👋 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 backtracked on his willingness to accept help from foreign governments, saying “of course” he would “absolutely” report an encounter to the FBI. Trump, however, added that he’d alert the FBI only after reviewing the material first, “because if you don’t look at it, you won’t know it’s bad.” (New York Times / Politico)
- 📌 Day 875: 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)
2/ Mitch McConnell downplayed Trump’s willingness to accept foreign dirt on political opponents and not report it to the FBI in 2020. McConnell said Democrats keep bringing up the 2016 presidential election because they “can’t let it go,” and accused Democrats of trying to “harass” Trump. Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, said taking help from foreign agents would be “probably not a good idea.” John Cornyn added: “I’d rather just have Americans participate in American elections.” (Politico / CNN)
3/ Senate Republicans blocked a bill requiring campaigns to tell the FBI about any offers of foreign assistance they receive. Marsha Blackburn called the legislation’s reporting requirements “overbroad,” and complained that it would require campaigns to worry about disclosures at “so many different levels.” Mark Warner said Blackburn’s assessment of the bill was “not accurate,” and “The only thing that would have to be reported is if the agent of a foreign government or national offered that something that was already prohibited.” (Axios)
4/ The head of the Federal Election Commission reiterated that foreign assistance is illegal in U.S. elections. “I would not have thought that I needed to say this,” Ellen Weintraub tweeted. “Let me make something 100 percent clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.” (Politico / The Hill)
5/ Democratic presidential candidates will participate in two debates, split into two groups of 10 on June 26 and 27 in Miami. On night one, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren. On night two, Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang. The debates will air on NBC and be moderated by the NBC anchors Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt and Chuck Todd, the Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart, and the MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow. (New York Times / NBC News)
6/ The Justice Department supported Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s refusal to turn over Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee. The Office of Legal Counsel released its legal rationale for refusing to provide Trump’s tax returns to Congress, saying the request was designed to make the returns public, which “is not a legitimate legislative purpose.” (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
- 📌 Day 841: The House Ways and Mean Committee subpoenaed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over Trump’s tax returns. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig was also subpoenaed. Chairman Richard Neal gave Mnuchin and Rettig until until May 17 to turn over six years of Trump’s returns, and is expected to go to court to enforce his request if the Trump administration continues to argue that the committee does not have a legitimate legislative purpose that warrants compliance. Earlier this week, Mnuchin rejected Neal’s request for the returns. Trump previously vowed to fight all subpoenas from House Democrats. Subpoenas are now pending from the Ways and Means, Judiciary, Oversight and Reform, Financial Services, and the Intelligence Committees. (CNBC / New York Times / Politico / Washington Post /Wall Street Journal)
The owner of one of the Japanese oil tankers that was attacked in the Straight of Hormuz says the U.S. is wrong about the attack, contradicting the claims made — without evidence — by Trump and Mike Pompeo. The U.S. military released a video and claimed that it shows Iranian boats retrieving an unexploded mine from the oil tanker, but the owner of the tanker says his sailors saw “flying objects” just before it was hit. Yutaka Katada called the reports claiming the tanker was hit by a mine “false” and denied any possibility of a mine or torpedo attack because “the impact was well above the water.” Trump blamed Iran for the attack, describing the country is a “nation of terror.” (CBS News / New York Times / Washington Post / Daily Beast / NBC News / NPR / The Guardian / Associated Press)
Trump doesn’t plan to fire Kellyanne Conway for her repeated violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity in their official roles. “It looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right of free speech,” Trump said, “and that’s just not fair.” A report submitted to Trump by the Office of Special Counsel found that Conway violated the Hatch Act on multiple occasions by “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.” (Washington Post / CNN)
The Trump administration and Congress owe Washington, D.C. more than $7 million in expenses from Trump’s 2017 inauguration. The total cost of the four days of events, parade, and gathering of roughly 600,000 people on the Mall, was $27.3 million. Congress appropriated roughly $20 million for Trump’s inauguration. (Washington Post)
Ivanka Trump made $4 million from her investment in the Trump International Hotel last year. (Bloomberg)
D.C. residents filed a petition to revoke the Trump International Hotel’s liquor license. D.C. law states that license applicants must be of “good character and generally fit for the responsibilities of licensure.” (Washington Post)
A physicist appointed by the White House to counter the federal government’s own climate science consulted a group that disavows manmade climate change. William Happer reached out to the Heartland Institute to discuss his arguments in a paper attempting to knock down the contributions of fossil fuel emissions in climate disruption. Happer is now a member of Trump’s National Security Council. (Associated Press / The Guardian)
The Trump administration cannot block pregnant, undocumented teenagers held in government custody from getting abortions, a federal appeals court ruled. The court concluded that they were “rejecting the government’s position that its denial of abortion access can be squared with Supreme Court precedent.” (CNN / BuzzFeed News)
ICE placed 5,200 adult immigrants in quarantine after being exposed to mumps or chicken pox while in custody. About 4,200 have been exposed to mumps, 800 exposed to chicken pox, and 100 have been exposed to both. (CNN)
Trump compared Melania Trump to Jackie Kennedy Onassis, saying “we have our own Jackie O. It’s called Melania…we’ll call it Melania T.” Trump made the comparison while defending his decision to paint the new Air Force One red, white and blue, replacing the baby blue color scheme picked by Kennedy Onassis in the 1960s. (Politico / Talking Points Memo / The Hill / The Cut)
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