👋 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 White House instructed a former security clearance official not to comply with a subpoena to testify before the House Oversight Committee. Carl Kline, former White House personnel security director, was responsible for the Trump administration’s security clearance process. He oversaw the approval of at least 25 people for security clearances despite serious concerns raised during the vetting process. Trump’s deputy counsel argued in a letter that the subpoena by the committee “unconstitutionally encroaches on fundamental executive branch interests.” Kline’s attorney, meanwhile, said Kline is being forced to choose between “two masters from two equal branches of government,” and that Kline intends to “follow the instructions of the one that employs him.” (CNN / Axios / Daily Beast)
2/ The House Oversight Committee moved to hold the former White House personnel security director in contempt of Congress for failing to appear at a hearing investigating lapses in White House security clearance procedures. Kline is accused of overriding career national security officials to approve security clearances for officials whose applications were initially denied. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the committee, said “The White House and Mr. Kline now stand in open defiance of a duly authorized congressional subpoena with no assertion of any privilege of any kind by President Trump.” (Politico / Washington Post)
3/ The Treasury Department missed the House Ways and Means Committee deadline to turn over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. Earlier in the day, the White House indicated that Trump was “not inclined” to hand over his tax returns and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration will make a “final decision” by May 6 on whether to turn over Trump’s tax returns. Earlier this month, Mnuchin said “the Treasury Department will not be able to complete its review” by the deadline, due to the “unprecedented nature of this request.” (CNN / Wall Street Journal / Politico / HuffPost / Reuters)
📌 Day 784: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested that he would protect Trump’s privacy if House Democrats request Trump’s tax returns, saying: “We will examine the request and we will follow the law … and we will protect the president as we would protect any taxpayer” regarding their right to privacy. Mnuchin said he “can’t speculate” on how the administration will respond to demands for Trump’s tax returns until it sees the request. House Democrats are preparing to ask the IRS for 10 years of Trump’s personal tax returns under under a 1924 provision that requires the Treasury secretary to “furnish” any individual’s tax return information to the House and Senate tax-writing committees. (Associated Press / ABC News / Politico / CNN)
📌 Day 806: Trump’s lawyers asked the IRS chief counsel’s office to reject House Democrats’ request for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns, saying “it would set a dangerous precedent.” Trump’s lawyers sent a letter to the IRS counsel’s office responsible for responding to the request, calling the request a “gross abuse of power” and that Democrats do not have a “legitimate committee purpose” for obtaining the tax returns. An administration official also said Trump is willing to fight the House Ways and Means Committee request to the Supreme Court. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)
📌 Day 812: The Treasure Department missed the deadline set by Democrats to hand over Trump’s tax returns. In a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he has “serious issues” with the request for six years of Trump’s personal and some business returns. Mnuchin added that he was consulting with the Justice Department as to the “constitutional scope” and “legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose” of the request. Hours earlier, Trump flatly rejected the request for his tax returns, telling reporters: “I won’t do it.” The issue could ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. (Politico / Vox / Washington Post / New York Times)
4/ Jared Kushner claimed – without evidence – that Robert Mueller’s investigation was “way more harmful” than Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. Kushner claimed Mueller’s investigation had a “much harsher impact on our democracy” on the U.S. than “a couple Facebook ads” intended “to sow discontent.” Mueller’s report concluded that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election “in sweeping and systematic fashion,” intended to favor Trump and disparage Hillary Clinton. Kushner called the idea that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government “nonsense.” Mueller, however, “identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.” (Bloomberg / Politico / CNN / Washington Post / Axios)
The Democratic National Committee pledged not to use hacked emails or stolen data in the 2020 presidential election. Chairman Tom Perez challenged the RNC to make the same commitment. (Politico)
Paul Manafort is now in federal prison, serving his 7.5 year sentence at a minimum-security facility outside Scranton, Pennsylvania. (NBC News)
5/ The Supreme Court’s conservative majority signaled it would allow the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The census hasn’t asked a citizenship question since 1950 and lower courts have blocked the question, ruling that the Trump administration violated federal law and the U.S. Constitution by seeking to include it on the census form. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, however, directed most of their questions during arguments to the lawyers challenging the decision to ask about citizenship. Courts have found that several states could lose seats in the House, as well as federal money. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Reuters)
poll/ 39% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president – down from 44% last week and ties Trump’s lowest-ever approval. (Politico)
The Interior Department’s Inspector General opened an investigation into whether six of Trump’s appointees violated federal ethics rules. The inspector general’s office opened the investigation following a complaint that the appointees discussed policy matters with their former employers or clients. (Washington Post)
Oil prices jumped to a six-month high after the White House decided not to renew waivers for countries to buy Iranian oil despite U.S. sanctions. China, India, Turkey, and other countries who import Iranian oil will now face sanctions if they continue to purchase oil from Iran, OPEC’s fourth-largest producer, after the waivers are lifted on May 1st. (Bloomberg / Business Insider)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to name a new settlement in the Golan Heights after Trump. Netanyahu said there was a “need to express our appreciation” to Trump for officially recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the illegally occupied territory last month. (Politico)
Joe Biden announced he’ll announce his plans to run for president in 2020. Biden will officially enter the race on Thursday with an online video, followed by a campaign event in Pittsburgh on Monday. (CNN)
Trump spent the last 24-hours tweeting or retweeting more than 50 times. Trump demanded an apology from The New York Times, complained he doesn’t get enough credit for the economy, claimed Twitter discriminates against him, and attacked the “Radical Left Democrats.” He offered no evidence to substantiate his various claims. (Politico)
Trump ordered administration officials to boycott the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner. Trump’s reversal of previous White House guidance allowing aides to attend Saturday’s event came after his Twitter temper tantrum. (Politico)
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