👋 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/ Michael Cohen asked one of his attorneys last summer to raise the possibility of a pardon with Rudy Giuliani after the FBI raids on his home and offices. It was previously reported that Cohen’s then-attorney Stephen Ryan discussed the possibility of a pardon with Giuliani. However, Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee last week that “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump.” Cohen’s current attorney Lanny Davis says Cohen stands by his testimony because he made the statements after he withdrew from a Joint Defense Agreement with Trump and many of Trump’s advisers. (Wall Street Journal / ABC News / Associated Press)
📌 Day 775: Michael Cohen’s attorney raised the possibility of a pardon with Trump’s attorneys after the FBI raided Cohen’s properties in April. The House Judiciary Committee is currently investigating those conversations between Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, and Trump’s attorneys, Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and Joanna Hendon. Trump’s attorneys dismissed the idea at the time, but Giuliani left the possibility open that Trump could grant Cohen a pardon in the future. There is no indication that Cohen personally asked for a pardon, or that he was aware of any discussions on the subject. (Wall Street Journal/CNBC/Washington Post)
📌 Day 683: Cohen believed Trump would offer him a pardon if he stayed on message during conversations with federal prosecutors. That was before Cohen implicated Trump under oath in the illegal hush-money scheme with Stormy Daniels, which could be used as part of Mueller’s obstruction of justice probe in determining whether Trump tried to illegally influence a witness in the investigation. (CNN)
2/ Giuliani said attorneys for several people facing scrutiny from the Justice Department’s investigations into the Trump campaign and administration have reached out to him about presidential pardons for their clients. Giuliani refused to say which attorneys or which clients have contacted him about possible pardons. Giuliani claims he told them all that Trump would not consider granting pardons until long after the investigations are over. “I always gave one answer, and they always left disappointed,” Mr. Giuliani said. (New York Times)
3/ Cohen sued the Trump Organization, saying the company refused to pay $1.9 million in legal fees he’s incurred. The Trump Organization promised in July 2017 to pay Cohen’s legal bills while he was still employed by Trump, but stopped in June 2018 after Cohen began cooperating with federal prosecutors. (Bloomberg / New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Axios)
📌 Day 516: Michael Cohen has signaled that he is “willing to give” investigators information on Trump in order to alleviate pressure on himself and his family. Cohen has hired New York lawyer Guy Petrillo to represent him in the federal investigation into his business dealings and wants Trump to pay his legal fees. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)
📌 Day 466: The Trump campaign spent nearly $228,000 to pay for part of Michael Cohen’s legal fees. Federal Election Commission records show three “legal consulting” payments made from the Trump campaign to a firm representing Cohen between October 2017 and January 2018. Cohen did not have a formal role in the Trump campaign and it’s illegal to spend campaign funds for personal use. (ABC News)
📌 Day 459: Trump rejected speculation that Michael Cohen will flip, tweeting that he has “always liked and respected” his attorney. He added that “Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!” In a flurry of weekend tweets, Trump called New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman a “third rate reporter” and a Clinton “flunkie” following her report that Cohen could end up cooperating with federal officials as legal fees and possible criminal charges pile up. (Washington Post)
4/ Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the Trump administration practice of separating migrant children from their families at the border. More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents and detained by Customs and Border Protection last year – some parents were deported without their children. In testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, Nielsen insisted that there is a “real, serious and sustained crisis at our borders” and urged Congress to confront what she called a “humanitarian catastrophe” by changing laws to crack down on illegal border crossings. Immigration advocates have challenged the characterization that there’s a national security crisis at the border. (New York Times / Associated Press / Vox / CNN / CBS News)
- The Trump administration deported 471 parents who were separated from their children. At least some of those parents were deported “without being given the opportunity to elect or waive reunification.” (CNN)
5/ John Kelly called Trump’s border wall a “waste of money,” and that the migrants who cross into the U.S. illegally are “overwhelmingly not criminals.” Kelly said that the 18 months as the chief of staff were his “least” favorite job, but the most important one, because Trump “went from a guy who didn’t know how the system works” to one “who understands how it works.” (Politico / New York Times)
Jared Kushner held U.S. embassy officials in Riyadh out of meetings with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman. Lawmakers said they were concerned that they did not have knowledge of what was discussed between Kushner, MBS and King Salman, following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. (Daily Beast)
Mitch McConnell won’t bring an electoral reform bill to the Senate floor for a vote, calling it “offensive to average voters.” The bill contains reforms to automatic voter registration, early voting, endorsement of D.C. statehood and independent oversight of House redistricting. It is slated to pass the House this week. (Politico)
A federal judge ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted in “bad faith,” broke several laws and violated the constitution when he added a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court will review a related, narrower decision starting on April 23. (Washington Post)
Leaked documents show the U.S. government maintains a secret database of activists, journalists, and social media influencers with ties to the 2018 migrant caravan. In certain cases, Customs and Border Patrol officials placed alerts on their passports to flag them for screening at the border. Some of the people being tracked have a large “X” over their photo, indicating whether they have been arrested, interviewed, or had their documents revoked by officials. Some agents even created dossiers on each listed person. Two of the dossiers were labeled with the names of journalists, who were also listed as targets for secondary screenings at the border. “We are a criminal investigation agency, we’re not an intelligence agency,” a Homeland Security source explained. “We can’t create dossiers on people and they’re creating dossiers. This is an abuse of the Border Search Authority.” (NBC San Diego)
📌Day 776: ICE has been keeping tabs on a series of left-leaning and “anti-Trump protests” in New York City. The agency tracked protests that promoted immigrants’ rights and those that opposed Trump’s deportation policies, plus one protest against the NRA and one that was organized by a sitting member of Congress. (The Nation)
🍿👀 Crime Time TV:
Paul Manafort will face the first of two sentencing hearings today more than a year after Mueller secured an 18-count indictment against the former lobbyist on charges related to tax and bank fraud. Manafort faces between 19 and 25 years in prison as well as millions of dollars in fines and restitution for the crimes. He is expected to receive the harshest punishment of the half-dozen former Trump associates who have been prosecuted by the special counsel. Manafort’s future is now in the hands of U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis. (ABC News / New York Times / CNN)
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