👋 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/ The National Republican Congressional Committee suffered a major hack during the 2018 election, exposing thousands of emails to an “unknown entity.” Four senior NRCC aides had their email accounts surveilled for months by a suspected “foreign agent” and despite learning about the hack in April, the NRCC didn’t tell GOP leadership about it until yesterday after a Politico inquiry. The NRCC said it withheld the information from party leaders so they conduct their own investigation. (Politico / Washington Post / CNN)
2/ A bipartisan group of senators accused the Saudi crown prince of complicity in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi following a closed-door briefing with CIA director Gina Haspel. Lawmakers said evidence presented by the CIA overwhelmingly pointed to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the assassination, but they were divided about what steps to take next. (Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / ABC News / The Guardian)
3/ Robert Mueller’s prosecutors recently told defense lawyers they are “tying up loose ends” in their investigation. The special counsel is planning to file sentencing memos this week about Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen. In the Manafort case, Mueller could file his memo under seal in order to avoid disclosing additional crimes his office believes Manafort committed when he lied to prosecutors and broke his cooperation deal. (Yahoo News / CNN / CNBC)
4/ Mueller is expected to make a sentencing recommendation for Michael Flynn today. The memo should describe the crimes the former national security adviser committed that led to his guilty plea after 24 days on the job and how he has helped the Russia probe. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. He will be sentenced by a federal judge on Dec. 18. Flynn’s sentencing was delayed four times after Mueller said he needed more time “due to the status of the investigation.” (Reuters / CNN / ABC News / The Guardian)
📌 The Re-Up: Day 25. Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Adviser after it was revealed that he had misled Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Flynn served in the job for less than a month. (New York Times)
📌 Day 26. Trump knew Flynn misled officials on Russia calls for “weeks,” the White House says. The comment contrasts the impression Trump gave aboard Air Force One that he was not familiar with a report that revealed Flynn had not told the truth about the calls. White House counsel Don McGahn told Trump in a January briefing that Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia. (Washington Post)
📌 Day 22. Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials. Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election. (Washington Post)
5/ Maryland and the District of Columbia issued subpoenas for Trump’s financial records related to his D.C. hotel as part of an ongoing lawsuit alleging that the president’s business violated the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments. The Trump hotel is the Old Post Office building, which is leased from the federal government. The lease says that no elected official may hold that lease. The attorneys general in Maryland and Washington plan to serve as many as 20 companies and government agencies with subpoenas. (Washington Post / Associated Press / NPR / Politico)
6/ Paul Manafort tried to get Ecuador to hand over Julian Assange in exchange for debt relief from the U.S. Manafort originally flew to Ecuador in May 2017 to convince then-incoming President Lenín Moreno to let him broker an energy deal between China and Ecuador. But the talks shifted to Ecuador’s desire to rid itself of Assange, who has been staying the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012. Manafort suggested that he could negotiate a deal to handover Assange, which fell apart once it became clear that Manafort was a major target of Mueller’s Russia investigation. There is no evidence that Trump was aware of or involved in Manafort’s dealings with Ecuador. (New York Times)
- Roger Stone invoked the Fifth Amendment as he declined to share documents and testimony with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Stone is under scrutiny Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election over allegations that he had advanced knowledge of WikiLeaks’ dump of Clinton campaign emails. (Politico)
The White House wants to end federal subsidies and tax credits for electric cars and renewable energy sources. Larry Kudlow, Trump’s economic adviser, predicted that the subsidies would be gone within the next few years. “It’s just all going to end in the near future,” Kudlow said. “I don’t know whether it will end in 2020 or 2021.” (Reuters)
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen expects to keep her job thanks to her “tough” response to the caravan of Central American migrants headed toward the U.S. that Trump turned into a midterm campaign issue. (Politico)
Michael Avenatti will not run for president in 2020 after all. “After consultation with my family and at their request, I have decided not to seek the Presidency of the United States in 2020,” Avenatti said. “I will continue to represent Stormy Daniels and others against Donald Trump and his cronies and will not rest until Trump is removed from office, and our republic and its values are restored.” (Law & Crime)
Trump’s use of Air Force One to campaign for Republican candidates during the midterms cost taxpayers about $17 million. Presidents using Air Force One for campaign purposes are supposed to pay for a portion of the operating cost from their political party or reelection campaign. Instead, the Trump campaign reimbursed the Treasury roughly $112,000 for air travel. (Quartz)
Trump complained about the cost of an “uncontrollable” arms race with Russia and China, despite previously bragging about his increase in military spending. (Associated Press)
Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would suspend its obligations to the 1987 Treaty on Intermediate-range Nuclear Force in 60 days unless Russia returns to compliance. If Russia fails to meet the deadline, the U.S. would be free to develop and test new ground-based missiles, Pompeo said. (Wall Street Journal)
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