👋 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 House passed a resolution to block and overturn Trump’s unilateral national emergency declaration to get the border wall money that Congress denied him. “The President’s act is lawless,” Nancy Pelosi said. “It does violence to our Constitution and therefore to our democracy. His declaration strikes at the heart of our Founders’ concept of America, which demands separation of powers.” The House voted 245-182, mostly along party lines, with 13 Republicans defecting to side with Democrats. The Senate now has 18 days to bring it to the floor for a vote, where it’s also expected to pass. Four Republican votes are needed to ensure passage if all Senate Democrats vote for the disapproval resolution, and three Republican senators — Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Thom Tillis — have already signaled they will support the measure. Congress has never tried to cancel a national emergency declared by a president, and Trump has vowed to veto any measure that blocks funding for his border wall. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / ABC News / Washington Post / Reuters / Politico / Los Angeles Times)
2/ Paul Manafort’s attorneys asked for leniency as he faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. In a court filing, Manafort’s attorneys described the 69-year-old as a man who has been “personally, professionally, and financially” broken by Robert Mueller’s investigation, and as someone who deserves a sentence “significantly” below the statutory maximum of 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges. Manafort’s lawyers also wrote that because “this case is not about murder, drug cartels, organized crime, the Madoff Ponzi scheme or the collapse of Enron,” the former Trump campaign chairman shouldn’t be sentenced too harshly. Two federal judges will sentence Manafort on two separate occasions over the next month for criminal charges that include tax and bank fraud, witness tampering, and working as an unregistered lobbyist for a foreign government. (Politico / NPR / The Guardian / Salon)
- Manafort gave alleged Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik 75 pages of recent, “very detailed” campaign polling data on August 2, 2016, which “would have been relevant to a meeting they were having within the [Trump] campaign,” redacted court filings by Manafort’s lawyers suggest. In an email, Manafort ordered Rick Gates to print out the data so he could share it with Kilimnik. Gates previously testified that Manafort walked Kilimnik through the data at the August 2 meeting. (Emptywheel / Daily Beast)
3/ The House Judiciary Committee believes it has evidence that Trump asked then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if an ally could take over the investigation of Michael Cohen and the Trump Organization in the Southern District of New York. The committee is looking into whether Whitaker may have perjured himself when he testified to Congress that he never made “any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation” to Trump, who wanted Manhattan U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman to take charge of the investigations. Berman – a former Rudy Giuliani law partner who donated to the Trump campaign in 2016 and was interviewed for the U.S. attorney job by Trump – recused himself from involvement in the matter last year. (Wall Street Journal)
4/ A federal appeals court rejected claims that Mueller’s appointment was unconstitutional. Andrew Miller, a Roger Stone associate, will now have to testify to a grand jury in Mueller’s investigation or go to jail after the appeals court said that Mueller was legally appointed by Rod Rosenstein as special counsel in May 2017. (Politico / CNN)
- A House Democrat filed legislation that would require Mueller’s Russia report to be made public and give Congress access to the investigation’s underlying evidence. (Reuters)
5/ Cohen is expected to publicly accuse and present documents that implicate Trump of “criminal conduct” while in office during public testimony before the House Oversight Committee tomorrow. Cohen will reportedly provide lawmakers with information about Trump’s financial statements, including documentation of his reimbursement for the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. Cohen plans to share who signed the $35,000 monthly checks he received as reimbursement for his hush-money payments to Daniels. Cohen is also expected to detail how long Trump remained involved in discussions regarding a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, as well as to detail his “behind-the-scenes” experience of working for Trump for over a decade. Cohen testified behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, where he apologized for the lies he told during his 2017 testimony. (CNN / Axios / Daily Beast / NBC News / Politico / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Reuters)
A Trump ally and sitting U.S. congressman threatened Cohen with exposing his “girlfriends” on the eve of his public House Oversight Committee testimony. “Do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends,” Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted. “Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat.” Gaetz said he was “challenging the veracity and character of a witness,” and not trying to intimidate a witness. He added: “This is what it looks like to compete in the marketplace of ideas.” (Daily Beast / Axios / VICE News)
Cohen has been disbarred in New York. Cohen’s guilty pleas on charges of tax evasion, excessive campaign contributions, and lying to Congress ensured he would be disbarred. (ABC News)
A House committee voted to subpoena Trump administration officials over family separations at the southern border. The resolution will force Trump officials to turn over documents linked to the separation of thousands of migrant children and parents. (Associated Press / Politico)
Thousands of unaccompanied migrant kids suffered sexual abuse while in custody of the U.S. government over the past 4 years. From October 2014 to July 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement received 4,556 complaints, and the Department of Justice received 1,303 complaints, including 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff. (Axios / CNN)
Trump announced that American citizen Danny Burch has been freed after spending 18 months in captivity in Yemen. The State Department suggested that Burch was freed as a result of a rescue operation in concert with the United Arab Emirates. Burch lived in Yemen for years working for an oil company and was kidnapped in Sept. 2017 while taking his sons to a local sports club. (NBC News)
A federal judge approved a move by the Trump administration to ban “bump stocks” for firearms, which allow semi-automatic weapons to be converted to automatic weapons. Opponents say the government does not have the legal authority to enforce the ban. The new rule is set to take effect on Mar. 26, when bump stock owners will be required to turn in or destroy their bump stock attachments. Trump promised to ban bump stocks in the wake of a mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead in Oct. 2017. (Reuters)
U.S. Cyber Command “basically took the IRA offline” during the 2018 midterms. The Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll factory in St. Petersburg and underwritten by an oligarch close to Putin, was part of the cyber campaign to “influence” the 2016 election and undermine faith in U.S. democracy. (Washington Post)
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