👋 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 recently put Stephen Miller “in charge” of the administration’s immigration policy “and he’s executing his plan” to clean house at the Department of Homeland Security. “There is a near-systematic purge happening,” one official said. Miller has been arguing to bring in more like-minded hardline immigration reform advocates, with the senior White House adviser reportedly calling federal departments and agencies to demand that they do more to stop the flow of immigrants. (Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNN)
2/ A senior White House official: DHS is not doing enough to crack down on immigration and more people could be forced out soon. Sources close to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen say Trump and Miller have called for changes at DHS that are legally questionable, which would make them operationally ineffective. Several DHS officials who will likely be forced out soon, include Claire Grady, DHS’ acting No. 2 official, Lee Francis Cissna, head of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, one of Cissna’s top deputies, and John Mitnick, the department’s general counsel. (Reuters / Axios / New York Times)
3/ Congressional Republicans urged Trump not to fire any more top immigration officials. Senator Chuck Grassley said he was “very, very concerned” about reports that Cissna could be dismissed. Grassley said he texted Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, to express his concerns about removing Cissna, but Mulvaney “didn’t seem to know who I was talking about.” After Trump forced Nielsen’s resignation, pulled his Immigration and Customs Enforcement nominee, removed his Secret Service director and threatened more firings, Senator John Cornyn called the situation “a mess.” Cornyn added that he has no idea what Miller’s “agenda” is for determining immigration policy because he isn’t Senate-confirmed and doesn’t talk with members of Congress. (Washington Post / Politico)
4/ The Trump administration plans to put Customs and Border Protection agents in charge of interviewing asylum-seekers. Miller has argued that the move will mean fewer migrants will pass the initial screening, known as a credible fear interview. Currently, asylum-seekers are interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officers. (NBC News)
5/ Trump denied that he’s planning to resume separating migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, despite pushing Nielsen to reinstitute a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy for months. Trump instead lied and blamed Obama for instituting the child separation policy and for building “cages.” Obama had guidelines that prioritized the deportation of gang members, national security risks, and felons, while Trump’s policy systematically separated families, even if they came in at a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers. (CNN / ABC News / Washington Post / Los Angeles Times)
- 📌 Day 809: 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)
6/ Attorney General William Barr will deliver Robert Mueller’s report to Congress and the public “within a week,” but that it would be redacted in order to protect ongoing investigations and individuals who have not been charged. Barr said he’d color-code redacted information into the 4 categories so the public will know why the material is being hidden. When asked during a House Appropriations Committee hearing whether he had briefed the White House on the report, Barr declined to answer: “I’ve said what I’m going to say about the report today.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Axios / Reuters / Daily Beast)
Barr: Mueller turned down an offer to review the four-page summary of the report before it was released to the public last month. Barr said Mueller declined to review it in advance. (Politico)
The FBI confirmed that James Comey was a witness in the Mueller investigation. Specifically, the FBI was interested in the contemporaneous notes Comey took during his meetings with Trump. The FBI confirmed in a court filing that it was concerned that revealing any details about Comey’s meeting memos might allow other people who knew about those conversations to “try to hide or fabricate information.” (Axios / USA Today)
Treasury Department lawyers consulted with the White House about the potential release of Trump’s tax returns before House Democrats formally requested the records. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claimed “that the communication between our legal department and the White House general counsel was informational.” (Washington Post)
The Department of Justice recently adopted a narrow interpretation of the emoluments clause, which would exempt Trump’s hotels from a ban on foreign payments or gifts. DOJ filings since June 2017 reveal a new interpretation that allows federal officials “to accept unlimited amounts of money from foreign governments, as long as the money comes through commercial transactions with an entity owned by the federal official.” (The Guardian)
House Republicans are warning drug companies against complying with a House Oversight Committee investigation into prescription drug pricing. Letters to a dozen CEOs of major drug companies warned that any information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public and hurt their stock prices. (BuzzFeed News)
Devin Nunes sued a newspaper chain for $150 million over an article he called a “character assassination.” The article in the Fresno Bee, which covers Nunes’ congressional district, describes a cruise in the San Francisco Bay that was hosted by a winery he partly owns. The cruise included drugs and prostitution. Last month, Nunes sued Twitter and two parody accounts for $250 million over mean tweets. (New York Times)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Trump designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization at his request. “Thank you for responding to another of my important requests,” Netanyahu tweeted, “which serves the interests of our countries and countries of the region.” (Los Angeles Times)
Congressional Democrats and Republicans are moving to prevent the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system. The makers of TurboTax and H&R Block spent $6.6 million in lobbying to block the IRS from ever developing its own online tax filing system. (ProPublica)
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