👋 Away Message: So we had a little scheduling snafu here at WTF HQ, where both myself and Joe (voice of the pod) double-booked ourselves with personal and professional obligations next week. Oopsie! Not a very great job using a calendar on my part, I guess. On the other hand, it appears the government isn't going to be open for business anyway... Unless something truly WTF-y happens, I'll see you all again on Tuesday, October 10th, because Monday is a holiday (Indigenous Peoples' Day).
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1/ The Trump administration has been denying passports to U.S. citizens and accusing hundreds of Latinos along the southern border of using fake birth certificates to obtain citizenship. The State Department said it “has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications,” but news reports suggest a dramatic shift in both immigration enforcement and the way passports are issued. Some passport applicants with U.S. birth certificates are being imprisoned at immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings, while others have had their passports revoked when trying to reenter the United States. (Washington Post / CNN)
2/ Trump said Jeff Sessions’s job is safe at least until the midterm elections in November. Meanwhile, Trump has been lobbying “any senator who will listen” to him about firing and replacing Sessions. It’s unclear if the Senate would be able to confirm a replacement for Sessions due to its legislative schedule, which includes a government funding package and the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (Bloomberg / Politico / CNBC)
3/ George Papadopoulos accepted a plea deal from Robert Mueller and pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts during the campaign with a professor who had “substantial connections to Russian government officials.” Papadopoulos was strongly considering backing away from the deal earlier this month, but decided to accept the deal and cooperate with Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. (ABC News)
- Roger Stone expects Robert Mueller to indict him, claiming that Mueller’s team wants “to frame me for some nonexistent crime to silence me and pressure me to testify against the president.” There are questions about Stone’s interactions with WikiLeaks and the hacker Guccifer 2.0 during the 2016 election campaign. U.S. officials have said that WikiLeaks was acting as an agent of Russia, and Mueller has labeled Guccifer 2.0 a Russian intelligence front. (NBC News)
4/ Trump accused NBC of “fudging” his May 2017 interview where he admitted that the decision to fire James Comey was related to the Russia investigation. Comey was the FBI director at the time and was in charge of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. During the NBC interview, Trump admitted that he had “this Russia thing” in mind when he decided to fire Comey. On Thursday, Trump accused NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt on Twitter of “fudging my tape on Russia,” but provided no evidence to support the accusation. (Reuters)
Trump appeared to admit via tweet that he tried to fire Robert Mueller. “I am very excited about the person who will be taking the place of Don McGahn as White House Councel! [sic]” Trump tweeted. “I liked Don, but he was NOT responsible for me not firing Bob Mueller or Jeff Sessions. So much Fake Reporting and Fake News!” Trump has denied that he has tried to fire Mueller in the past, calling the claims “Fake News, folks. Fake News.” (Washington Post)
I am very excited about the person who will be taking the place of Don McGahn as White House Counsel! I liked Don, but he was NOT responsible for me not firing Bob Mueller or Jeff Sessions. So much Fake Reporting and Fake News!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018
Trump teased that he was “very excited” to name Don McGahn’s replacement, but isn’t ready to share the new White House counsel’s name. (Associated Press)
Trump also lashed out at top NBC and CNN executives on Twitter and called on AT&T to fire CNN chief Jeff Zucker. “The hatred and extreme bias of me by @CNN has clouded their thinking and made them unable to function,” Trump tweeted. “But actually, as I have always said, this has been going on for a long time. Little Jeff Z has done a terrible job, his ratings suck, & AT&T should fire him to save credibility!” He also predicted that NBC News chairman Andrew Lackey will be fired. “What’s going on at @CNN,” Trump tweeted, “is happening, to different degrees, at other networks - with @NBCNews being the worst. The good news is that Andy Lack(y) is about to be fired(?) for incompetence, and much worse. When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!” (Politico)
The hatred and extreme bias of me by @CNN has clouded their thinking and made them unable to function. But actually, as I have always said, this has been going on for a long time. Little Jeff Z has done a terrible job, his ratings suck, & AT&T should fire him to save credibility!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018
What’s going on at @CNN is happening, to different degrees, at other networks - with @NBCNews being the worst. The good news is that Andy Lack(y) is about to be fired(?) for incompetence, and much worse. When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018
5/ Trump called on the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice to tell the head of the FISA Court to question FBI and Justice Department officials about the use of the Steele dossier in the Russia probe. “This is a fraud on the court,” Trump tweeted. “The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is in charge of the FISA court. He should direct the Presiding Judge, Rosemary Collier [sic], to hold a hearing, haul all of these people from the DOJ & FBI in there, & if she finds there were crimes committed, and there were, there should be a criminal referral by her.” Judge Rosemary Collyer presides over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, which oversees electronic surveillance and search warrant requests from federal authorities. (Reuters)
6/ In 2016, Trump and Michael Cohen tried to buy all the damaging information that the National Enquirer and American Media Inc. had about Trump, dating all the way back to the 1980s. The plan was never finalized, but Trump and Cohen appear to mention it during a recorded conversation between the two that was released by Cohen’s attorney last month. “It’s all the stuff — all the stuff, because you never know,” Cohen says on the tape. American Media Inc. chairman and CEO David Pecker has reportedly been cooperating with the special counsel’s investigators for months. (Axios / New York Times)
Trump wants to move ahead with imposing tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports next week. China threatened to retaliate with duties on $60 billion of U.S. goods. The U.S. has so far imposed levies on $50 billion in Chinese goods, with Beijing retaliating in kind. Stocks fell when the news was released. (Bloomberg)
Trump threatened to pull out of the World Trade Organization “if they don’t shape up” and treat the U.S. better. Trump has long criticized the organization, saying earlier this year that the U.S. has been “treated very badly” by the group, describing it as an “unfair situation.” (Bloomberg / CNBC)
Trump canceled pay raises for almost 2 million civilian federal employees in order to “put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course.” The 2.1% across-the-board pay increase was scheduled to take effect in January. In contrast to civilian employees, troops are due for a 2.6% pay increase next year, their biggest pay raise since 2009. (CNBC / Axios / Associated Press / Politico)
White House ethics lawyer Stefan Passatino is leaving the Trump administration. Passatino helped several White House officials grapple with a string of ethics violations and controversies, including Kellyanne Conway’s March 2017 violation of government ethics laws when she told people to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” (NBC News)
Trump blamed China for derailing the rapprochement process between the U.S. and North Korea, suggesting that China is putting “tremendous pressure” on Pyongyang as a result of the ongoing trade disputes between the two economic superpowers. Trump issued four tweets – what he called a White House statement – saying that he “feels strongly that North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese Government.” During the same tweetstorm, Trump said his relationship with Kim Jong Un was “a very good and warm one,” and referred to the Chinese leader as “China’s great President Xi Jinping.” (NPR)
The Justice Department sided with a group of Asian-Americans rejected by Harvard, who say the university has systematically discriminated against them by artificially capping the number of qualified Asian-Americans from attending the school to advance less qualified students of other races. In July, the Education and Justice Departments said that the Trump administration was abandoning Obama-era policies that called on universities to consider race as a factor when trying to diversify their campuses. (New York Times / Politico / Associated Press)
A California man threatened to shoot Boston Globe employees in the head for their editorial response to Trump’s attacks on the news media. According to a phone recording, Robert Chain called the paper and said: “You’re the enemy of the people, and we’re going to kill every fucking one of you.” The FBI arrested Chain on Thursday in California. He owned several guns and had recently purchased a small-caliber rifle. (New York Times / Associated Press / Justice Department)
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