👋 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/ Robert Mueller twice objected to Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary to Congress, saying the memo “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.” Barr’s summary claimed that the Mueller investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government” and that Mueller “did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other —as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.” Mueller, however, sent a letter to Barr on March 27th – three days after Barr issued his summary – citing “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation” that “threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.” Mueller asked the Justice Department to release the 448-page report’s introductions and executive summaries, making some initial suggested redactions that Mueller believed would “alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation.” Mueller’s office first informed the Justice Department of their concerns on March 25th, the day after Barr released his summary clearing Trump of obstruction of justice. On April 9, Barr testified to Congress that Mueller declined an opportunity to review his summary of “principal conclusions.” Barr also previously testified that he did not know if Mueller supported his conclusion on the question of possible obstruction. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / New York Times / Politico / CNN / The Guardian)
2/ Barr testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, answering questions about Mueller’s report for the first time since publicly releasing a redacted version of the report. Barr blamed the media for “reading too much” into his initial summary. He insisted that he did not misrepresent Mueller’s report and downplayed the significance of Mueller’s multiple complaints that the summary did not capture the report’s full context. Barr called Mueller’s complaint letter “a bit snitty” and questioned why Mueller’s team investigated instances of potential obstruction of justice if he knew he couldn’t charge Trump with a crime under Justice Department restrictions. Barr, however, admitted that he had not reviewed all of the evidence before declaring it “not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.” Barr also claimed that Trump had “fully cooperated” with the investigation and that Trump’s multiple attempts to remove Mueller for alleged “conflicts” were not the same as firing the special counsel and did not constitute obstruction of justice. Democrats, meanwhile, accused Barr of “purposely misleading” Congress and the public about Mueller’s report. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / Axios)
Adam Schiff called on Barr to resign. The House Intelligence chairman argued that Barr “willingly misled the Congress” during his testimony on April 9 when Barr said he wasn’t aware of reports that several people on Mueller’s team were frustrated with Barr’s summary of the findings in the Mueller report. (CNN / Daily Beast / The Hill)
Barr falsely claimed that the Trump was never briefed by the FBI about the threat posed by Russia during the 2016 campaign, saying “I can’t fathom why it did not happen.” Sen. John Cornyn then accused Obama of failing to stop the Russian threat, claiming the Justice Department and FBI “decided to place their bets on Hillary Clinton and focus their efforts on investigating the Trump campaign.” Following a break, Barr walked back his claim, saying “a security briefing that generally discusses general threats, apparently was given to the campaign in August.” (Talking Points Memo / Axios)
📌 Day 333: The FBI warned Trump in 2016 that Russia would try to infiltrate his campaign. Both Trump and Hillary Clinton received counterintelligence briefings by senior FBI officials, which advised them to alert the FBI to any “suspicious overtures to their campaigns.” Trump was “briefed and warned” at the session about potential espionage threats from Russia. (NBC News)
[OPINION] James Comey on Trump influencing Barr: “He has eaten your soul.” (New York Times)
3/ The House Judiciary Committee is discussing whether to hold Barr in contempt of Congress if he skips tomorrow’s scheduled hearing or ignores their subpoena for Mueller’s full report. The committee voted to allow staff lawyers to question Barr at Thursday’s hearing. Barr has said he will not appear under that format. Barr has until the end of the day to hand over the full Mueller report. He is not expected to comply. [Breaking news… Barr declined to testify before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow, according to a committee aide. The decision comes after Democrats on the committee demanded that Barr face questions from the committee’s lawyers.] (Washington Post / Politico / CNN)
4/ Mueller is reportedly willing to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, but the Department of Justice has “been reluctant to confirm a date.” It’s unclear whether Mueller’s testimony about his investigation into Russian election interference and attempts by Trump to obstruct the probe would take place in public or behind closed doors. Chairman Jerry Nadler asked the Justice Department that Mueller appear for questioning no later than May 23rd. (Reuters / Daily Beast)
5/ The White House rejected the House Oversight Committee’s request for documents related to the security clearance process. The committee request came following accusations that the Trump administration granted security clearances to more than two dozen officials over the objections of career officials. Chairman Elijah Cummings called the move “the latest example of the president’s widespread and growing obstruction of Congress.” (Politico / Washington Post)
📌 Day 802: Senior Trump administration officials overturned and granted at least 25 security clearances – including two current senior White House officials – to people who were initially denied by career employees for “serious disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds. Tricia Newbold, a whistleblower working in the White House Personnel Security Office, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that she warned her superiors that clearances “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security.” Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings said he was prepared to authorize subpoenas to compel the White House to comply with an investigation into whether national secrets were at risk. Newbold claims she was retaliated against for declining to issue security clearances, including being suspended without pay for 14 days. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Associated Press / CNN / Wall Street Journal)
📌 Day 805: Jared Kushner was among one of the 25 White House officials whose security clearance was initially denied but later overturned. A whistleblower in the White House’s personnel security office said she and another career employee determined that Kushner had too many “significant disqualifying factors” to receive a clearance. (Washington Post)
poll/ 43% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president – his highest approval level since April 2017. 52% disapprove. (CNN)
poll/ 46% of voters say that Trump’s Twitter use hurts his reelection campaign while 22% say it helps his reelection efforts. 60% say Trump’s use of Twitter is “a bad thing” compared to 19% who say it is “a good thing.” (Politico)
A federal judge ruled that Congressional Democrats can move forward with their lawsuit against Trump alleging that his private businesses represent unconstitutional gifts or payments from foreign governments. Judge Emmet Sullivan allowed the emoluments case to move forward, refusing a request from the White House to dismiss the case under Trump’s narrow definition of the word “emoluments.” The case alleges that, without seeking approval from Congress, Trump received payments from foreign governments for hotel rooms and events, plus licensing fees for his show “The Apprentice” and intellectual property rights from China. (Washington Post)
A bill authorizing the release of state tax returns to Congress is expected to be taken up on the floor of the New York State Senate next week. If passed, it would allow the tax commissioner to hand over any New York tax returns at the request of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation. (CNN)
The White House asked Congress for $4.5 billion in emergency aid to address migrants crossing the southern border. Trump is seeking $3.3 billion in humanitarian assistance and $1.1 billion for border operations. (Politico / Washington Post)
The Alabama House passed a bill that would criminalize abortion. If signed into law, doctors would face felony jail time up to 99 years if convicted of performing an abortion at any stage of a pregnancy, unless a woman’s life is threatened. The legislation is part of an anti-abortion strategy to challenge Roe v. Wade. (NPR / CNN)
After the firefighters union endorsed Joe Biden, Trump fired off 59 retweets in 20 minutes from users claiming that firefighters do not support Biden. Trump called the International Association of Fire Fighters a “dues sucking union.” (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)
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