👋 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 invoked executive privilege and ordered former counsel Donald McGahn not to comply with a congressional subpoena for documents related to Robert Mueller’s investigation. In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued that “McGahn does not have the legal right to disclose these documents to third parties” and asked that the committee instead direct the request to the White House, “because they implicate significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege.” Trump has also promised to assert executive privilege to block McGahn’s testimony to the committee later this month. McGahn spent more than 30 hours speaking to Mueller’s investigators, outlining two episodes where Trump asked him to have Mueller fired, and later asking McGahn to deny news reports about that conversation. McGahn rebuffed both requests. (CNBC / ABC News / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)
📌 Day 819: After Trump fired James Comey, he attempted to have his White House counsel fire Mueller a month later. Trump twice told Donald McGahn to call Rosenstein and order him to fire Mueller, saying: “Mueller has to go” for alleged “conflicts that precluded him from serving as special counsel.” McGahn refused, saying he did not want to repeat the “Saturday Night Massacre.” McGahn then called Reince Priebus, then the White House chief of staff, and told him Trump had asked him to “do crazy shit.” Trump later pressured McGahn to deny that he tried to fire Mueller.
📌 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)
2/ FBI Director Christopher Wray said he would not call the 2016 investigation into Trump’s campaign advisers “spying.” When asked during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing if he had “any evidence that any illegal surveillance” into the Trump 2016 campaign occurred, Wray told lawmakers that “I don’t think I personally have any evidence of that sort.” Wray’s comments are in contrast to those made by Attorney General William Barr at a Senate hearing on April 10th, where he claimed that “spying did occur, yes,” calling it “a big deal.” The Justice Department inspector general is expected to issue a report in the next month or two about the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign. Wray asked lawmakers to wait for the report. (Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)
- 📌 Day 811: Barr told Congress that the government was “spying” on Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election, but provided no evidence. During a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Barr said that while he’s not launching an investigation of the FBI or suggesting there is an “endemic” problem at the FBI, he does “think there was a failure among a group of leaders at the upper echelons.” Barr went on to say that he wanted to understand if there was “unauthorized surveillance” of political figures and whether law enforcement officials had proper legal justification for the “genesis” of the counterintelligence investigation. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / Bloomberg / Axios)
3/ Mitch McConnell called the investigations into Trump and his 2016 campaign “case closed,” despite Trump repeatedly rebuffing Democrats’ requests for documents and witnesses in their multiple investigations. McConnell accused Democrats of continuing to re-litigate the presidential election, calling it a “Groundhog Day spectacle.” Charles Schumer called McConnell’s speech “an astounding bit of whitewashing — not unexpected but entirely unconvincing.” McConnell also tried to blame Obama for failing to warn Americans about Russia’s election interference ahead of the 2016 election, mocking Democrats for “abruptly awakening to the dangers of Russian aggression.” McConnell, however, scuttled Obama’s plans in 2016 and “dramatically watered down” a bipartisan warning to states by citing “skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims.” McConnell added that he was concerned Obama was playing partisan politics. (Washington Post / Vox)
Trump pardoned a former U.S. soldier who was convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner. Former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone and sentenced to 25 years in prison before his sentence was reduced to 15 years. He was paroled in 2014. Behenna admitted during his trial that instead of taking a prisoner home as ordered, Behenna took him to a railroad culvert, made him strip, questioned him at gunpoint, and then shot him because Behenna thought he might try to take his gun. Trump issued a full pardon and grant of clemency. (ABC News)
China will not take part in three-way nuclear talks with the U.S. and Russia, according to a spokesperson for the Chinese government. Trump said on Friday that he had spoken with Putin and the Chinese government about a possible three-way deal. The Chinese government, however, publicly denied that it was interested in any such deal. (CNN)
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp will sign the state’s “fetal heartbeat bill” today. Georgia’s so-called “heartbeat bill” will become one the most restrictive anti-abortion access laws in the country. (CBS News)
Trump’s inaugural committee official disputes the White House account that she was forced out because she had profited from her role in helping organize inaugural events. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, claimed she was “thrown under the bus.” Wolkoff has been cooperating with federal prosecutors in Manhattan who are investigating the committee’s spending and fundraising. (New York Times)
New York State lawmakers plan to advance a bill this week to allow congressional committees to see Trump’s New York State returns. The State Senate reportedly has enough votes to pass the bill, which would allow the New York Department of Taxation and Finance to release any state tax return requested by one of three congressional committees for any “specific and legitimate legislative purpose.” (New York Times)
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