👋 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/ Trump called on Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department to investigate and uncover the author of the anonymous op-ed that described an effort by members of the administration to subvert his agenda. “Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. He added that he’s also “looking at” possible legal action against The New York Times, though he did not elaborate. (ABC News / NBC News / CNBC / CNN / New York Times)
2/ Trump tried to refute the quotes in Bob Woodword’s new book, claiming “I don’t talk the way I am quoted” in Fear: Trump in the White House. “The Woodward book is a scam,” Trump tweeted at 5:30am, claiming the “quotes are made up” because “I would not have been elected President” if they were true. Trump also denied that he called Sessions “mentally retarded” or a “dumb Southerner,” as the book reports. However, Trump is on record calling somebody “retarded” on a Howard Stern episode in 2004, and a former deputy editor at the New York Post said Trump once described his in-laws as “an entourage of dumb Southerners.” (New York Times / Washington Post)
3/ Trump will not answer Robert Mueller’s questions about obstruction of justice, according to Rudy Giuliani. “That’s a no-go. That is not going to happen,” Trump’s lawyer said. “There will be no questions at all on obstruction,” whether in person or in writing. (Associated Press)
4/ Hours later Giuliani walked back the comments, saying the possibility of answering questions about obstruction of justice are “not ruled in or out.” One person with direct knowledge of Trump’s legal strategy said that “there is no strategy” aside from PR tactics of threatening Mueller. If negotiations break down, Mueller could be forced to subpoena Trump to testify. Giuliani previously said they would fight any subpoena up to the Supreme Court, which has never definitively ruled on the question of whether a president can be forced to testify. (NBC News / Axios / Reuters)
5/ Elizabeth Warren called on White House officials to invoke the 25th Amendment and begin the process of removing Trump from office. “If senior administration officials think the President of the United States is not able to do his job,” Warren said, “then they should invoke the 25th Amendment.” Warren’s comments come a day after an op-ed by an anonymous senior administration official who attacked Trump’s “amorality” and “anti-democratic” policies, saying staff is “thwarting” Trump’s “misguided impulses” and “worst inclinations.” (CNN)
6/ Trump told his supporters it’ll be “your fault” if he gets impeached. During a rally in Montana, Trump told supporters that they “aren’t just voting for a candidate, you are voting for which party controls Congress.” He then brought up “the impeachment word” and said “you didn’t go out to vote – that’s the only way it could happen.” (CNN)
7/ Obama called Trump a “threat to democracy” and accused him and his Republican supporters of practicing “politics of fear and resentment” during a speech at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He added that the “resistance” within the administration is not the right way to stop the “crazy stuff” coming out of the White House. He blamed Republicans in Congress for being “utterly unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work” and that Republicans “who know better are still bending over backwards” to protect Trump. “This is not normal,” Obama continued. “How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?” (NBC News / New York Times / Politico)
- Trump on Obama’s critical speech: “I fell asleep.” (Politico)
George Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days in jail, having pled guilty in October 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians. In asking for leniency, Papadopoulos said he made “a terrible mistake, for which I have paid a terrible price, and am deeply ashamed,” and that he was motivated to lie to the FBI try to “create distance between the issue, myself, and the president.” Papadopoulos was the first campaign adviser to be arrested in connection with Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election. He was also ordered to pay a $9,500 fine and perform community service. His attorney said Trump “hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever did.” (Bloomberg / Washington Post / CNN / New York Times)
Papadopoulos “can’t guarantee” that he didn’t tell anyone on the Trump campaign that Russia had damaging emails about Hillary Clinton. “I might have,” Papadopoulos said, “but I have no recollection of doing so.” (CNN)
A former Roger Stone associate and longtime Trump ally appeared before Mueller’s federal grand jury. Randy Credico is one of at least 10 people associated with Stone who have been contacted by the special counsel. (ABC News)
Trump “most likely” won’t “shut down government over border security” after all. Trump has gone back and forth about the possibility of a government shutdown, and recently said he’d prefer to wait until after the midterms because “we need Republicans elected in the midterms. We are getting the wall done.” (NBC News / Politico)
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