearly 300 points after Trump asked for $200 billion worth of additional tariffs on Chinese goods. The index erased all of its gains for the year and was on pace to post a six-day losing streak, its longest since March 2017. (CNBC)
The Trump administration rolled back consumer protections mandated by the Affordable Care Act that health plans provide certain “essential health benefits” like mental health care, emergency services, maternity and newborn care and prescription drugs. The new rule will make it easier for small businesses to set up health insurance plans that are cheaper, but offer fewer benefits. (New York Times)
Former CIA engineer Joshua Schulte was indicted on charges that he was responsible for providing classified documents to Wikileaks. Schulte faces a grand jury indictment for handing over a massive trove of U.S. government hacking tools known as “Vault 7” to Wikileaks, the details of which were published by the organization in March 2017. Schulte was already facing child pornography charges in New York. (Politico)
A foundation established by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and run by his wife is spearheading a real-estate deal backed by the chairman of the oil giant Halliburton, which stands to benefit directly from any decision by the Interior Department to open public lands for oil exploration. Zinke and his wife also own the property next door to the proposed resort. (Politico)
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shorted stock in a Kremlin-linked shipping firm after learning that journalists were investigating his offshore investments in Navigator Holdings. (Forbes / New York Times)
The Trump administration intentionally nominated a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director who might not be confirmed by the Senate, which would allow Mick Mulvaney to stay at the bureau for as long as two more years. (Wall Street Journal)
The Senate passed a defense budget bill to reinstate penalties against Chinese telecom giant ZTE. The vote is a rebuke of Trump’s attempt to make a deal with ZTE. (ABC News)
Erik Prince has “spoken voluntarily to Congress” and has “cooperated with the special counsel” as part of the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia during the 2016 election. Prince reportedly met with Trump Jr., George Nader, and Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel at a secret meeting in the Seychelles during the campaign. He also met with Russian sovereign wealth fund manager Kirill Dmitriev during the transition period to set up a backchannel between the Trump administration and Russia. (Daily Beast)
Rudy Giuliani said he was just posturing when he called on Trump to suspend Robert Mueller’s investigation. “That’s what I’m supposed to do,” Giuliani said. “What am I supposed to say? (Politico)
Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign manager called on Trump to fire Jeff Sessions and end Robert Mueller’s investigation. “Time to fire Sessions,” Brad Parscale said in his tweet. “End the Mueller investigation You can’t obstruct something that was phony against you The IG report gives @realDonaldTrump the truth to end it all.” (Politico / Washington Post)
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