👋 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/ Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing is set to begin September 4th and should last three to four days, according Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley. The Supreme Court nominee’s hearing aligns with Mitch McConnell’s plan to get Kavanaugh on the bench before the midterm elections. (Axios / Politico)
- Brett Kavanaugh urged Ken Starr not to pursue a criminal indictment of Bill Clinton until after he left office. Judge Kavanaugh delivered a private memorandum on Christmas Eve in 1998 which correctly predicted that the Senate would fail to convict the president for the “high crimes and misdemeanors.” (New York Times)
2/ A federal judge held a Roger Stone associate in contempt for refusing to testify before Robert Mueller’s grand jury hearing. Andrew Miller lost an attempt earlier this month to block a subpoena to testify before the grand jury. Miller worked for Stone during the 2016 presidential campaign, and is one of at least a half-dozen of Stone’s associates to be called to testify. (Washington Post)
- Kristin Davis will testify before a grand jury in Robert Mueller’s investigation today. The “Manhattan Madam” met with Mueller’s team last week for a voluntary interview. She has ties to Trump’s former political adviser Roger Stone, who is under suspicion in the Russia investigation. (CNN / Politico)
3/ The federal judge overseeing the Paul Manafort trial granted Robert Mueller’s team a request to seal the transcript of a private discussion in front of his bench after prosecutors argued that they needed to protect an “ongoing investigation.” Defense attorney Kevin Downing had asked Rick Gates, “Were you interviewed on several occasions about your time at the Trump campaign?” Prosecutors objected, arguing that they needed to protect the secrecy of their investigation and limit the “disclosure of new information,” suggesting that Gates may also be helping Mueller in the Russia investigation. The judge, T. S. Ellis III, ruled in their favor. (New York Times / CNN)
4/ Eleven newly released top-secret cables show interrogators waterboarded prisoners in Thailand while it was overseen by Gina Haspel, who is now CIA director. The cables describe the waterboarding of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the suspected mastermind behind the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. As al-Nashiri cried and pleaded that he was trying to recall more information, the “water treatment was applied” in order to make him “suffer the consequences of his deception.” While she was trying to win confirmation for CIA director, Haspel claimed the techniques worked, but said their use “should not have been undertaken.” (New York Times)
5/ Omarosa: Trump is a “racist” who frequently used the n-word and there are tapes to prove it. In her new book, the former White House aide said Trump can be heard using the racial slur during the making of his reality TV show, Celebrity Apprentice. “My certainty about the N-word tape,” Omarosa writes, “and his frequent uses of that word were the top of a high mountain of truly appalling things I’d experienced with him, during the last two years in particular.” Omarosa also said she refused a $15,000-a-month offer from Trump’s campaign to stay silent after being fired from her job by John Kelly last December. (The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post)
- Omarosa said she walked in on Trump eat paper in the Oval Office after a meeting with Michael Cohen. “I saw him put a note in his mouth,” Omarosa claims, suggesting that “it must have been something very, very sensitive,” since Trump is “ever the germaphobe.” (Talking Points Memo)
6/ Senior national security officials tried to prevent Trump from upending a policy agreement between NATO allies last month by pushing the alliance’s ambassadors to complete the joint communiqué before the forum began. The plan worked, to some degree, even though Trump questioned a major pillar of the defense alliance by questioning whether an attack on one NATO ally was an attack on them all. (New York Times)
7/ Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum from Turkey, tweeting the announcement from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The Treasury Department sanctioned two Turkish officials last week after the country refused to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces charges in Turkey of attempting to overthrow the government and espionage. Turkey’s currency fell by more than 14% and hit a record low against the U.S. dollar. All three major U.S. indexes also closed lower. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC)
8/ Trump Jr. shared a doctored image making Trump’s Gallup presidential approval rating look 10 points higher than it actually is. Trump’s actual approval was 40%, compared with Obama’s 45% at the same point in his presidency. Trump Jr. called the inflated 50% approval rating “amazing” and said “I guess there is a magic wand to make things happen and @realdonaldtrump seems to have it.” (Washington Post)
poll/ More Americans believe Stormy Daniels than Trump. 34% believe Daniels, 30% believe Trump, and 30% don’t believe either one. (The Hill)
Betsy DeVos moved to rescind an Obama-era “gainful employment” regulation meant to hold for-profit colleges accountable and protect students from overwhelming debt and poor job prospects. The 2014 rule required for-profit colleges to publish information on how much student debt graduates took on and how much they were earning after leaving school. If the average debt-to-income ratio did not meet government standards, the school’s federal funding would be revoked. (CNN / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)
Michael Avenatti: “I’m exploring a run for the presidency of the United States.” Avenatti made the statement while in Iowa, where he said he wanted to “listen to people and learn about some issues that are facing the citizens of Iowa and do my homework.” (Des Moines Register / New York Times)
Trump attacked NFL players for protesting during the national anthem at preseason games, accusing them of being “unable to define” their “outrage” and suggesting that the athletes should instead “be happy, be cool!” (Politico / Washington Post)
The Russian Embassy mocked Trump’s Space Force, tweeting “Good Morning, Space Forces!” along with a graphic of a rocket being launched and features the Russian flag. Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign asked supporters to vote on one of six logos that could be displayed on future Space Force merchandise, including one the resembles the NASA logo. (Politico)
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