👋 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/ Trump admitted that he’d “want to hear” from foreign governments with damaging information about his political opponents. Trump claimed “there isn’t anything wrong with listening” to a foreign government if they contacted him and said “we have information on your opponent.” Trump also rejected the notion that accepting damaging information from a foreign government would constitute election interference, saying “It’s not an interference, they have information – I think I’d take it.” FBI Director Christopher Wray during congressional testimony last month told lawmakers that “the FBI would want to know about” any foreign election meddling. Trump, however, said he might alert the FBI “if I thought there was something wrong,” but then said “The FBI director is wrong, because frankly it doesn’t happen like that in life.” (ABC News / Associated Press / NBC News / New York Times / Bloomberg)
- Putin: Relations between Moscow and Washington “are going downhill, they are getting worse and worse.” (Reuters)
2/ Nancy Pelosi: “Everybody in the country should be totally appalled” by Trump’s comments and that he “gave us evidence once again he does not know right from wrong.” Pelosi added that Trump is giving Russia “the green light” to again interfere in the presidential election. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, meanwhile, called Trump’s remarks “disgraceful” and “shocking,” saying that “it’s as if the president had learned absolutely nothing in the past two years” from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Washington Post / Associated Press / ABC News / CNBC / CNN / Wall Street Journal)
- More than a dozen 2020 Democratic presidential candidates rebuked Trump after he admitted he would consider taking information on his political opponents from a foreign government. Many renewed calls for impeachment while also voicing new concerns about the security of American elections. (Washington Post)
3/ Trump tried to defend and recast his comments about accepting information about his rivals from foreign governments, tweeting that he talks to foreign leaders every day and asking: “Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings? How ridiculous!” Trump then argued that his comments were taken out of context, claiming that his “full answer is rarely played by the Fake News Media” and that “They purposely leave out the part that matters.” He did not offer evidence to support the claim. (Politico / HuffPost)
4/ The Justice Department plans to interview senior CIA officials about the origins of its Russia investigation and their conclusion that Putin ordered an influence campaign that “aspired to help” Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. Attorney General William Barr previously said he wanted to review why the FBI opened the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in order to determine whether law enforcement officials abused their power. (New York Times)
5/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders resigned and will leave the White House at the end of the month. Sanders has not held a press briefing for a record 94 days. (Politico / NBC News / CNN / The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
6/ A federal watchdog agency recommended that Kellyanne Conway “immediately” be “removed from service,” citing repeated violations of the Hatch Act, which bans federal employees from political activity. The Office of Special Counsel – unrelated to Mueller’s office – said Conway has been a “repeat offender” by “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.” The decision to remove Conway is up to Trump. (Washington Post / Politico / ABC News / New York Times / Axios / Reuters / Associated Press / The Hill / The Guardian)
7/ The House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas to Michael Flynn and Rick Gates. The committee is demanding that Flynn and Gates provide documents by June 26 and testify before the committee on July 10. Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the committee issued the subpoenas after both “refused to fully cooperate with Congress.” Flynn and Gates both pleaded guilty and cooperated in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. (New York Times / CNN / Politico / Reuters)
- Trump approves of Flynn’s new lawyer, saying his former national security adviser “has not retained a good lawyer, he has retained a GREAT LAWYER.” Sidney Powell previously accused the FBI of spying on Flynn as part of a “setup,” arguing that Flynn should withdraw his guilty plea and that his case should be dismissed. (Politico)
Two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were attacked as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. The attack comes a month after four tankers were damaged in the same area. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, said intelligence showed that Iran was responsible for attacks on two oil tankers. While Pompeo didn’t present any evidence, he called the sabotage against the tankers the latest in a series of “unprovoked attacks [that] present a clear threat to international peace and security.” (Associated Press / Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg)
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney used his position to push for the nomination of a federal judge over the objection of White House lawyers. Mulvaney repeatedly pushed Don McGahn to nominate Halil Suleyman Ozerden to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Mulvaney was a groomsman at Ozerden’s wedding in 2003. (Politico)
Trump still owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in security fees to at least ten U.S. cities. The Trump campaign has failed to reimburse the cities for public-safety costs associated with his presidential and campaign rallies. The total bill currently sits at $841,219 and includes invoices that date back to before Trump was elected in 2016. (Center for Public Integrity / The Hill / NBC News)
Trump revealed images of Air Force One’s proposed redesign, which features a color scheme similar to his own private jet. The two new planes will cost $3.9 billion, but won’t be ready for takeoff until 2024. (ABC News / Washington Post)
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