👋 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/ Rudy Giuliani claimed that “no plans were ever made” for Trump Tower Moscow, despite hundreds of pages of business documents, emails, text messages, and architectural plans proving otherwise. For instance, by September 2015, an architect had completed plans for a 100 story high tower, and when Trump signed a finalized letter of intent on Oct. 28 2015, the tower would have “approximately 250 first class, luxury residential condominiums” and “approximately 15 floors” and contain “not fewer than 150 hotel rooms.” The Trump team also considered an option to open “The Spa By Ivanka Trump,” as well as giving a “$50 million penthouse to Putin.” Trump’s lawyer characterized this by saying “the proposal was in the earliest stage” and later adding “There were no drafts. Nothing in the file.” (BuzzFeed News)
2/ Trump was reportedly “apoplectic” and “furious” with Giuliani after his lawyer claimed that he had been involved in discussions to build a Trump Tower in Moscow through the end of the 2016 campaign. Giuliani’s statement contradicted Trump’s own public statements about the project. Trump has been “screaming” and is “so mad at Rudy,” because he felt that Giuliani had “changed the headlines” for the worse and had obscured what he believed was a public relations victory when Robert Mueller’s office disputed portions of a report that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Trump is also being encouraged by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner – among others – to fire Giuliani before it’s too late. Giuliani blamed journalists for his gaffs, saying they’ve taken his hypothetical arguments literally, adding that Trump is “not pissed. He just wants it clarified.” Giuliani also admitted this week that he is worried that his legacy would be that “he lied for Trump” and has told people privately that he “hates the job.” (Politico / Vanity Fair / Associated Press)
3/ Michael Cohen indefinitely postponed his plan to testify before Congress over concerns of “ongoing threats” to his family from Trump and Giuliani. Trump dismissed Cohen’s allegation, saying Cohen has “only been threatened by the truth.” Cohen was scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7. (CNBC / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Axios / The Hill)
4/ Trump told Nancy Pelosi he plans to deliver his State of the Union address in the House chamber as scheduled, rejecting her suggestion that he delay it or submit it in writing because of the government shutdown, which has now entered its 33rd day. In a letter to Pelosi, Trump dismissed the concerns about security due to the shutdown, saying “It would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!” The House and Senate, however, must first pass a concurrent resolution for a joint session of Congress for Trump to address lawmakers on Jan. 29th. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
5/ Pelosi responded by blocking Trump from delivering the State of the Union from the House chamber, saying she would not pass a resolution authorizing him to give the speech inside the chamber until the government is reopened. Trump said he was “not surprised” by Pelosi’s decision, unrelatedly claiming that Democrats have “become radicalized.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)
6/ The State Department canceled a conference on border security because of the ongoing government shutdown over border security. The conference was supposed to take place next month, but it has been postponed “due to uncertainty associated with the continuing partial U.S. federal government shutdown,” according to a letter sent to at least 55 U.S. embassies and missions across the globe. (CNN)
Hundreds of IRS employees were told to skip work during the shutdown due to financial hardship, despite the Trump administration ordering at least 30,000 IRS workers back to their offices. (Washington Post)
The shutdown has impeded FBI efforts to crack down on child trafficking, violent crime, and terrorism due to funding freezes. (New York Times)
Mick Mulvaney asked agency leaders for a list of the programs that would be jeopardized if the shutdown continues into March or April. (Washington Post)
poll/ 54% blame Trump and the GOP for the shutdown, while 35% blame the Democrats in Congress. (Politico)
poll/ 70% of Americans don’t think the border wall is worth a government shutdown and think the shutdown is having a negative impact on the country. 65% of Republicans think Trump should refuse to sign a budget unless it includes funding for the wall, while 69% of Democrats think party leaders should continue to refuse Trump’s demands to fund the wall. (ABC News)
poll/ 34% of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance – down from 42% a month earlier. (Associated Press)
poll/ 56% of voters support the single-payer health insurance plan known as Medicare for All, while 42% oppose it. (The Hill)
The House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into how Jared Kushner got a security clearance, despite concerns that he had been targeted for manipulation by foreign governments. (NBC News)
Robert Mueller’s team is interested in the Trump campaign’s relationship with the NRA during the 2016 campaign. Mueller wants to know more about how and when Trump and his campaign first established a relationship with the NRA, and how Trump ended up as a speaker at the organization’s annual meeting in 2015. The NRA is under scrutiny from lawmakers for its spending in support of Trump in 2016 and its ties to Russian nationals. (CNN)
Trump recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela. U.S. officials urged Nicolas Maduro to peacefully give up power. Instead, Maduro gave U.S. diplomats 72 hours to leave. Maduro succeeded socialist Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013. (Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)
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