👋 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 for a “full and complete” sentence for Michael Cohen after his former lawyer asked to not be sent to prison. Cohen’s lawyers argued that his cooperation with Robert Mueller warranted a sentence of “time-served.” Cohen was also in “close and regular contact” with White House staff and Trump’s legal team while preparing his statement to Congress about Trump’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign. In seeking leniency, Cohen’s attorneys claim his false statement to Congress was based on Trump and his team’s attempts to paint interactions with Russian representatives “as having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016.” Cohen’s attorneys, however, say he had a “lengthy substantive conversation with the personal assistant to a Kremlin official following his outreach in January 2016, engaged in additional communications concerning the project as late as June 2016, and kept [Trump] apprised of these communications.” Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 12 after pleading guilty to tax evasion, making false statements to a bank, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress. Trump tweeted that all of those charges were “unrelated to Trump.” (Reuters /Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg)
Cohen believed Trump would offer him a pardon if he stayed on message during conversations with federal prosecutors. That was before Cohen implicated Trump under oath in the illegal hush-money scheme with Stormy Daniels, which could be used as part of Mueller’s obstruction of justice probe in determining whether Trump tried to illegally influence a witness in the investigation. (CNN)
Trump’s lawyers want Stormy Daniels to pay their $340,000 legal bill they claim they earned after successfully defending Trump against her frivolous defamation claim. (Associated Press)
2/ Trump praised Roger Stone for not cooperating with Mueller, tweeting that it’s “nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’” Stone said Sunday that there’s “no circumstance in which I would testify against the president.” Stone has denied multiple times that he knew WikiLeaks was going to release hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign. (Politico / Axios)
3/ Kellyanne Conway’s husband accused Trump of witness tampering after Trump praised Stone for vowing to never testify against him. “Witness tampering: File under ‘18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1512,’” George Conway wrote, listing the federal criminal statute about “tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant.” (New York Post)
4/ The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said the committee has made “a number of referrals” to Mueller’s office for prosecution. Sen. Mark Warner added that while he doesn’t know whether Cohen was instructed to lie to Congress, Cohen’s plea contradicts Trump’s multiple denials during the campaign that he did not have any business links to Russia. Warner called it a “very relevant question that the American people need an answer to.” (CBS News)
The incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee: Cohen’s cooperation is proof that Russia had “leverage” over Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. “The fact that he was lying to the American people about doing business in Russia and the Kremlin knew he was lying gave the Kremlin a hold over him,” Rep. Jerry Nadler said. “One question we have now is, does the Kremlin still have a hold over him because of other lies that they know about?”(NBC News)
The leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee: Cohen’s cooperations confirms that “the president and his business are compromised.” According to Rep. Adam Schiff, “there is now testimony, there is now a witness, who confirms that in the same way Michael Flynn was compromised, that the president and his business are compromised.” Cohen admitted to misleading investigators about the Trump Organization’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. “[W]hat the president was saying,” Schiff added, “what Michael Cohen was saying and others were saying about when this business deal ended was not true. And what’s more, the Russians knew it wasn’t true.” He continued: “It means that the president, whether he won or lost, was hoping to make money from Russia, was seeking at the same time to enlist the support of the Kremlin to make that money.” (ABC News)
James Comey agreed to testify to Congress about the FBI’s investigations during the 2016 campaign as long as lawmakers release the full transcript of his testimony within 24 hours. Comey and his attorney filed a legal challenge last week to the Republican-led effort to compel him to testify. His attorney argued that the legal action was “to prevent the Joint Committee from using the pretext of a closed interview to peddle a distorted, partisan political narrative about the Clinton and Russian investigations through selective leaks.” As part of the deal, Comey will be free to make all or part of his testimony available to the public. (NBC News / Reuters / ABC News / New York Times)
5/ The CIA has “medium-to-high confidence” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “personally targeted” Jamal Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death.” Prince Mohammed sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser, Saud al-Qahtani, who supervised the 15-man team that killed Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October. The leak of the intelligence report has infuriated Gina Haspel, the CIA director. In August 2017, Prince Mohammed told associates that if he couldn’t persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia, then “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” according to the CIA assessment. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times)
poll/ 46% of voters approve of Trump’s job performance – up from his October numbers, when 44% approved of the job Trump was doing as president. 54% don’t approve. (The Hill)
Trump intends to formally notify Canada and Mexico of his intention to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement in six months in order to force Congress to pass his new trade deal. Trump is using the threat of disrupting the entire North American economy to get the deal passed. (Politico)
The U.S. and China agreed to hold off on new tariffs. Trump agreed to postpone a plan to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, while the Chinese agreed to an unspecified increase in their purchases of American industrial, energy and agricultural products. Trump and President Xi Jinping, however, remain far apart on basic trade policy issues and neither show signs of backing down on their demands. (New York Times)
All of the world leaders at the G20 Summit in Argentina — except for Trump — released a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to fighting climate change. The U.S. did join a separate portion of the communique that focused on energy and the role it plays in shaping the future of the planet. (Axios)
The House and Senate plan to vote this week to push the government shutdown deadline back two weeks and delay a fight over Trump’s border wall until right before Christmas. Congress has until Friday to approve a funding extension before funding for the federal government runs out. (Politico / CNBC / CNN / Washington Post)
Trump and Putin had an “informal” meeting at the G20 Summit. “As is typical at multilateral events,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “President Trump and the First Lady had a number of informal conversations with world leaders at the dinner last night, including President Putin.” Trump previously canceled a formal meeting with Putin over Russia’s recent seizure of Ukrainian ships and the detention of their crews. “I answered his questions about the incident in the Black Sea,” said Putin. “He has his position. I have my own. We stayed in our own positions.” (The Hill / Fox News)
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