👋 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 pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for paying Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to secure their silence “at the direction of the candidate” for the “purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016. Cohen used a home-equity line of credit to finance the $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016 – one month before the 2016 election – and submitted invoices to Trump’s company in order to obtain reimbursement for the unlawful campaign contributions. Two months before the election, Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump in which they discussed a $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal. Rudy Giuliani later confirmed that Trump had discussed the payments with Cohen. While the plea agreement does not require Cohen to cooperate with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, it also doesn’t preclude him from cooperating in the future with Robert Mueller’s investigation. In total, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight violations: five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a bank, and two campaign finance violations for making an unlawful corporate campaign contribution and for making an excessive campaign contribution. He faces between four and five years in jail. Cohen is the fifth Trump associate to have pleaded guilty or been charged since Trump took office. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Associated Press / Reuters)
- Michael Cohen’s plea agreement. (DocumentCloud)
- ~~Michael Cohen entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in connection with the investigation into bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance violations. While Cohen is not expected to cooperate with the government, any cooperation agreement would likely extend to Robert Mueller’s investigation.~~ (NBC News / ABC News / CNN / CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
2/ Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud, but the federal jury remained deadlocked on the 10 others charges. Manafort faces the possibility of spending his life in prison, unless Trump intervenes with a pardon. Five of the guilty verdicts were for filing false tax documents; the other three involved bank fraud and foreign bank account registration. The jury returned the decision after deliberating for four days. Manafort is also expected to stand trial next month on a separate set of federal charges in Washington. (New York Times / Associated Press / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / NBC News)
- All the crimes Paul Manafort was convicted of. The first group of charges deals with money Manafort made lobbying for Ukrainian politicians. The second group of charges is about what Manafort allegedly did once he lost his Ukrainian income after the country’s president was deposed. (Vox)
- ~~The jury in Paul Manafort’s trial is having trouble reaching consensus on at least one count and asked the judge for instructions about how to proceed. Manafort faces 18 charges total, including five counts of filing false tax returns, four counts of failing to disclose his offshore bank accounts and nine counts of bank fraud. If convicted on all counts, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.~~ (Reuters / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)
3/ The Trump administration revealed the details of its new pollution rules for coal-burning power plants, which would replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule. The plan would give states authority to determine how to restrict carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, as well as relaxing pollution rules for power plants that need upgrades. The technical analysis that accompanies the proposal says that “implementing the proposed rule is expected to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health,” leading to between 470 and 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030. (New York Times / NBC News / NPR / Politico)
4/ Russian hackers have been targeting conservative American think tanks critical of Trump’s interactions with Putin. Microsoft also identified attempts by the Kremlin-linked hacking group Fancy Bear to infiltrate U.S. candidates, campaigns, and political groups by using malicious websites that mimicked the login pages of the United States Senate to try to trick people into handing over their passwords. Microsoft says it has no evidence that the group was successful, but it remains “concerned that these latest attempts pose security threats to a broadening array of groups connected with both American political parties in the run-up to the 2018 elections.” (New York Times / Politico)
Mick Mulvaney is trying to use his influence to protect a South Carolina company from the negative effects of Trump’s trade policies. Mulvaney is a former South Carolina congressman and has been making personal pleas to administration officials to protect Element Electronics, a TV assembly plant in his old district. The company has said that it will have to cease operations because of Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods. (McClatchy DC)
Christopher Steel won his libel case in the U.S. against three Russian oligarchs who sued him over allegations made in his dossier about the Trump campaign and its links with Moscow. The judge concluded that the dossier was covered by the first amendment, ruling that the oligarchs had failed to prove that Steele knew that some information in the dossier was inaccurate and acted “with reckless disregard as to its falsity.” (The Guardian)
Trump denied reports that he is considering restricting President Obama’s access to intelligence briefings, saying the move is something he “never discussed or thought of.” Reports claimed that then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster had previously talked Trump out of the idea, which some in the White House were pushing last year following Trump’s false claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. (Washington Post)
Trump threatened to revoke the security clearance of another former U.S. intelligence official. Trump accused former CIA and FBI official Philip Mudd of becoming “totally unglued and weird” during a recent CNN appearance, asserting that “Mudd is in no mental condition to have such a Clearance. Should be REVOKED?” (Washington Post)
Trump’s top economic adviser invited a white nationalist to his birthday party a day after a White House speechwriter was fired for speaking at a conference alongside Peter Brimelow in 2016. Larry Kudlow claimed that Brimelow’s views on immigration and race are “a side of Peter that I don’t know, and I totally, utterly disagree with that point of view and have my whole life. I’m a civil rights Republican.” (Washington Post)
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