👋 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 claimed that Michael Cohen “directly” asked him for a pardon, was told “NO,” and then lied about it last week during his House Oversight and Reform Committee testimony. During the testimony, Cohen stated he had “never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump.” Cohen’s current lawyer, Lanny Davis, acknowledged that Cohen’s previous lawyer discussed the possibilities of a pardon with Rudy Giuliani after the FBI searched Cohen’s home and office in April 2018. Davis said that Cohen was open to the “dangled” possibility of a pardon in implicit statements by Trump’s team. Cohen replied to Trump in a tweet of his own, calling the assertion “another set of lies.” (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / USA Today)
Just another set of lies by @POTUS @realdonaldtrump. Mr. President...let me remind you that today is #InternationalWomensDay. You may want use today to apologize for your own #lies and #DirtyDeeds to women like Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford.— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) March 8, 2019
2/ Trump’s inauguration fund took in tens of thousands of dollars from shell companies owned by foreign contributors and others with foreign ties. The three shell companies each gave $25,000 to the fund, and at least one contribution was made by a foreign national who is reportedly ineligible to make political donations under U.S. election law. One of the donations was made through a Delaware shell company on behalf of a wealthy Indian financier. Another was made by a shell company formed in Georgia on behalf of a lobbyist with ties to the Taiwanese government, and a New York-based shell company formed by an Israeli real estate developer made the third $25,000 donation. (The Guardian)
3/ Paul Manafort was sentenced to less than four years in jail in the first of two cases against him. Manafort’s 47 months in prison for bank and tax fraud was far lighter than the 19- to 24-year prison term recommended under federal sentencing guidelines. Manafort was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and restitution of just over $24 million. Judge T. S. Ellis said he thought the sentencing recommendation was “excessive,” adding that he believed Manafort “lived an otherwise blameless life.” It’s the longest sentence to date for a Trump associate caught up in Robert Mueller’s investigation. Manafort will also be sentenced next week on separate charges that he served as an unregistered foreign agent, laundered money and tampered with a witness. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NPR / ABC News / CNBC)
Trump twisted Judge T. S. Ellis’s remarks made while sentencing Manafort to falsely claim “there was no collusion with Russia.” Judge Ellis said that Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election,” because Manafort was not charged with or convicted of any crimes of collusion. Trump said that he was “very honored” by Judge Ellis’s statement and that he feels “very badly” for Manafort after receiving his lenient sentence. (New York Times / Daily Beast)
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4/ Trump watched the Super Bowl with the woman who founded the spa where Patriots owner Robert Kraft was caught soliciting prostitution from trafficked women. Her Facebook profile reveals photos of herself standing with Trump, Eric and Trump Jr., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott, Sarah Palin, and others. Cindy Yang, who sold the spa around 2013, has also visited Trump’s White House and is a member of Mar-a-Lago. A day after Kraft was charged, Trump expressed shock at the news, saying Kraft “proclaimed his innocence totally, but I was very surprised to see it.” (Miami Herald / Mother Jones)
The House passed a sweeping voting rights, campaign-finance and ethics reform package. The legislation includes expansion of early voting, redistricting reform, making Election Day a federal holiday, automatic voter registration and stricter disclosure rules. The legislation would also require presidential and vice presidential candidates to publicly disclose 10 years of tax returns. Mitch McConnell does not plan to give the bill a vote in the Senate. (Politico / NPR)
The White House communications director resigned to join Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. Bill Shine, a former top executive at Fox News before he resigned amid sexual harassment scandals there in 2017, joined the White House in July 2018 and is the sixth person to fill the role. (CNN / CNBC / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)
A White House source leaked documents related to Jared and Ivanka’s security clearance to the House Oversight Committee. The Trump administration refused to provide documents on the process for granting security clearances after the committee requested them, so a source inside the White House leaked them to the committee. One of the documents also includes details about why Jared’s security clearance was changed to “interim” in September 2017. (Axios)
Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was sent to jail for refusing to testify about WikiLeaks, the website she shared classified documents with in 2010. (Washington Post)
Elizabeth Warren announced a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook. The far-reaching proposal would split up Amazon and Whole Foods, and Google and DoubleClick, as well as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp. (CNN / New York Times)
The U.S. economy added 20,000 jobs — fewer than expected — last month. Unemployment fell to 3.8% from January’s 4%. (NPR)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is detaining more than 50,000 people it claims are undocumented immigrants – an all-time record. ICE has detained approximately 2,000 people since Jan. 30, and is another 2,000 people shy of the 52,000-person daily detentions ICE is asking Congress to fund in its next budget. (Daily Beast)
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