👋 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/ Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned after meeting with Trump to plan “a way forward” at the U.S.-Mexico border. Nielsen’s resignation came two days after she traveled to the border with Trump, and three days after Trump withdrew his nomination of Ronald Vitiello to be the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, because he wanted to “go in a tougher direction.” In her resignation letter, Nielsen said it was the “right time for me to step aside.” She will be replaced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, who will take over as acting DHS Secretary until Trump appoints a permanent replacement. (New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News / Associated Press / CNN / Politico / NBC News) / Axios)
- Government officials said at least two more top Homeland Security officials are expected to be forced out soon: L. Francis Cissna, the head of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and John Mitnick, the department’s general counsel. (New York Times)
2/ Nielsen reportedly resisted Trump’s pressure to reinstate large-scale family separation at the border since January. Nielsen told Trump that federal court orders prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from reinstating the policy. Trump reportedly wanted families separated even if they came through a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers. Trump also wanted families separated if they were apprehended within the U.S. McAleenan has not ruled out family separation as an option. Separately, Trump was reportedly “ranting and raving, saying border security was his issue” two weeks ago. He then ordered Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to shut down the port of El Paso the next day, Friday, March 22, at noon. Nielsen proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports, to which Trump responded: “I don’t care.” (NBC News / CNN)
- The Trump administration expects it to take two years to identify thousands of families separated at the border. Several factors complicate the process of reunification because all the children of separated families have already been released from government custody, Customs and Border Protection didn’t start tracking separated families as a searchable data set in its records before April 19, 2018, and there are nearly 50,000 case files. (CNN)
3/ A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while they wait for an immigration court to hear their cases. The preliminary injunction is nationwide and will go into effect on April 12th. Migrants named in the lawsuit will be allowed into the U.S. to pursue asylum. Nielsen ordered that the policy be expanded last week. (Associated Press / Reuters / CNN / Washington Post)
4/ Trump instructed his acting chief of staff to fire his Secret Service director. Mick Mulvaney instructed USSS Director Randolph “Tex” Alles 10 days ago to come up with an exit plan to leave on his own timeline. Five days ago, Trump said he “could not be happier with Secret Service” following an incident at Mar-a-Lago, where a Chinese woman illegally entered the club carrying Chinese passports and a flash drive containing malware. James Murray, a career USSS official, will replace Alles. (CNN / NBC News / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)
5/ The woman who breached security at Mar-a-Lago had multiple electronic devices in her hotel room, including a signal detector to detect hidden cameras, another cell phone, nine USB drives, five SIM cards, and several credit cards in her name. The malware found on Yujing Zhang’s thumb drive began to install onto an agent’s computer, who described it as “very out of the ordinary” when conducting a criminal analysis. The FBI has been investigating Zhang as part of a Chinese espionage effort. Prosecutors urged the judge to keep her in custody, saying she’s a flight risk with no ties to the U.S. (Bloomberg / CNN / Axios)
- 📌 Day 803: A Chinese woman was charged with making false statements to the Secret Service after entering Mar-a-Lago with a thumb drive that contained “malicious software.” Yujing Zhang was on the property on while Trump was playing golf at the Trump International course. Zhang told a receptionist she was there to attend an event (which did not exist), presenting documentation written in Chinese she claimed was her invitation to the event. After Secret Service agents were notified, Zhang claimed she was there to “go to the pool.” Zhang was carrying two Republic of China passports, four cellphones, a laptop, a hard drive, and a thumb drive with malware on it. (CNBC / Washington Post / WPTV)
6/ New York lawmakers will introduce a bill this week to permit the Department of Taxation and Finance to release state tax returns requested by a congressional committee. Under the new proposal, the release of tax information would only happen after efforts to obtain federal tax information through the Treasury Department had failed. The move comes as the Trump administration has signaled that it will resist the House Ways and Means Committee request to turn over six years of Trump’s federal business and personal tax returns by April 10th. Mick Mulvaney, meanwhile, promised that Democrats will “never” see Trump’s tax returns. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico)
poll/ 17% of Americans believe their taxes will go down as a result of the 2017 Republican tax cut. 28% believe they’ll pay more, 27% expect to pay about the same, and 28% don’t know enough to say. 33% of Republicans believe they’re getting a tax cut, while 10% of independents and 7% of Democrats do. (CNBC)
Trump designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization in an effort to increase economic and political pressure on the Islamic regime in Tehran. It’s the first time the U.S. has declared a part of a foreign government to be a terrorist organization. (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
A New York man threatened to kill Rep. Ilhan Omar because of her Muslim faith. Patrick Carlineo Jr. called Omar’s Washington office and accused her of being “a (expletive) terrorist. I’ll put a bullet in her (expletive) skull.” Carlineo was arrested and charged with threatening to assault and murder Omar. (CNN / Washington Post)
Trump mocked Omar hours after police charged a man for threatening to assault and murder her. Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump ran through a list of Republican lawmakers supportive of Israel, adding: “Special thanks to Representative Omar of Minnesota. Oh, I forgot. She doesn’t like Israel. I forgot. I’m so sorry.” (Bloomberg / Vox)
Devin Nunes plans to send eight criminal referrals to Attorney General William Barr this week. Nunes did not reveal who he is planning to refer, but he did say that five of the referrals are related to lying to Congress, misleading Congress, and leaking classified information. Nunes said the remaining three referrals are related to allegations of lying to the court that approves surveillance warrants, manipulating intelligence, and a “global leak referral,” which is not aimed at any single person. (CNN)
The Trump administration canceled a deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation that would have allowed Cuban players to sign with U.S. teams without needing to defect. Administration officials suggested that the Obama-era decision, which deemed Cuba’s baseball league to be separate from the Cuban government, would subject the players to “human trafficking” by the Cuban government, making them “pawns of the Cuba dictatorship.” (Washington Post / Reuters / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
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