👋 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 New York attorney general’s office opened an investigation into three Trump Organization loans from Deutsche Bank, as well as Trump’s failed attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills. New York AG Letitia James issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit and other financing transactions in connection with the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the Trump National Doral outside Miami, and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, as well as the unsuccessful purchase of the NFL team in 2014. The new inquiry was prompted by Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony, who suggested that Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements and provided documents to back up his claims. The inquiry is a civil investigation, not a criminal one. (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters / Bloomberg / ABC News / NBC News)
- One of Trump’s closest political advisers: “We’re not ready” for more investigations. David Bossie served as Trump’s deputy campaign manager and has been counseling both the White House and congressional Republicans. (ABC News)
2/ The attorney who negotiated the hush-money payments on behalf of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal believes Trump could still be in legal danger for his alleged role in directing the efforts to buy their silence. Keith Davidson cited language used by prosecutors in Cohen’s indictment, which alleged that Cohen was part of a criminal conspiracy, and said, “by definition, a conspiracy must involve more than one person – so who else could it be?” Davidson says he sat down with investigators for the special counsel for more than 15 hours, during which it “became clear” to him that prosecutors believe the hush-money payments were part of an effort to save Trump’s presidential campaign, which would constitute a violation of campaign finance laws. (ABC News)
3/ Adam Schiff: Trump should be indicted when he leaves office for the crimes Michael Cohen was convicted of committing on his behalf. The chairman of the House intelligence committee said there’s already sufficient evidence to support an indictment of Trump even before the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation, and that the Justice Department policy against indicting a siting president was “wrong.” (NPR / Washington Post)
There might be a second Mueller report. Since Mueller’s appointment, he’s been conducting a counterintelligence investigation, while “also” assessing whether any crimes were committed. Unlike a criminal report, a Mueller counterintelligence report must be shared with Congress. Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are legally entitled to be given reports – in writing – of significant intelligence and counterintelligence activities or failures. (Daily Beast)
Mueller’s team is funded through the end of September 2019, indicating that the probe has the funding to keep it going for months if need be. (Reuters)
Paul Manafort will face his second court sentencing on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson could sentence Manafort for up to 10 years in prison for violating a foreign lobbying law and witness tampering, and whether she orders the sentences to be served concurrently or one after the other. Separately, Mueller’s prosecutors are scheduled to update another federal judge about the status of Mike Flynn’s cooperation and whether his sentencing can proceed. (Wall Street Journal)
4/ Trump complained that planes are becoming “far too complex to fly” after the crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 in Ethiopia that killed all 157 people on board. While European Union, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, Indonesia and other countries have already banned the plane, the FAA said it does not see a reason to ground the fleet in the United States. Trump continued: “I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!” (Politico / CNBC / New York Times / Bloomberg)
5/ House Democrats introduced an immigration proposal that would provide as many as 2.5 million immigrants a path to citizenship. The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 would cover young undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as well as those with temporary immigration protections. If passed, HR 6 would represent the most generous immigration bill since the Reagan “amnesty” of 1986. While the legislation will likely pass the House, it faces significant hurdles from the GOP-controlled Senate and from Trump. (Vox / NBC News / Washington Post / Think Progress)
- In a Breitbart News interview, Trump said his administration is thinking “very seriously” about designating Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. Trump’s comments come after his declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border last month. [Editor’s Note: I’m not linking to the Breitbart propaganda article, because it’s just that. You can Google for it if you’re so inclined.] (Washington Post / Raw Story)
6/ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services plans to close all 21 international field offices, which could slow the processing of family visa applications, foreign adoptions and citizenship petitions from members of the military. Agency staffers said closing overseas offices will make it more difficult to apply to immigrate from abroad. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times)
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Ohio can cut state funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions. Four of the 11 Circuit judges who sided with Ohio were appointed by Trump. (Politico / Reuters)
The U.S. will remove all remaining diplomatic personnel from the embassy in Venezuela this week. The State Department said the decision “reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela,” and that “the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy.” They gave no additional details about the withdrawal from Caracas or the specific day on which it would occur. Venezuela is currently experiencing a five-day-long power outage. (Reuters / ABC News / Associated Press)
Mike Pompeo accused Cuba and Russia of propping up Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro. Pompeo’s statements came after the Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on a Russia-based bank that it accused of helping Maduro’s government circumvent earlier American financial penalties. (New York Times)
The director of the National Cancer Institute will take over as acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration when Dr. Scott Gottlieb steps down at the end of the month. Dr. Norman Sharpless has been the director of the National Cancer Institute since 2017. (Politico / New York Times)
Nancy Pelosi revoked Pence’s office in the House. Republicans gave Pence a first-floor office in the U.S. Capitol shortly after Trump was inaugurated in 2017. (NPR)
The Navy and its contractors and subcontractors are “under cyber siege” by Chinese hackers and others, according to an internal Navy review. The 57-page document reports that hackers are exploiting critical weaknesses that threaten the U.S.‘s standing as the world’s top military power. (Wall Street Journal)
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