👋 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/ Trump’s legal team rejected Robert Mueller’s request for a voluntary presidential interview, saying questions about possible obstruction of justice are legally inappropriate. Trump’s lawyers instead offered an “avenue” of a narrower set of questions that they’d accept. Both Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow declined to describe the details of their counteroffer other than “it is a good faith attempt to reach an agreement.” According to Giuliani, it’s ultimately “his decision” – Trump’s – as to whether or not to grant Mueller an interview. Giuliani added that “this should be over by September 1,” because “we do not want to run into the November elections.” (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico / ABC News)
- Why Trump really wants his Mueller interview. The president, who’s pushing his lawyers to let him meet with the special counsel, has a long history of dealing with investigators directly. (Politico)
2/ Omarosa Manigault-Newman secretly recorded conversations with Trump in the West Wing on her smartphone. The former Apprentice star has played the recordings for people, who describe them as inoffensive. (Daily Beast)
3/ The Trump administration will sanction Russia for its use of a chemical weapon against a former Russian spy living in England. Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a rare and toxic nerve agent on March 4th. British authorities accused Russia of being behind the attempt, a charge Moscow has denied. The new sanctions are expected to go into effect on Aug. 22. (NBC / New York Times)
4/ Putin lobbied Trump on nuclear arms control, banning weapons in space, and several other issues during their private two-hour meeting in Helsinki last month, according to a leaked Russian document. Putin shared the document of proposed topics for negotiation with Trump during their two-hour conversation, which Trump’s top advisers were not privy to at the time. Among the priorities, Putin wanted to extend an Obama-era nuclear-reduction treaty to ensure the “non-placement of weapons in space,” which would hamper Trump’s ability of establishing a Space Force. (Politico)
Rand Paul delivered a letter from Trump to Putin during his trip to Moscow earlier this week. Paul said he was “honored” to share the letter from Trump, which “emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchange.” Rand also said members of the Russian Federation agreed to visit Washington at his invitation despite the White House recently announcing that Trump would delay any meeting with Putin until the Russia investigation concludes. (NBC News)
Russians have “penetrated” some of Florida’s election systems ahead of the 2018 midterms, according to Sen. Bill Nelson, “and they now have free rein to move about.” Florida’s primary is Aug. 28. (Tampa Bay Times)
5/ China announced 25% tariffs on $16 billion worth of U.S. goods, including large passenger cars and motorcycles, various fuels, and fiber optic cables. China is targeting 333 goods in total, including coal, grease, Vaseline, asphalt and plastic products, and recyclables. The latest round of Chinese tariffs are a direct response to the $16 billion worth of Chinese goods that will be hit with tariffs by the U.S. starting on Aug. 23. (CNBC)
6/ Three Mar-a-Lago members with no official government roles act as an informal council, exerting influence at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Freedom of Information Act and interviews with former administration officials show that the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd” speaks with VA officials daily regarding policy and personnel decisions. VA officials have also travelled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views. As one former administration official said: “Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring.” (ProPublica)
poll/ 55% of voters say race relations have gotten worse under Trump. 51% of white voters, 59% of African-American voters, and 60% of Hispanics all say race relations have gotten worse since Trump took office. 35% of Republicans, meanwhile, say race relations have improved. (Politico)
GOP Rep. Chris Collins was charged with insider trading by the Justice Department. Collins turned himself in to the FBI on Wednesday and was charged in a case related to Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech company where Collins served on the board. Prosecutors say Collins provided his son with nonpublic information about drug trial results in order to help him “make timely trades in Innate stock and tip others.” A grand jury indictment also charges Collins’ son, Cameron, as well as Cameron’s father-in-law-to-be. (NBC News / CNBC / CNN)
The Congressional Budget Office expects the federal debt to surpass an unprecedented 200% of gross domestic product by 2048, according to its long-term report on “alternative scenarios” stemming from the GOP tax cuts. (The Hill)
An ICE cargo van transporting eight mothers separated from their children crashed into a pickup truck on July 18th. ICE denied the crash happened for nearly three weeks and ignored requests for information. (Texas Observer)
Trump praised his “fantastic!” and “great relationship” with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. A Justice Department spokeswoman described it a “productive working relationship.” Trump has publicly considered firing Rosenstein, who is currently overseeing the Mueller investigation. (Wall Street Journal)
📰 Paul Manafort’s Trial: A daily recap. Instead of writing summary recaps of the trial, I’m going to provide a few daily links to the live coverage. At the conclusion of the trial, I’ll write a proper abstract.
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