👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ White House counsel Don McGahn will step down after the midterms or after Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court. McGahn was the top lawyer for the Trump campaign and has repeatedly considered resigning as White House counsel. He’s played the role of peacemaker between the White House and Robert Mueller’s team, as well as acting as Trump’s liaison to the Justice Department and Congress. Trump surprised McGahn with his Twitter announcement, since McGahn had not discussed his plans directly with Trump. McGahn’s successor will likely be Emmet Flood, an attorney who advised the Clinton administration during his impeachment hearings and served as White House counsel under George W. Bush. McGahn has said privately that after he steps down he plans to continue assisting Trump throughout his reelection campaign. Trump asked former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter “several times” last year if he would take McGahn’s position. Porter reportedly told him that he didn’t feel “he was qualified for the role.” Republicans see McGahn as a stable force and accessible official, and were dismayed by Trump’s announcement. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said he hopes “it’s not true” that McGahn is leaving and urged Trump to not “let that happen.” (Axios / New York Times / Washington Post)
2/ Betsy DeVos is preparing new education policies that narrow the definition of campus sexual harassment, strengthening the rights of students accused of assault, harassment or rape, while reducing the school’s liability. The proposed rules would hold schools accountable only for formal complaints filed with “an official who has the authority to institute corrective measures” regarding conduct that occurred on campuses. The new rules would also establish a higher legal standard to determine whether schools improperly addressed complaints. (New York Times)
3/ Trump accused China of hacking Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. “Hillary Clinton’s Emails, many of which are Classified Information, got hacked by China,” Trump tweeted. “Next move better be by the FBI & DOJ or, after all of their other missteps (Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA, Dirty Dossier etc.), their credibility will be forever gone!” In an earlier tweet, Trump joked that Russia might be the culprit: “China hacked Hillary Clinton’s private Email Server. Are they sure it wasn’t Russia (just kidding!)? What are the odds that the FBI and DOJ are right on top of this? Actually, a very big story. Much classified information!” Trump offered no evidence to support his claims. (Reuters)
- The FBI refuted Trump’s claim that China hacked Clinton’s emails, saying “the FBI has not found any evidence that (Clinton) servers were compromised.” (NBC News)
4/ Trump said his administration “did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico” despite the official death toll rising to 2,975. Last year, Trump awarded himself a “10 out of 10” on disaster recovery efforts during an Oval Office meeting with Puerto Rico’s governor. (CNN)
5/ NATO is considering naming its new headquarters after the late Sen. John McCain, who made frequent visits to NATO member countries throughout his political career. McCain also criticized Russia’s efforts to undermine the alliance, and voiced disappointment with Trump’s handling of the U.S. relationship with NATO partners. (CNBC)
6/ Leaders from Japan and North Korea met in Vietnam last month without informing the United States. Japan decided not to tell the U.S. about the meeting because of growing concerns that it can’t rely on the Trump administration to lobby on its behalf about key domestic issues in North Korea, such as the abduction of Japanese citizens. The decision to keep the U.S. out of the loop about the meeting reportedly caused “irritation” among U.S. officials. (The Telegraph)
7/ Giuliani was paid to lobby the Romanian president on behalf of a global consulting firm, but the position he was paid to take contradicted the U.S. government’s official position. Giuliani was being paid by Freeh Group International Solutions when he sent a letter to President Klaus Iohannis last week criticizing the “excesses” of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), contradicting the U.S. State Department’s support for the Romanian agency. Although Giuliani did not claim to represent the views of the Trump administration, Giuliani did not disclose in the letter that he was acting on behalf of another client. (Politico)
8/ Leaked emails reveal that a former Homeland Security policy analyst who resigned last week has ties to white nationalists. The emails show that Ian M. Smith had previously been in contact with a group that included known white nationalists as they planned some of their events. One email was addressed to, among other people, prominent white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. Another email includes Jared Taylor, founder of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance. “I no longer work at DHS as of last week,” Smith said when contacted via email, “and didn’t attend any of the events you’ve mentioned.” (The Atlantic)
9/ A second Trump Organization employee discussed a potential immunity deal with federal prosecutors. The employee ultimately did not receive immunity and was not called to testify before the grand jury. Allen Weisselberg was granted immunity for providing information about Michael Cohen. (CNN)
poll/ 55% of voters under 30 say they plan to vote in the midterm elections, about 25% are unsure if they’ll vote, and 19% say they will probably not vote. 60% of millennials have an unfavorable impression of the Republican Party. 27% say they approve of the job Trump is doing. 44% of millennial voters have a favorable view of the Democratic Party. (NBC News / Vox)
poll/ 63% of voters think Trump should voluntarily agree to an interview with Robert Mueller. 55% say they believe Mueller’s investigation will be fair and accurate, compared to only 35% who say they believe Trump’s denials of collusion with Russia during his campaign. (The Hill)
Dept. of Primaries
Rep. Martha McSally easily defeated former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Kelli Ward in the Arizona Republican primary election. With 58 percent of precincts reporting, McSally received 51.4 percent of the vote (196,452 votes), while Ward received 28.6 percent (109,105 votes), and Arpaio only managed to secure 20 percent (76,517 votes). (NBC News)
A Trump-backed Republican and a Bernie Sanders-backed Democrat won their respective gubernatorial primaries in Florida. Rep. Ron DeSantis won the Republican nomination, while Andrew Gillum, currently the mayor of Tallahassee, will be the Democratic nominee. (Washington Post / Vox / New York Times)
DeSantis warned Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by electing his Democratic opponent. If elected, Andrew Gillum would be the state’s first African American governor. (NBC News / Washington Post / CNN)
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