👋 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 inherited his family’s wealth through fraud and questionable tax schemes, receiving the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire. Trump has repeatedly claimed that “I built what I build myself.” Trump and his siblings used fake corporations to hide financial gifts from his parents, which helped his father claim millions in tax deductions. Trump also helped his parents undervalue their real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars when filing their tax returns. In total, Fred and Mary Trump transferred more than a $1 billion in wealth to their children and paid a total of $52.2 million in taxes (about 5%) instead of the $550+ million they should have owed under the 55% tax rate imposed on gifts and inheritances. Trump also “earned” $200,000 a year in today’s dollars starting at age 3 from his father’s companies. After college, Trump started receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year, which increased to $5 million a year when he was in his 40s and 50s. Trump has refused to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. There is no time limit on civil fines for tax fraud. [Editor’s note: This is a must read. An abstract summary does not suffice.] (New York Times)
11 takeaways from the investigation into Trump’s wealth. (New York Times)
A federal judge ruled that a group of nearly 200 Democratic senators and representatives have the legal standing to sue Trump to prove he violated the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause by doing business with foreign governments while in office. (Washington Post / USA Today)
2/ The New York State Tax officials are investigating the allegations that Trump and his family committed “instances of outright fraud” in order to transfer millions of dollars. “The Tax Department is reviewing the allegations in the NYT article and is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation,” a spokesman from New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said. (CNBC)
3/ Paul Manafort met with Robert Mueller’s office as part of his cooperation agreement. Following his guilty plea last month to conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiring to obstruct justice, Manafort is required to cooperate “fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly … in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant.” (Politico)
4/ The intermediary between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Senate Intelligence Committee that he will plead the Fifth Amendment in response to its subpoena for testimony and documents. Randy Credico spent more than two hours last month testifying before Robert Mueller’s grand jury about stolen Democratic emails. Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, said Credico was his intermediary to Assange and WikiLeaks. (Politico)
5/ Trump directed an effort to prevent Stormy Daniels from publishing a description of her alleged sexual encounter with him. In February, Trump instructed his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to seek a restraining order against Daniels through a confidential arbitration proceeding and to coordinate the legal response with his son, Eric Trump. Direct involvement by Trump and his son suggests that Trump’s ties to his company continued into 2018, contradicting public statements made at the time by the Trump Organization, the White House, and Michael Cohen. (Wall Street Journal)
6/ The Trump administration is denying visas to the unmarried same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and foreign staff working at the United Nations, making marriage a requirement for foreign couples to remain in the U.S. together. Diplomats with same-sex partners will have until the end of December to get married, or their partners will be sent home in January. Couples could be exposed to prosecution if they return to a country that criminalizes homosexuality or same-sex marriages. 12% of U.N. members states allow same-sex marriage. (Foreign Policy / USA Today / CNN / HuffPost)
poll/ 49% of voters support the Democratic candidate in their local race for the U.S. House of Representatives while 42% support the Republican candidate. Overall, 50% of voters want Democrats to control the U.S. Senate. 53% of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing. (Quinnipiac)
poll/ In the South, 48% of voters support the Republican congressional candidate over the Democratic candidate. 43% support the Democratic candidate. 52% of Southern voters approve the job Trump is doing, compared with 49% who disapprove. (NBC News)
bonus/ Trump: “THE ONLY REASON TO VOTE FOR A DEMOCRAT IS IF YOU’RE TIRED OF WINNING!” Trump issued the all-caps message shortly before departing for an event in Philadelphia. (The Hill)
The White House corrected the official transcript from Trump’s press conference in the Rose Garden to include his insult of a female reporter. The transcript initially showed Trump telling Cecilia Vega that she wasn’t “thanking” him for calling on her. In reality, Trump told Vega that she was “not thinking. You never do.” (Politico / CNN)
The EPA proposed relaxing radiation exposure guidelines, saying it could have a “positive effect on human health.” (Associated Press)
The Department of Homeland Security couldn’t track separated families because a central database never existed., according to a report by the department’s Office of Inspector General. Instead, “a manually-compiled spreadsheet” was maintained by Health and Human Services, Customs and Border Protection, and ICE personnel where they sent information about migrant children in emails as Microsoft Word attachments. (New York Times)
The Pentagon received two pieces of mail that tested positive for ricin, a highly toxic compound that causes nausea, vomiting and internal bleeding of the stomach and intestines, followed by failure of the liver, spleen and kidneys, and death by collapse of the circulatory system. The two envelopes were addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and to the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson. All mail delivered to the Pentagon was put into quarantine. (CNN)
The U.S. accused Russia of developing a banned cruise missile system that could allow Russia to launch a nuclear strike capable of hitting Europe or Alaska. The U.S. ambassador to NATO said Washington is committed to a diplomatic solution but would consider a military strike if Russian continues development of the medium-range system. (Reuters)
👨⚖️ Dept. of Kavanaugh.
Christine Blasey Ford’s attorneys demanded that the FBI interview her and act on investigative leads they have provided for the inquiry into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. The FBI has not returned calls from Ford’s lawyers and she’s not included in its current list of potential witnesses to interview. “It is inconceivable that the FBI could conduct a thorough investigation of Dr. Ford’s allegations without interviewing her, Judge Kavanaugh, or the witnesses we have identified in our letters to you,” attorneys Debra Katz and Michael Bromwich wrote to FBI officials. (NBC News / Politico)
Mitch McConnell: “We’ll be voting this week.” The Senate Majority Leader said “the time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close.” The FBI’s investigation could be wrapped up as soon as Wednesday. (The Hill) / Wall Street Journal)
Text messages between Brett Kavanaugh and a former classmate at Yale shows Kavanaugh and his team were working behind the scenes to refute Deborah Ramirez’s allegations against him before they were made public. Kerry Berchem tried to get the text messages to the FBI so they can be reviewed as part of the new investigation, but has yet to be contacted by the FBI. The texts suggest that Kavanaugh was personally communicating with former classmates about the allegations before they were made public in a New Yorker article. (NBC News)
Julie Swetnick, speaking publicly for the first time, said she was raped at a party that Kavanaugh and Mark Judge attended, but “cannot specifically say that he was one of the ones who assaulted me.” Swetnick said Kavanaugh “was very aggressive — very sloppy drunk, very mean drunk. I saw him — go up to girls and paw on them, try to, you know, get a little too handsy, touching them in private parts. I saw him try to shift clothing.” (NBC News)
Republican Sen. Susan Collins called on the FBI to investigate Julie Swetnick’s allegations against Kavanaugh as part of its probe. “Senator Collins was encouraged by the president’s statements that he would give the FBI agents the latitude they need to do their work,” said a spokesperson for Sen. Collins. “It makes sense to start with the four named witnesses from the hearing and then the FBI can follow any leads that it believes need to be pursued, as Senators Flake, Murkowski, and Collins indicated at the time this agreement was made.” (Portland Press Herald)
As an undergraduate at Yale in 1985, Kavanaugh was involved in an altercation at a local bar and was accused of throwing ice at another patron. The incident led the New Haven Police Department to question Kavanaugh and four other men. Kavanaugh was not arrested in connection with the incident. (New York Times)
Two ethics complaints have been filed against Kavanaugh in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court on which he sits. One complaint charges that Kavanaugh’s attacks on his accusers in written testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 26 “demonstrate his lack of fitness to be a judge.” The other complaint involves allegations made by Kavanaugh during his initial confirmation hearing. The complaints are being administered by Merrick Garland. (Law and Crime)
Trump lamented that it’s a “scary time for young men in America” while he was defended Kavanaugh. Trump told reporters that “it’s a very scary situation where you’re guilty until proven innocent.” (The Hill / ABC News)
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