👋 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 personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in order to obscure his involvement in the deal. Cohen and Trump had at least 10 face-to-face meetings about the deal during the campaign. Cohen acknowledged to Robert Mueller’s team that he had given false testimony to the Senate and House intelligence committees that the Moscow tower negotiations ended in January 2016 were an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project” and Trump “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.” Trump also approved a plan by Cohen to visit Russia during the presidential campaign and meet with Putin in order to kick off the negotiations for the Moscow project. “Make it happen,” Trump told Cohen. Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. both regularly received “very detailed updates” about the project from Cohen. The revelation marks the first time Trump is known to have directly – and explicitly – ordered one of his subordinates to lie about his dealings with Russia. (BuzzFeed News)
- Court records, sentencing memos, hearings, and charging documents line up with BuzzFeed’s reporting. Here are the relevant sections of court filings and how they match the BuzzFeed report. (CNN)
2/ Democrats in Congress vowed to investigate the report that Trump personally directed Cohen to lie to Congress, which could leave the president open to accusations of suborning perjury and obstruction of justice. House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff said “we will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true” and that allegations that Trump “may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date.” Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted that the panel’s “job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work,” adding: “We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction.” (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / The Guardian / NBC News)
[Opinion] This charge is different. An explosive report that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress provides a straightforwardly impeachable offense. (The Atlantic)
[Opinion] This may be the smoking gun in the Russia investigation. Why, if there was nothing worrisome or untoward about Trump’s dealings with Russia, would he instruct Cohen to lie to about the depth and breadth of the conversations between the Trumps and the Russians regarding a potential construction project in Moscow? (CNN)
[Opinion] Impeach Donald Trump. Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs. (The Atlantic)
3/ Trump’s nominee for attorney general testified this week that it would be a crime if “the president tried to coach somebody not to testify, or testify falsely.” William Barr described such conduct as “classic” obstruction of justice. (Washington Post)
The Buzzfeed story about Trump ordering Cohen to lie to Congress about his business dealings in Russia, if true, makes this passage from Barr’s memo to DOJ, https://t.co/Pfcf27JkZZ, highly relevant. @emptywheel pic.twitter.com/JQbrwAdClO— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) January 18, 2019
The wife of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker sent an email to a reporter saying Mueller’s investigation is “wrapping up.” Marci Whitaker was responding to an article in Slate that criticized her husband and argued that the Senate should not confirm him as the next attorney general. She objected to the reporter’s suggestion that Whitaker should recuse himself from the Mueller investigation. Marci Whitaker added that the government shutdown is affecting her family’s ability to earn a living. (Slate / CNN)
Trump was reportedly “startled” and “caught off guard” that Barr has a warm relationship with Mueller. Trump complained to aides that he didn’t realize Barr and Mueller have worked together for 30 years. (CNN)
4/ Trump accused Cohen of “lying to reduce his jail time” following the report that he directed his former lawyer to lie to Congress. Separately, Rudy Giuliani issued a statement that “Any suggestion— from any source— that the President counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false.” (CNBC / Axios / Associated Press)
- Cohen arrived at his Manhattan apartment with his arm in a sling and a black eye. Trump’s former lawyer right hand had a small bandage – like the kind used to cover a small wound by an IV – and a red identification bracelet. Cohen’s legal and communications advisor, Lanny Davis said Cohen was in the hospital for a pre-scheduled shoulder surgery. (The Daily Mail)
poll/ 37% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as Season Three begins; 59% disapprove. 47% think Trump be an unsuccessful president compared to 29% who think he will be successful in the long run. (Pew Research Center)
Nancy Pelosi postponed her official trip to Europe and Afghanistan due to security concerns after Trump divulged the itinerary. Trump grounded Pelosi’s military flight after speaker of the House requested that Trump postpone his State of the Union address in light of the partial government shutdown. Pelosi is second in line to the presidency. (New York Times)
Melania Trump flew to Florida on an Air Force jet hours after Trump postponed Pelosi’s use a military plane. (CNBC)
Mitch McConnell blocked another bill to reopen the government, marking the third time he has knocked down House-passed government funding bills. McConnell gave no explanation for the move, but he has said over the last few weeks that he will not bring government funding bills to a vote unless the bill is the result of negotiations between Trump and the Democrats. (The Hill)
The Justice Department is hiring a pair of attorneys to handle border wall litigation in South Texas. The attorneys likely will deal with eminent domain property seizures for properties in the path of planned wall construction. (Politico)
The Trump administration considered speeding up the deportation of migrant children by denying them asylum hearings after separating them from their parents, according to a 2017 draft memo. In June, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the administration did “not have a policy of separating families at the border” – they were just enforcing the law. Sen. Jeff Merkley asked the FBI to open a perjury investigation into Nielsen. (NBC News / ABC News / CNN)
The White House canceled its delegation’s planned trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Out of consideration for the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, “and to ensure his team can assist as needed, President Trump has canceled his Delegation’s trip to the World Economic Forum.” Trump recently canceled his own trip to Davos, but cabinet members and others from his delegation were also scheduled to meet at the annual economic conference. (CNN)
Pence called criticism of his wife’s decision to teach at an anti-LGBT Christian school “deeply offensive.” In the employment application, Immanuel Christian School requires applicants to agree that marriage can be only between a man and a woman. The school also requires a a parent agreement, allowing the school to deny admission or kick out students who engages in activities that conflict with a “biblical lifestyle,” such as “condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity.” (Washington Post)
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