👋 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/ Trump made up an accusation that Robert Mueller was “horribly threatening” witnesses to force them to cooperate in the Russia probe. The renewed attack on the special counsel comes one day after Mitch McConnell blocked an effort to protect Mueller’s work. Trump called Mueller’s investigation “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!” and “a total mess” that has “gone absolutely nuts.” Trump also defended his administration, saying it “is running very smoothly” and not “in chaos” or having a “meltdown,” but rather the U.S. under his presidency has become “the envy of the world.” He provided no evidence to support his claim. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / Bloomberg / HuffPost)
Mueller’s team is investigating witness tampering by Roger Stone. Mueller is exploring whether Stone tried to intimidate and discredit a witness who contradicted his story about his contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 presidential campaign. (Wall Street Journal)
In a two-paragraph legal filing, Mueller said former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates is cooperating with prosecutors on “several ongoing investigations,” and it’s not appropriate to start his sentencing process. (Bloomberg)
Text messages show Stone discussed WikiLeaks with a friend six days before it began releasing the Clinton campaign’s hacked emails. The text messages appear to show Randy Credico providing regular updates to Stone on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s plans to release the hacked emails. In the exchange, Credico tells Stone on Oct. 1, 2016, that “Hillary’s campaign will die this week” because of “big news Wednesday.” Nothing about Clinton was released that Wednesday, but two days later, on Oct. 7, WikiLeaks dropped its first dump of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. (NBC News)
2/ A federal judge denied a Russian firm’s motion to dismiss charges filed by Mueller’s team. The special counsel has accused Concord Management and Consulting of funding a propaganda operation to sway the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. Concord was charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by hiding its election-related activities and failing to register as a foreign agent trying to influence the U.S. political process. Concord is controlled by Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. (Reuters / Politico / CNN)
3/ Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five people involved in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Another six suspects have been indicted. Saudi officials denied that King Salman or his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had any knowledge of the operation. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)
4/ The Trump administration sanctioned 17 Saudis accused of involvement in the killing of Khashoggi. Neither the U.S. nor Saudi’s implicated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Turkey has indirectly accused of ordering Khashoggi’s death. (New York Times / Washington Post)
5/ The White House asked the Justice Department and FBI for ways to legally extradite an enemy of Turkish President Recep Erdogan in order to placate Turkey over the murder of Khashoggi. Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for almost two decades. Erdogan accused Gulen of being behind a failed coup against his government in 2016. (NBC News)
6/ A federal judge ruled that Florida voters have until Saturday to correct their rejected mail-in and provisional ballots, saying the state’s law requiring signatures on ballots to match those on file is being applied unconstitutionally. More than 4,000 ballots across 45 counties in Florida were not counted because of inconsistent signatures. In 22 other counties, the number is unknown. In the Senate race, Gov. Rick Scott (R) leads Sen. Bill Nelson (D) by fewer than 13,000 votes. In the gubernatorial race, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) leads Andrew Gillum (D) by nearly 34,000 votes. (Washington Post / ABC News / BuzzFeed News)
7/ The same judge denied a request to extend the deadline for elections officials to complete a machine recount despite Palm Beach County’s election supervisor saying they would not meet the deadline. Judge Mark Walker of the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee called Florida “the laughingstock of the world election after election and we chose not to fix this.” Counties that do not complete the machine recount in time will revert to the unofficial results tabulated on Saturday. Races that remain within one quarter of one percentage point after the deadline will proceed to a manual recount, and will have until Sunday at noon to review ballots. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Reuters)
8/ Palm Beach County missed the deadline for recounting votes in the state’s Senate, governor’s and agriculture-commissioner races. Counting machines overheated and stopped working at least twice this week. Florida will now manually recount the results in the U.S. Senate race, where about 12,600 votes separated Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson from Republican Rick Scott, the state’s governor. (Washington Post / ABC News)
Trump will meet with Kim Jong Un for a second summit. The condition of the meeting does not include a requirement that North Korea provide a complete list of its nuclear weapons and missile sites. (NBC News)
Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti was arrested for felony domestic violence. Officers in West Los Angeles took an incident report involving an allegation of domestic violence from an unidentified victim. Avenatti denied ever being “physically abusive,” and called the felony allegation against him “completely bogus.” (Politico / CNBC / BuzzFeed News)
A federal judge will rule on restoring Jim Acosta’s press pass on Friday, postponing a decision on granting CNN’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. (Politico / ABC News / CNN)
A man started shouting “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump” during intermission at a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The play is based on Yiddish stories and tells the tale of a Jewish family in Russia during the early 1900s. (Baltimore Sun / Talking Points Memo)
A 10-year-old Muslim girl found notes in her elementary school cubby that said “You’re a terrorist” and “I will kill you.” (CNN)
Hate crimes in America rose 17% last year – the third consecutive year that such crimes increased. (Washington Post)
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