👋 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/ Federal prosecutors in New York requested interviews with Trump Organization executives. New York federal prosecutors are running at least two investigations into Trump-related entities: the first centers on Cohen’s possible campaign-finance violations for the hush-money payments made or organized to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump. The second concerns the Trump inaugural committee. (CNN)
2/ Trump’s inaugural committee was ordered to turn over documents related to donations and spending following a subpoena by the Southern District of New York. Federal prosecutors are seeking all information about donors, vendors, contractors, bank accounts, and foreign contributors related to the inaugural committee, which raised a record $107 million – more than twice the amount raised to fund Obama’s 2009 inaugural. Federal prosecutors are also seeking documents related to a Los Angeles venture capitalist, Imaad Zuberi, who gave $900,000 to the committee through his private-equity firm, Avenue Ventures, and once registered as a foreign agent working on behalf of the Sri Lankan government. The subpoena suggests that SDNY prosecutors are investigating crimes related to conspiracy to defraud the U.S., mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud, and money laundering. The investigation is being led by the public corruption unit of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, and grew out of the probe into Michael Cohen’s business dealings. Cohen has since pleaded guilty to eight charges and has been sentenced to three years in prison. (Washington Post / ABC News / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed the Trump inaugural committee subpoena “has nothing to do with the White House,” as she deferred questions to the committee, which is a separate entity from the White House. Sanders also dismissed the notion that Trump is a common factor in his inner circle’s legal issues, arguing instead that “the common thread is a hysteria over the fact that this president became president.” (Politico)
4/ SDNY prosecutors have been interviewing witnesses about foreign money flowing to three lobbying firms recruited by Paul Manafort to improve the image of the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, seven years ago. Mercury Public Affairs, the Podesta Group and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom are being scrutinized for representing foreign governments without registering as foreign agents. The case was originally referred by Mueller’s investigation. (New York Times)
- Manafort will be sentenced on March 13th on the two charges he pleaded guilty to: conspiracy and witness tampering. (CNN)
5/ Trump and Jared Kushner met with contractors at the White House to discuss building the border wall last week, despite senior Senate Republicans and members of GOP leadership raising concerns about Trump bypassing Congress and using an emergency declaration to build his wall. “Listen closely to the State of the Union,” Trump said when asked if he was ready to announce a national emergency. (CNN)
👑 State of the Union: A Reader’s Guide. Trump will deliver his second State of the Union address at 9 p.m. Eastern Time tonight. Here’s what you need to know:
Trump will deliver his address in the wake of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Democrats have taken the House, funding for the border wall is still off the table, Trump continues to be hounded by the Robert Mueller investigation, and his approval rating remains around 40%. (CNN)
The theme of Trump’s address is expected to be “Choosing Greatness” where he’ll announce a plan to stop transmission of H.I.V. by 2030, make the case for an immigration “crisis,” appeal to Republicans on abortion, justify reducing troop levels in Syria and Afghanistan, and more. (New York Times)
Trump is expected to call for bipartisan cooperation amid a Congress divided over his demand for border wall funding, which has resulted in a 35-day partial government shutdown. (Washington Post)
6 things to watch for: wall demands, Democrats, Pelosi, guests, Kavanaugh, and unexpected events. (Washington Post)
5 things to know about the economy before Trump’s State of the Union: the GOP tax cut benefits were a mirage, the stock market has been unstable in recent months, Trump’s trade wars have hurt nearly every sector of the economy, and more. (Vox)
The commander of U.S. Central Command “was not consulted” prior to Trump’s announcement to withdraw troops from Syria. Gen. Joseph Votel oversees military operations in the Middle East and said that the fight against the terror group is “not over” and warned ISIS could regroup after US troops leave. (CNN)
Trump’s four trips to Mar-a-Lago in March and February 2017 cost the government nearly $14 million. The government also paid roughly $600,000 to Trump’s Palm Beach property. (ABC News)
The Trump Organization has fired at least 18 undocumented workers from five golf courses following reports about the clubs employing workers without legal status. (Washington Post)
A bipartisan group of Senators are trying to limit Trump’s existing authority to impose tariffs unilaterally on national security grounds. The bill would require congressional approval to impose trade restrictions for national security reasons. (CNN)
The Treasury Department plans to drag the expected Democratic request for Trump’s tax returns into a series of legal arguments. The Internal Revenue Code gives the three congressional committees responsible for taxes the ability to request the returns of any individual or business, but a related section within the Code says leaking tax information is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. (Politico)
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