👋 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/ Before even landing in England for his first official state visit to the U.K., Trump tweeted that the mayor of London was a “stone cold loser” for being “foolishly ‘nasty’” to him. Sadiq Khan wrote an op-ed prior to the visit, calling Trump “one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat” and suggested that the state visit be rescinded because Trump’s views are “incompatible with British values.” After landing, Trump met with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace and later tweeted that the trip was “going really well.” (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico / NBC News / The Guardian)
- Ahead of his three-day state visit, Trump suggested that the U.K. should “walk away” from Brexit talks if the European Union does not give it what it wants. Trump criticized the $50 billion bill the U.K. must pay as part of the Brexit deal, saying he “wouldn’t pay” it because “it’s a tremendous number.” Trump later called on the U.K. to throw off the “shackles” of EU and strike a free-trade deal with the U.S. (Vox / CNN / Bloomberg)
2/ Trump called for a boycott of AT&T in order to force “big changes” at CNN, which is owned by the telecommunications giant. Trump tweeted for AT&T “do something” about CNN, because the network “is the primary source of news available from the U.S.” in the U.K. and – he claims – its coverage of his administration is “unfair.” (Axios / CNBC / Politico / Washington Post)
3/ The House Judiciary Committee announced a “series of hearings” related to Robert Mueller’s report, “Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes.” The first hearing is scheduled for June 10th and will focus on Trump’s “most overt acts of obstruction” with John Dean, a key figure in the Watergate scandal, as one of the witnesses. Mueller – for now – is not scheduled to appear. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / The Hill / CNBC / Politico)
- Research study: Russian Twitter trolls attempted to fuel the anti-vaccination debate in the U.S. According to the study from George Washington University, “sophisticated” bots, mimicking previous Russian troll efforts, shared opinions from both sides of the anti-vaxxer debate. (CBS News)
4/ The Justice Department refused to turn over transcripts of recorded conversations between Michael Flynn and Russian officials, including those with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, despite a court order. The transcripts between Flynn and Kislyak were obtained from an FBI wiretap and are expected to show that in December 2016 they talked about sanctions that the Obama administration had just imposed on Russia. Prosecutors also failed to release unredacted portions of the Mueller report related to Flynn that the judge ordered to be made public. The Justice Department, however, did release transcripts of a voice mail from Trump’s attorney John Dowd to Flynn’s attorney, Rob Kelner, about Flynn’s discussions with Mueller just before Flynn pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / Axios)
- Jared Kushner doesn’t know if he’d call the FBI if he received an email like the one before the Trump Tower meeting, which had the subject line: “Re: Russia - Clinton - private and confidential.” (Axios / Washington Post)
5/ A witness in Mueller’s investigation was charged with transporting child pornography last year. George Nader operated as a liaison between Trump’s supporters, Middle East leaders, and Russians interested in making contact with the incoming administration in early 2017. Nader helped arrange the Seychelles meeting in January 2017 between Erik Prince and a Russian official close to Putin. Nader was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. (Washington Post)
📌 Day 441: A cooperating witness in Robert Mueller’s investigation may have information linking the United Arab Emirates to Russia. George Nader has received at least partial immunity for his cooperation. Nader’s international connections helped him arrange several meetings that have drawn the attention of the special counsel, including a meeting in the Seychelles between Kirill Dmitriev, the manager of a state-run Russian investment fund, and a Trump adviser days before Trump took office. (New York Times)
📌 Day 483: Mueller’s team is examining a series of meetings that took place in the Seychelles, which have been characterized as an attempt by the U.S. to set up a backchannel with Russia. A Russian plane, owned by Andrei Skoch, a Russian billionaire and deputy in the Russian State Duma, the country’s legislative body, flew into the Seychelles a day prior to the 2017 meeting. (NJ.com)
poll/ 41% of Americans feel Trump should be impeached and removed from office compared to 54% who are against impeachment. Trump’s approval rating, meanwhile, stands at 43% with 52% disapproving of the President. (CNN)
The House Oversight and Reform Committee is moving to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena for information about efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Chairman Elijah Cummings said he would consider postponing the contempt votes if Barr and Ross turn over the requested documents by Thursday. (Politico)
A new State Department policy requires visa applicants submit information about any social media accounts used in the past five years. Account information could provide the government with access to photos, locations, dates of birth, and other personal data commonly shared on social media. (New York Times)
Trump’s economic advisor will depart the White House “shortly.” Kevin Hassett denied that his pending departure was not related to Trump’s tariff threats on China and Mexico. Hassett, however, said that the chance of Trump hitting the 3% growth target this year is less certain due to the trade war and a ballooning budget deficit. He will leave at the end of this month. (Politico / CNBC / Bloomberg / Reuters)
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has “repeatedly used her connections and celebrity status in China to boost the profile” of her family’s shipping company, Foremost Group, which benefits from industrial policies in China. Chao has no official affiliation or stake in her family’s company, but she and her husband, Mitch McConnell, have received millions of dollars in gifts from her father, who ran the company until last year. (New York Times)
The Trump administration considered imposing tariffs on imports from Australia last week, but decided against the move after opposition from military and State Department officials. Some of Trump’s top advisers urged him to impose the tariffs in response to a surge of Australian aluminum coming into American markets over the last year. But DOD and State Department officials warned that the move would alienate a top ally. (New York Times)
The Pentagon told the White House to stop politicizing the military after the Trump administration ordered the Navy to hide the USS John S. McCain during Trump’s visit to Japan. The Navy confirmed that the White House made the request “to minimize the visibility of” the ship. (Associated Press / NBC News)
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