👋 Away Message: Hi there, Matt's currently away from the computer, but in the spirit of experimentation, the daily WTFJHT post will be powered by Current Status and lightly edited by a human for clarity.
(For those who aren't familiar, Current Status is a tool I developed to make it faster and easier to source the stories that the political web is currently reading and sharing.)
What to expect this week: The daily summaries will be a bit shorter, the Notables are taking the week off, but the overall number of stories in each edition of WTF Just Happened Today? will remain about the same. We'll return to our regularly schedule WTFJHT programming on Monday, May 20th. As with any experiment, I welcome your feedback. Let me know what ya think.
1/ The White House authorized U.S. military troops deployed at the Mexican border to use lethal force and conduct law-enforcement operations. John Kelly's "Cabinet order" expanded the authority of troops at the border to include "a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search" in order to protect border agents. The order could conflict with the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the military from acting as law enforcement on U.S. soil. (Military Times / Axios)
2/ The White House attacked "activist judges" for temporarily blocking Trump's attempt to refuse asylum to migrants who cross the border illegally. Trump also blamed Monday's ruling against his administration on an "Obama judge," who wrote that Trump's "rule barring asylum for immigrants who enter the country" outside a port of entry "irreconcilably conflicts" with federal immigration laws and "the expressed intent of Congress." Chief Justice John Roberts pushed back on Trump's characterization, saying the U.S. doesn't have "Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," adding that an "independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for." (NBC News / Washington Post / Associated Press)
3/ The House Intelligence Committee's incoming Democratic majority is looking to hire money-laundering and forensic accounting experts for the purposes of examining unanswered financial questions about Trump and Russia. (Daily Beast)
4/ The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee demanded that Trump say whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Republican Sen. Bob Corker and Democrat Bob Menendez specifically asked whether the administration believed that bin Salman was involved in the murder. Under the Magnitsky Act, Trump can be required to determine whether a global leader was responsible for human rights violations. (Politico)
poll/ 15% of Americans say they are "looking forward" to talking about politics at Thanksgiving, 40% "hope to avoid" politics and 45% don’t really care. (CBS News)
A federal judge blocked a Mississippi state law that banned most abortions after 15 weeks, ruling that it "unequivocally" violated women's constitutional rights. Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that "the fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the court." (Reuters / CNN/ NPR)
A federal judge in Detroit declared that a law banning female genital mutilation is unconstitutional. He dismissed charges against two doctors and six others accused of subjecting at girls to the cutting procedure, writing that "as despicable as this practice may be," Congress did not have the authority to pass the law that criminalizes female genital mutilation, and that it's a matter for the states to regulate. (USA Today / Reuters)
Both parties have reached an impasse as a partial government shut down looms two weeks away. Trump wants Republicans to secure at least $5 billion to pay for his border wall, which is much more than Democrats are willing to give. (Politico)
U.S. farmers are having trouble selling massive stores of grain that would usually be sold to Chinese buyers. As the trade dispute with China continues, farmers across the country are either letting their crops rot or plowing them under instead of harvesting as they wait and hope for better prices next year. (Reuters)
Robert Mueller still wants to question Trump about his actions in the White House, in addition to the written answers Trump submitted in response to questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Rudy Giuliani signaled that the Trump team would fight any questions they believe violate executive privilege – especially if they relate to potential obstruction of justice. (Politico / CNN)
Mueller asked a federal judge to order George Papadopoulos to start serving time in prison on Monday as scheduled. Papadopoulos asked to delay his two-week prison sentence while a constitutional challenge to the special counsel's appointment in a separate case in Washington is resolved. Mueller's team responded that Papadopoulos waived his rights to appeal when he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. (Washington Post)
📌 The Re-up: Thanksgiving Day Edition.
A few stories worth your attention that were drowned out by the daily shock and awe. But that's not all – these topics also make for great turkey talk. You can thank me later.
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 built myself." Trump and his siblings used fake corporations to hide financial gifts from their parents, which helped Fred Trump 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 $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 from his father's companies starting at age 3. 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)
A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)
Trump won't take action against Saudi Arabia or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, issuing an exclamation-point laden statement that defended the Kingdom and effectively closed the door on the issue. Trump questioned the CIA's assessment that Mohammed ordered Khashoggi's assassination, saying: "It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Regardless, Trump said, the U.S. "intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia" despite calling the "crime" against Khashoggi "terrible" and "one that our country does not condone." The statement was subtitled "America First!" (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NPR / NBC News)
The Trump administration plans to redefine the legal definition of gender as strictly biological, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with. The effort by the Department of Health and Human Services would establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, effectively narrowing the definition of gender and deny federal recognition and civil rights protections to transgender Americans. (New York Times)
Ivanka Trump repeatedly used a private email account to conduct government business in 2017. A White House review found her personal email use included exchanges with cabinet secretaries and forwards of her schedule to her assistant, with hundreds of messages being in violation of federal records rules. Ivanka claimed she didn't know the rules about using a personal email account for government business. [Obligatory editor's note: But her emails.] (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)
Programming note: WTF Just Happened Today will not publish Thursday or Friday. For the latest, check the Current Status – a news tool I built so you always know what the fuck just happened today in politics. Have a safe and happy holiday. I'll see you Monday.