👋 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/ More than 370 former federal prosecutors asserted that Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice if he was not president. Robert Mueller declined to exonerate Trump in his report, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. The former career government employees who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations signed on to a statement saying, “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.” (Washington Post)
[READ] The statement by former federal prosecutors. (Medium)
📌 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)
2/ Trump: “Bob Mueller should not testify.” On Friday, Trump said he’d leave the decision on whether Mueller should testify “up to our attorney general,” William Barr, who had earlier last week said he had no objection to Mueller testifying. Trump’s reversal came hours after the House Judiciary Committee formally invited Mueller to testify on May 15th. The date has not yet been confirmed. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico)
3/ Nancy Pelosi warned that Trump might not voluntarily give up power in 2020 if he isn’t defeated by a margin so “big” he cannot challenge the legitimacy of a Democratic victory. Pelosi, recalling her thinking in the run-up to the 2018 elections, said “If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he’s not going to respect the election. [Trump] would poison the public mind.” Since winning the 2016 presidential election, Trump has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, convened a commission to study the alleged fraud, and recently warned Republican lawmakers to be more “paranoid” about how votes are counted in 2020. And, in 2016, Trump refused to say he would accept the outcome of the election if Hillary Clinton won, saying: “I will keep you in suspense.” (New York Times / CNN)
📌 Day 4: Without evidence, Trump tells lawmakers 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote. Days after being sworn in, President Trump insisted to congressional leaders invited to a reception at the White House that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes, according to people familiar with the meeting. Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that widespread voter fraud caused him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, even while he clinched the presidency with an electoral college victory. (Washington Post)
📌 Day 112: Trump launched a commission to investigate voter fraud. The effort will be spearheaded by Mike Pence and will look into allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration in states and across the nation. Trump is expected to sign the executive order today. (Associated Press / ABC News / CNN)
📌 Day 350: Trump dissolved his voter fraud commission. He blamed states for refusing to comply with the panel’s requests for voter information, including birth dates and partial Social Security numbers. The commission was set up in May to investigate Trump’s unfounded claims that massive voter fraud had cost him the popular vote. (CNN)
📌 Day 564: Documents from Trump’s voter fraud commission “do not contain evidence of widespread voter fraud,” according to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of the panel’s 11 members. After reading through more than 8,000 pages of documents, Dunlap said he believed that the goal of the commission “wasn’t just a matter of investigating President Trump’s claims that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally” but that it “seems to have been to validate those claims.” The panel was disbanded in January, and the White House claimed at the time that despite “substantial evidence of voter fraud,” the commission was shut down due to legal challenges from states. The panel never presented any findings or evidence of widespread voter fraud. Kris Kobach, the commission’s vice chair, however, said at the time that the panel was shut down because “some people on the left were getting uncomfortable about how much we were finding out.” (Washington Post)
4/ Trump claimed that two years of his term were “stollen” as a result of Mueller’s investigation and suggested that his first term should be extended by two years. Trump retweeted conservative pundit Jerry Falwell Jr., who wrote: “I now support reparations — Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup.” Trump, echoing Falwell’s statements, tweeted that the Democrats “have stollen [sic] two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back.” Trump later corrected his spelling, claiming that two years of his presidency had been “stolen.” (Politico / CNN / Washington Post)
5/ The House Judiciary Committee took its first formal step toward holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for missing today’s deadline to produce Mueller’s unredacted report and the underlying evidence. Barr also skipped a hearing before the committee last week. The committee will vote at 10 a.m. on Wednesday whether to hold Barr in contempt. Hours after the committee announced the vote, the Justice Department offered to meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss an “acceptable accommodation” that would potentially give more lawmakers access to a less-redacted version of the report, in addition to “possible disclosure of certain materials” cited in Mueller’s report. (CNN / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters)
6/ Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected House Democrats’ request for six years of Trump’s tax returns, claiming the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.” It’s the third time Mnuchin has missed a congressional deadline to turn over the documents. Mnuchin previously called the request “unprecedented,” and argued that it raised “serious constitutional issues” that could have consequences for taxpayer privacy. The power for lawmakers to seek individual tax returns was explicitly written into law in 1924. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / CNN / Politico)
- The New York attorney general filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department and IRS for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request within the mandated time limit. In July 2018, the Treasury and the IRS released new guidance eliminating some donor disclosure requirements for non-501(c)(3) tax-exempt groups. In October, the New York and New Jersey attorneys general filed a FOIA request for information about the origins and development of the guidance. The New York and New Jersey attorneys general are asking the court to order the Treasury and the IRS to disclose all records that are relevant to the FOIA requests. (The Hill / Daily Beast / Law and Crime)
poll/ 60% of Americans say Trump has not been honest and truthful when it comes to Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election. 37% say he has been honest and truthful. 42% say what they’ve read, heard or seen about Mueller’s report doesn’t clear Trump of wrongdoing, compared with 29% who say it does clear him, and another 29% who say they’re unsure. (NBC News)
Michael Cohen reported to federal prison to begin his three-year prison sentence for tax evasion and campaign finance violations. Cohen said “There still remains much to be told and I look forward to the day where I can share the truth.” (Associated Press / New York Times)
The Trump administration deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East as a show of force against Iran. U.S. officials said the deployment is a response to “clear indications” that Iran and its proxies are planning an attack against U.S. forces. National Security Adviser John Bolton said the U.S. is “not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.” Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provided no details or proof of Iran’s actions or intentions, but Pompeo said the move was “something we’ve been working on for a little while.” (ABC News / Associated Press)
Trump named the former head of the Border Patrol as the new director of ICE. Mark Morgan is a former FBI agent who served as head of the Border Patrol during the final months of the Obama administration. Morgan supports Trump’s call for a border wall, Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to secure funding for the wall, and the administration’s proposal to take migrants caught crossing the border and drop them off in sanctuary cities. Morgan’s appointment will require confirmation from the Senate. (NPR)
Trump threatened to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese from 10% to 25%. The Trump administration accused China of “reneging” on its agreed to trade commitments and the tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods starting Friday. (Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Wall Street Journal)
North Korea fired several short-range ballistic missiles. South Korea expressed concern that the launches were a violation of an inter-Korean agreement to cease all hostile acts. The missile test was North Korea’s first since 2017. (Politico / CNN / New York Times)
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