👋 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/ Deutsche Bank staff identified multiple suspicious transactions made in 2016 and 2017 by legal entities controlled by Trump and Jared Kushner. A group of anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended that the bank report the transactions to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. But executives at the bank, from which Trump has borrowed billions of dollars, rejected the advice of their staff and chose not to file the reports with the government. The nature of the transactions in question is still unclear, but at least some of them involved money flowing back and forth between overseas entities or individuals, something the bank employees flagged as suspicious. Deutsche Bank has denied the report that its executives ignored the recommendations of its own anti-money-laundering specialists. (New York Times / Reuters / Reuters)
2/ Trump instructed former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a congressional subpoena and skip a House Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday. The committee subpoenaed McGahn to appear to answer questions about Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice during the Russia investigation, but the White House presented McGahn with a 15-page legal opinion from the Justice Department that states, “Congress may not constitutionally compel the president’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties.” The current White House counsel sent a letter to the committee explaining that Trump instructed McGahn not to appear due to the “constitutional immunity” outlined in the DOJ legal opinion, “and in order to protect the prerogatives of the office of the presidency.” (New York Times / ABC News / Washington Post)
3/ Federal prosecutors in New York are examining tens of thousands of documents related to Trump’s inauguration. Prosecutors are moving on to the next stage of the investigation, now that Trump’s inaugural committee has finished handing over a cache of documents, records, and communications related to the financing, vendors, and donors for the inauguration. Authorities are investigating whether any of the record-setting $107 million in donations was misspent, was used to benefit particular individuals, or came from foreign donors in violation of campaign finance laws that prohibit foreign donations to U.S. campaigns. (CNN)
- One of the biggest backers of Trump’s push to protect American steel is a Canadian billionaire. Barry Zekelman, whose business is mostly in the United States, funded his own advertising campaign to build public support for his efforts to protect makers of steel tubes in the United States. And Zekelman Industries made political donations in the United States — skirting or possibly violating a ban on contributions by foreigners — including $1.75 million last year to a group supporting Trump. (New York Times)
4/ Michigan Rep. Justin Amash became the first Republican lawmaker to publicly conclude that Trump has committed “impeachable conduct” as president, and that Trump’s conduct meets the “threshold for impeachment.” In a Twitter thread, Amash said he believes “few members of Congress even read” Mueller’s final report, and said the report establishes “multiple examples” of Trump committing obstruction of justice. Amash also accused Attorney General William Barr of intentionally misleading the public. “Contrary to Barr’s portrayal,” Amash wrote, “Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment.” (CNN / Washington Post)
Trump allies are mobilizing against Amash’s impeachment revolt. Republicans are moving fast to squelch Justin Amash’s rebellion against Trump before his conclusion that Trump “engaged in impeachable conduct” — the first by a GOP lawmaker — can gather momentum. (CNN)
Romney: GOP congressman’s call for impeachment ‘a courageous statement’. But he says he has not reached the same conclusion as Justin Amash. (Politico)
Trump warned Iran not to threaten the U.S. or the country will face its “official end.” Iran’s foreign minister quickly responded in kind on Twitter with his own message: #NeverThreatenAnIranian. (Associated Press)
The White House announced the first part of its Middle East peace proposal, which officials are calling an economic “workshop” that is meant to encourage investment in the West Bank, Gaza, and the region. The effort is being headed by Jared Kushner and White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. The idea is to secure financial commitments from wealthy Persian Gulf states as well as donors in Europe and Asia to induce the Palestinians and their allies to make political concessions to resolve the decades-old conflict with Israel. (CNN / New York Times)
Trump appeared to confirm that the U.S. conducted a cyberattack against a Russian entity during last year’s midterm elections. Trump was asked about a report that he personally approved a cyberattack against Russia, during which the U.S. military blocked access to the Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency. “I would rather not say that,” Trump said, “but you can believe that the whole thing happened, and it happened during my administration.” When asked why he didn’t want to talk about it, Trump said it was because “they don’t like me to talk, intelligence says, ‘please don’t talk intelligence.’” (CNN)
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a bid to give businesses broader rights to donate money to political candidates. The Court, without comment, refused to question a Massachusetts law that bars for-profit corporations from making campaign donations. (Bloomberg)
The U.S. Supreme Court deferred acting on state efforts to put more restrictions on abortion, issuing a list of orders without mentioning two pending Indiana appeals. In one, the state is seeking to bar abortions motivated by the risk of a genetic disorder and require clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains. In the other, Indiana aims to reinstate a requirement that an ultrasound be performed at least 18 hours before an abortion. (Bloomberg)
Google suspended all business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing after the Trump administration added the Chinese technology giant to a trade blacklist. The blacklist comes with restrictions that will make it extremely difficult for the company to do business with U.S. counterparts. (Reuters / The Independent)
The EPA plans to adopt a new method for projecting the future health risks of air pollution, which experts say has never been peer-reviewed and is not scientifically sound. The change would immediately lower an estimate from last year by the Trump administration that projected as many as 1,400 additional premature deaths per year from a proposed new rule on emissions from coal plants, making it easier to defend Trump’s replacement for Obama’s signature climate change measure, the Clean Power Plan. (New York Times)
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