👋 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/ The FBI fired Peter Strzok for violating bureau policies. Strzok is the FBI senior counterintelligence agent who sent text messages critical of Trump to a former FBI lawyer, Lisa Page. Strzok helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered his text messages. FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich ordered Strzok fired even though the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility concluded he should be suspended for 60 days and demoted. (New York Times / Washington Post)
2/ A federal judge appointed by Trump ruled that Robert Mueller’s investigation is constitutional and legitimate, rejecting an effort by a Russian company to invalidate the ongoing investigation. Concord Management is accused of financing a massive political influence operation in the U.S. The ruling marks the fourth time a federal judge has ruled that the Mueller investigation is constitutional. (Politico / Axios)
- Rudy Giuliani: “I think he will give us a decision this week on our counterproposal.” Trump’s legal team sent Mueller a counteroffer last week, proposing terms for a possible presidential interview. (Politico)
3/ Omarosa Manigault Newman secretly taped John Kelly firing her in December in the Situation Room, as well as a phone call she had with Trump after she was fired. On the recording, Kelly suggests that she could be facing “pretty significant legal issues” and that he wants to “see this be a friendly departure” so it doesn’t “develop into something that, that’ll make it ugly for you.” On the second recording, Trump asks: “Omarosa what’s going on? I just saw on the news that you’re thinking about leaving?” He added: “Nobody even told me about it… I didn’t know that. Goddamn it. I don’t love you leaving at all.” Trump called Omarosa “wacky” and “vicious,” and claimed that Kelly called her a “loser” and “nothing but problems” in a series of tweets following the release of the tapes. (NBC News / New York Times / ABC News / Washington Post)
- Omarosa claimed she has tapes of private phone calls with Ivanka and Jared Kushner, too. The former White House aide says the two offered emotional support after she was fired. (Politico)
4/ The White House is looking into legal options to stop Omarosa from releasing more tapes and to punish her for recording her conversation with John Kelly. The Situation Room is supposed to be free of personal electronic devices and former national security officials said it was not clear is she had broken any laws. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that, if true, it “shows a blatant disregard for our national security.” (ABC News / New York Times)
A few months into his presidency, Trump required his senior staff to sign nondisclosure agreements. Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, drew up the document barring White House officials from publicly disclosing what they heard and saw at work. He privately told staff that the agreement could not ultimately be enforced. Trump tweeted that “Wacky Omarosa already has a fully signed Non-Disclosure Agreement!” (New York Times)
5/ The government rested its case in the tax and bank fraud trial of Paul Manafort. Robert Mueller’s prosecutors called 27 witnesses over 10 days. Manafort’s defense will now have the opportunity, if it chooses, to present witnesses. (USA Today)
Stephen Miller’s uncle wrote an op-ed calling his nephew an “immigration hypocrite.” David Glosser wrote: “If my nephew’s ideas on immigration had been in force a century ago, our family would have been wiped out.” (Politico)
Trump signed defense legislation named after John McCain but didn’t mention the Senator’s name during the ceremony. Trump praised the U.S. military and took credit for the $716 billion defense bill, which represents a $16 billion increase in authorized funding for the Pentagon over the current year. The bill is formally named the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2019.” (Bloomberg / Washington Post)
The White House is proposing to rollback a law designed to protect military personnel from getting cheated by shady lending and financial practices. The administration is also wants to curtail enforcement of the Military Loan Act, which protects service members from predatory loans. Critics say the changes would leave service members vulnerable to getting ripped off by car dealers, among others. (NPR)
White House staffers receive discounts on Trump-branded merchandise sold at his Bedminster golf club. The discounts range from 15% off of any merchandise sold in the store, to 70% off of clearance items. One ethics expert called the discounts “absolutely wrong.” (Politico)
White House counsel Don McGahn exempted its new communications director from ethics rules, saying it was in the “public interest” for Bill Shine to have meetings with their former colleagues at Fox News. (Daily Beast)
The interior secretary blamed environmentalists for California’s wildfires and claimed – contrary to scientific research – that climate change had “nothing to do” with the fires. Instead, Ryan Zinke said the fires were exacerbated by limits on logging. (The Guardian)
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