👋 Away Message: Hi there, Matt's currently away from the computer this week, but in the spirit of experimentation, the daily WTFJHT post will be powered by Current Status and lightly edited by a human for clarity.
(For those who aren't familiar, Current Status is a tool I developed to make it faster and easier to source the stories that the political web is currently reading and sharing.)
What to expect this week: The daily summaries will be a bit shorter, the Notables are taking the week off, but the overall number of stories in each edition of WTF Just Happened Today? will remain about the same. We'll return to our regularly schedule WTFJHT programming on Monday, May 20th. As with any experiment, I welcome your feedback. Let me know what ya think.
1/ The White House rejected Congress' demands for records and staff testimony, saying the investigations amount to an "unauthorized do-over" of the Mueller investigation. The letter also rejected the committee’s standing to investigate Trump for possible obstruction of justice. "Unfortunately, it appears that you have already decided to press ahead with a duplicative investigation," White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote. (NBC News / Washington Post)
- House Democrats are planning a marathon public reading of the Mueller report. The reading of all 448 pages of the redacted report, starting at noon Thursday, will take an estimated 12 to 14 hours. (Washington Post)
2/ A federal judge grilled Trump's legal team as Democrats fight for access to Trump's financial records. Amit Mehta, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, raised pointed doubts Tuesday about arguments by Trump’s legal team that a Democratic effort to subpoena Trump’s financial records was an invalid exercise of congressional power. An early court test for Trump’s vow to stonewall all subpoenas could be the start of a long fight over congressional oversight. (Politico / New York Times)
3/ All non-essential staff are being evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq as the U.S. continues to threaten Iran. The embassy says the State Department has ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff to leave the country right away amid escalating tensions with Tehran. (Associated Press)
Skeptical U.S. allies are resisting Trump’s new claims of threats from Iran. The Trump administration is laying the groundwork for major military action against Iran, but it may have a hard time rallying domestic and international support. (New York Times)
The German government has expressed concern about the tensions in the Middle East between the U.S. and Iran, warning of a military escalation and saying it supports all measures for a peaceful solution. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said on Wednesday that, “obviously, we are watching the increasing tensions in the region with big concern and welcome any measure that is aimed at a peaceful solution.” (Associated Press)
4/ Jared Kushner struggled to answer GOP senators’ questions on his immigration plan. In a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser tried to pitch his plan to overhaul legal immigration but failed to win over Republicans, according to GOP officials. (Washington Post)
5/ Gov. Ron DeSantis: Russians hacked voting databases in two Florida counties. The GOP governor said the incidents took place in 2016 and no election results were compromised. (NBC News / Associated Press)
6/ The White House will not sign on to an international agreement to combat online extremism. The agreement was brokered between French and New Zealand officials and top social media companies. The U.S. did not agree to sign the agreement due to concerns that the pact clashes with constitutional protections for free speech. (Washington Post)
7/ Trump’s tariffs, once seen as leverage, may be here to stay. Trump’s latest trade measures have left the United States with the highest tariff rate among the most developed countries, outranking Canada, Germany, Russia and even China. (New York Times)
- GOP senators raise alarms, criticize Trump as U.S.-China trade war heats up. They say tariffs are hurting their rural constituents, and they’re considering options to aid farmers. (Washington Post)
8/ Alabama passed a near-total abortion ban with no exceptions for cases that involve rape or incest. The legislation is the most restrictive anti-abortion measure passed since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. (CBS News)
9/ Trump Tower is now one of the least-desirable luxury buildings in New York City. Most condo owners who sold the property since 2016 have recorded a loss. "No one wants in that building," said one former owner. (Bloomberg)