👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ Robert Mueller agreed to testify before the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees in back-to-back public hearings on July 17th about his investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible obstruction of justice by Trump. The announcement came after the two panels issued a subpoena compelling Mueller’s testimony. Mueller previously said he did not want to testify and his report should serve as his testimony. Members of Mueller’s team will also participate in a closed-door session with lawmakers. (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / ABC News / CNN)
2/ Trump attacked Mueller and – without evidence – accused him of committing a crime after House Democrats announced that Mueller would testify publicly next month. Trump claimed that Mueller “terminated” FBI communications by deleting text messages exchanged by two former FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. “And that’s illegal,” Trump tweeted. “That’s a crime.” Trump was referring to a report by the Justice Department inspector general that said it could not recover texts from the phones assigned to Strzok and Page, because by the time investigators requested the devices, they had been reset for other officials to use. Trump referred to Strzok and Page as “pathetic lovers” for having had an affair. (Washington Post / New York Times / Reuters)
3/ The House Oversight Committee authorized a subpoena for Kellyanne Conway after she failed to show for a hearing about her alleged violations of the Hatch Act, a law that limits federal employees’ political activity. Special counsel Henry Kerner said Conway should be fired for blatantly and repeatedly violating the Hatch Act. The White House, meanwhile, blocked Conway from testifying about the allegations. Chairman Elijah Cummings warned that the committee would vote to hold Conway in contempt if she ignores the subpoena. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / Reuters / Politico / Axios)
4/ The House approved a $4.5 billion aid package for the southwestern border. The 230-195 vote was mostly along party lines, with all but four Democrats supporting bill. Even if the two chambers are able to reach an agreement, it’s unclear if Trump will sign it into law. Democrats will now have to begin negotiations with Senate GOP leaders in order to get the aid package signed into law before the weeklong recess. (Politico / NBC News)
5/ Trump complained that congressional Democrats “won’t do anything at all about border security” hours after the House passed the aid package to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. (Politico)
6/ The Senate passed a $4.6 billion emergency spending bill for the southern border, rejecting the House legislation that attempted to set rules on how Trump could use the money. The Senate legislation allocates about $1.3 billion to improve border facilities and $2.9 billion for the care of migrant children. The measure would prohibit Homeland Security from adding more beds at detention centers or migrant processing facilities. House and Senate leaders must now decide whether to reconcile their conflicting proposals or head into a week-long July Fourth recess without addressing the growing humanitarian crisis. (New York Times / Politico / Associated Press / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. is “about 90% of the way there” on a trade deal with China. Mnuchin expects Trump and President Xi to make progress during the upcoming G20 Summit, but did not provide any details about what the remaining 10% of an agreement might look like. Trump, meanwhile, warned of a “Plan B with China” to raise tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports. (CNBC / Bloomberg)
Trump’s diplomatic protocol chief has been suspended indefinitely ahead of the G20 Summit in Japan. Sean Lawler is being investigated by the State Department inspector general over accusations that Lawler intimidated his staff and carried a whip in the office. The protocol chief assists the president during overseas trips and during visits from foreign leaders by making introductions and briefing the president on customs and protocol. Mary-Kate Fisher will take over as acting protocol chief. (CNN / Bloomberg)
The EPA air chief resigned amid scrutiny over possible violations of federal ethics rules. Bill Wehrum helped reverse Obama-era rules aimed at cutting pollutants before joining the Trump administration. The Energy and Commerce Committee has been investigating Wehrum’s compliance with Trump’s ethics pledge, which requires political appointees to recuse themselves from specific matters involving their former employers and clients for two years. (Washington Post)
The White House will host “digital leaders” for a Social Media Summit next month following Trump’s accusations that Google, Facebook and Twitter are biased against him and other conservatives. Earlier in the day, Trump suggested that “we should be suing Google and Facebook,” adding “perhaps we will.” (Politico / Axios)
The Justice Department sued former Trump senior White House advisor Omarosa Manigault Newman for allegedly failing to file a financial disclosure report after she was fired in late 2017. Manigault Newman said she couldn’t file the report because the White House never returned her personal files after she left. (CNBC / CNN / Politico)
NEW! 🤷♂️ Dept. of I Really Don’t Care, Do U? I’m burnt out. You’re burnt out. The news sucks. We’re all suffering from disaster fatigue. So let’s start a collaborative, curated thread for the strange-but-true political things that aren’t really news, but seem to make the news anyway. Add your oddities to the forum post so we can cut the crap and get back to focusing on the things that matter.
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