👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ Trump and the Trump Organization sued Democratic House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings to block a subpoena seeking information about his finances. The committee subpoenaed Mazars USA, Trump’s longtime accountant, for 10 years’ worth of Trump’s financial records after the firm requested a so-called “friendly subpoena.” Trump’s lawyers complained that Democrats have “declared all-out political war” against him, with subpoenas as their “weapon of choice.” (CNBC / Politico / Washington Post / CNN) / Axios)
2/ Rudy Giuliani defended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, saying “there’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.” When asked whether it’s “okay” to use information stolen by a foreign adversary in service of a presidential candidacy, Giuliani said “it depends on the stolen material.” He then added that Russia “shouldn’t have stolen it, but the American people were just given more information.” (Daily Beast / New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)
3/ The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn as part of its investigation into obstruction of justice. The subpoena demands that McGahn testify before the committee on May 21st and provide documents on three-dozen topics by May 7th. The committee previously served the Justice Department with a subpoena for the full Mueller report and underlying evidence, demanding the documents by May 1st. (CNN / CNBC)
4/ The Trump campaign hired a new in-house attorney for 2020, shifting its business from McGahn’s law firm, Jones Day, that represented Trump since his run for president. McGahn told Robert Mueller’s investigators that Trump directed him to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and tell him to fire Mueller. McGahn refused. “Why in the world would you want to put your enemy on the payroll?” one adviser close to the White House said. “They do not want to reward [McGahn’s] firm.” (Politico / Washington Post)
- 📌 Day 820: Trump claimed that statements about him “by certain people” in Mueller’s “crazy” report are “total bullshit,” made by people trying to make themselves look good and harm him. Close White House advisers said Trump’s rage was aimed at former White House counsel Don McGahn, who blocked several attempts by Trump to interfere in Mueller’s investigation. Trump continued tweeting: “This was an Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened, a…” He never finish the statement. (Politico / Bloomberg / Washington Post / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
5/ Trump claimed that “nobody disobeys my orders.” Mueller’s report, however, repeatedly depicts Trump’s multiple “efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.” (CNN)
- 📌 Day 820: Eight key figures resisted Trump at critical moments: Jeff Sessions refused to unrecuse himself after Trump repeatedly bullied him privately and publicly. White House counsel Don McGahn refused to fire Mueller. Rick Dearborn, who worked for Sessions in the Senate, refused to relay Trump’s message for Sessions to limit Mueller’s jurisdiction to future election interference, rather than look backward on the 2016 election. Staff Secretary Rob Porter refused Trump’s request to call Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand in an attempt “to find someone to end the Russia investigation or fire the Special Counsel.” Chris Christie refused to “call [James] Comey and tell him that the President ‘really like[s] him. Tell him he’s part of the team.’” Rod Rosenstein refused to put out a statement saying it was his idea to fire Comey. K.T. McFarland refused to “draft an internal email that would confirm that the President did not direct [Michael] Flynn to call the Russian Ambassador about sanctions.” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wouldn’t put out a statement saying no link existed between Trump and Russia. (Washington Post)
6/ Trump also claimed that Democrats “can’t impeach” him, because “only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment” and that “there were no crimes by me.” Mueller’s investigators found that there was “insufficient evidence” to establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and their contacts with Russians. Mueller also examined 10 “episodes” where Trump may have obstructed justice, but that Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “disagreed with some of Mueller’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes did not amount to obstruction.” Mueller found, in part, that those attempts were unsuccessful, because Trump’s subordinates refused to carry out his orders. (CNBC)
📌 Day 819: Mueller’s office chose not to charge Trump with obstruction out of “fairness concerns,” because “we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional process for addressing presidential misconduct.” According to the report, Mueller considered Trump’s written answers “inadequate,” but knew a subpoena would impose “substantial delay” and they believed they had “sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President’s testimony.” Trump stated more than 30 times in his written answers that he “does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an ‘independent recollection’” of information investigators asked about. Mueller, citing numerous legal constraints in his report, declined to exonerate Trump, writing: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.” (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “It is clear that [Trump] has, at a minimum, engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds.” Pelosi, however, noted that “it is … important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings.” (Politico / Associated Press / Washington Post)
poll/ 37% of Americans approved of Trump’s job performance – down 3 percentage points to the lowest level of the year following the release of Mueller’s report detailing Russian interference in the presidential election. 50% agreed that “Trump or someone from his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election,” and 58% agreed that Trump “tried to stop investigations into Russian influence on his administration.” 40% said they thought Trump should be impeached, while 42% said he should not. (Reuters)
The Supreme Court will decide whether federal anti-discrimination laws protect on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, agreeing to take up three cases involving sexual orientation in the workplace. The set of cases include a transgender funeral home director who won her case after being fired; a gay skydiving instructor who successfully challenged his dismissal; and a social worker who was unable to convince a court that he was unlawfully terminated because of his sexual orientation. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids workplace discrimination on the basis of sex. It does not explicitly apply to LGBT individuals. The cases are expected to be argued in the fall. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times / NBC News)
The State Department will end waivers for countries importing Iranian oil as part of an effort to cut off of Iranian oil exports. China, India and Turkey are among Iran’s top customers. The Trump administration said it was working with top oil exporters Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to ensure the oil market was “adequately supplied.” The United States decided to leave the Iran nuclear deal about a year ago. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Reuters)
The FBI arrested the leader of a militia group accused of illegally stopping migrants after they crossed the southern U.S. border. Larry Hopkins is the leader of the United Constitutional Patriots. He was arrested in New Mexico on federal charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. (Reuters / Vox)
Herman Cain withdrew himself from consideration for the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. Cain ended his campaign after allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed several women while he was running Godfather’s Pizza in the 1990s, and that he had an extramarital affair. Cain denied the allegations, and Trump called them an “unfair witch hunt.” Trump announced Cain’s decision to withdraw, calling him “a truly wonderful man.” (NBC News / Axios / Washington Post / CNBC)
Stephen Moore wrote in March 2002 that there should be “no more women refs, no women announcers, no women beer venders, no women anything” at men’s college basketball games. Moore is one of Trump’s picks to serve on the Federal Reserve Board. (CNN)
Sears named Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a lawsuit against the company’s former CEO. The lawsuit alleges that Mnuchin assisted Edward Lampert in stripping the retailer of more than $2 billion in assets. (Politico)
Trump’s tariffs raised the cost of washing machines by about $86 per unit last year and clothes dryers by $92, according to research from the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve. The tariffs created roughly 1,800 new U.S. manufacturing jobs, but each new job cost about $817,000. (New York Times)
Trump exaggerated that the Sri Lanka terror attacks “killed at least 138 million people and badly injured 600 more.” The population of Sri Lanka is around 22 million. Trump later deleted the incorrect tweet. Explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka killed 290 people and injured more than 500. (Washington Post)
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