👋 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 rejected a House Oversight Committee request for Stephen Miller to testify about his role in Trump’s immigration policies, including a plan to bus migrants to “sanctuary cities.” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said blocking Miller from appearing before the committee follows “long-standing precedent” established by previous administrations. Cipollone said Cabinet secretaries and other executive branch officials would instead provide “reasonable accommodation” for requests and questions from the committee on immigration policy issues. (CNN / Politico / ABC News)
2/ House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler suggested fining officials personally for noncompliance with congressional subpoenas. In order to do so, the House would need to vote on a new rule to allow it to fine people outside the court system. The House could also vote to hold officials in contempt or sue to enforce the subpoena in court, which could take months or years. This week alone the White House directed a former personnel security official to not appear at a scheduled House Oversight Committee deposition, blocked former White House counsel Donald McGahn from testifying to the House Judiciary Committee, and the Justice Department ignored a subpoena from the Oversight Committee for testimony about the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The Treasury Department also ignored the House’s deadline to turn Trump’s tax returns over to the Ways and Means Committee, and Trump sued to block a subpoena of his accounting firm. (Bloomberg / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Axios)
3/ Trump claimed he never told Donald McGahn to fire Robert Mueller weeks after he was appointed in 2017, “even though I had the legal right to do so.” The statement runs counter to Mueller’s report, which detailed “McGahn’s clear recollection” of two phone calls in June 2017, where Trump “directed [McGahn] to call” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and have Mueller “removed” because he “has to go.” Trump also urged McGahn to dispute media reports that he had attempted to fire Mueller. (NBC News / Reuters)
4/ Trump’s re-election campaign refused to rule out using hacked information. The Democratic National Committee and the party’s 2020 candidates, meanwhile, have pledged not to use illegally obtained information to their advantage. Mueller’s report outlined how the Russian government interfered in the 2016 race in “sweeping and systematic fashion” in order to help Trump win, and that the Trump team expected to “benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” (NBC News)
Trump tried multiple times to get Jeff Sessions to “unrecuse” himself and re-open an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, according to the Mueller report. No evidence has emerged showing that Sessions ever acted on any of Trump’s requests to have Clinton’s case reopened. The first instance was in mid-2017 when Trump called Sessions at home and asked him to unrecuse himself from “all of it” and go after Clinton. The second instance was after a cabinet meeting in December 2017. Trump pulled Sessions aside and said, “I don’t know if you could unrecuse yourself. You’d be a hero. Not telling you to do anything.” (New York Times)
Joe Biden is officially running for president. Biden made the announcement in a video posted online, in which he criticizes Trump’s handling of the white nationalist attack in Charlottesville, VA and warns that “We are in the battle for the soul of this nation.” He is currently leading in the polls among Democratic primary voters. (NBC News / CBS News / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)
Trump agreed to pay North Korea $2 million for Otto Warmbier, the college student who was a prisoner in Pyongyang. Before releasing the comatose Warmbier in 2017, North Korea insisted that the U.S. sign a pledge to pay the bill. The bill was sent to the Treasury Department, but it’s unclear whether the Trump administration ever paid the bill. In September 2018, Trump claimed his administration paid “nothing” to get “hostages” out of North Korea. (Washington Post / CNN)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders held her first press briefing in 46 days. It was for children, mostly off the record, and lasted about 28 minutes. Since Nov. 1st, Sanders has held three briefings. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)
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