👋 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/ Trump sued the House Ways and Means Committee and the New York state officials to block his state tax returns from being turned over to the committee. In May, New York passed a bill that allowed the Ways and Means Committee chairman to obtainTrump’s state tax returns. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to would block the application of the new state law. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / CNN)
- 📌 Day 900: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing congressional committees to access Trump’s New York state tax returns. The bill requires state tax officials to release the state returns for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose” on the request of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation. Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, called the bill “more presidential harassment.” The House Ways and Means Committee has unsuccessfully tried to access six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. The House sued the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service last week to try to force them to release the returns. (New York Times / NBC News)
2/ The Trump administration proposed ending food stamp benefits for 3.1 million people by tightening eligibility and automatic enrollment. The current rule allows residents in 43 states to be automatically eligible for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if they receive benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The new rule would require people who receive TANF benefits to pass a review of their income and assets to determine whether they are eligible to receive food from SNAP. Removing 3.1 million people from SNAP would save the federal government about $2.5 billion a year. About 40 million low-income people received SNAP benefits in 2018. (Reuters / Bloomberg / CNN / Washington Post)
3/ Trump is on track to add another $1 trillion dollars to the national deficit this year after endorsing the two-year bipartisan budget deal that will raise spending limits by $320 billion and allow the government to keep borrowing money. Republicans say the deal will add too much to the debt while some Democrats are upset that Trump is not prevented from using money from military programs to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)
- Trump’s rhetorical appeals to white working-class voters during the 2016 campaign have not been matched with legislative accomplishments aimed at their economic interests. Since becoming president, Trump has signed taxes that benefitted companies and the wealthy, rolled back regulations on corporations, and appointed administration officials and judges from the conservative movement. (New York Times)
4/ More than 180 human rights groups and 22 senators demanded that the Trump administration’s new Commission on Unalienable Rights be abolished. Letters to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accuse the 10-member commission of being overseen by clergy and scholars “known for extreme positions opposing LGBTQI and reproductive rights,” including some who they say have defended “indefensible human rights violations.” Pompeo launched the commission earlier this month to, he claimed, “provide fresh thinking” about returning the government’s focus to promoting “natural law and natural rights.” (NBC News)
5/ Robert Mueller will have one of his aides sit alongside him during his House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. Aaron Zebley will not be under oath or allowed to answer lawmakers’ questions directly, but he can privately consult with Mueller if the former special counsel needs assistance or guidance about how to respond during the hearing. It’s unclear if Mueller made a similar request to the House Intelligence Committee. (New York Times / ABC News / Washington Post)
Jerry Nadler called Trump’s Justice Department “incredibly arrogant” after instructing Mueller to limit the scope of his congressional testimony. The House Judiciary Committee chairman added that “It’s a part of the ongoing cover-up by the administration to keep information away from the American people.” Mueller will appear before the House Judiciary Committee at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday for about three hours and will then appear before the House Intelligence Committee at noon for about two hours. (Politico / Washington Post)
Trump said he might watch a “little bit” of Mueller’s public testimony this week. (NBC News)
poll/ 18% of Republicans said they planned to watch Mueller’s testimony, 60% said they would not watch, with the rest unsure. 31% of Republicans considered it “very” or “somewhat” important that Mueller was scheduled to testify this week. (Reuters)
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Russia is “absolutely intent” on interfering in the 2020 presidential election despite sanctions and other efforts. “My view is until they stop they haven’t been deterred enough,” Wray told Lindsey Graham during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Graham had asked Wray if “they’re still at” despite “all the sanctions, all the talk.” (Reuters)
Trump met with Devin Nunes to discuss possible replacements for Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates. Some intelligence officials believe Trump is considering Nunes for an intelligence post. Coates’ job security has been up in the air since he contradicted Trump in statements he made about North Korea, Iran, and Syria. (Politico)
The Senate confirmed Mark Esper as defense secretary. The Pentagon has been without a permanent leader since Jim Mattis resigned last year over policy disagreements with Trump. (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
Trump threatened Guatemala with tariffs and other retaliation for backing away from a planned “safe third country” agreement with the U.S., which would have required Central American migrants traveling into Guatemala to claim asylum there instead of elsewhere. Trump warned that his administration would explore imposing a “ban,” tariffs, remittance fees or some combination of all three. (Politico / Washington Post)
Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations spent the equivalent of seven months of her 20-month tenure as ambassador to Canada in places where she had homes. Kelly Craft came under fire for her absences from the embassy in Ottawa after Federal Aviation Administration records showed her family plane had made weekly roundtrips to the United States. (Politico)
The Senate passed a bill to make the 9/11 victims compensation fund permanent. The bill now heads to Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign it. The bill was passed with the support of more than two-thirds of the House and Senate, meaning Congress could override a veto if Trump objected. (ABC News / NBC News)
The FBI recorded about 90 domestic terrorism arrests in the past nine months and about 100 international terrorism arrests. Most of the domestic terrorism cases involved a racial motive believed to be spurred by white supremacy. (Washington Post)
The lawyers for the “MAGA Bomber” claimed his client was manipulated by Fox News, Trump’s tweets, and Facebook. Cesar Sayoc previously pleaded guilty to mailing 16 pipe bombs to Trump’s political opponents, news outlets, and other public figures in October. Sayoc watched “Fox News religiously at the gym” and planned his “workout to coincide with Fox and Friends and his evenings to dovetail with Hannity.” Sayoc’s attorneys added that “a rational observer may have brushed off Trump’s tweets as hyperbole, but Mr. Sayoc took them to heart.” (Daily Beast / Washington Post / HuffPost)
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