👋 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/ The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to investigate Trump’s alleged involvement in the 2016 hush-money payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. The committee plans to hold hearings and call witnesses involved in the scheme as soon as October, but say there is already enough evidence to name Trump as a co-conspirator. Michael Cohen previously pleaded guilty to two campaign finance crimes related to the hush-money payments. The renewed inquiry will serve as another aspect of the House’s consideration of whether or not to draft articles of impeachment against Trump. (Washington Post)
2/ Trump “suggested” that Pence stay at his Irish golf club and hotel during a taxpayer-funded trip, despite the meetings taking place more than 150 miles away. Pence is traveling with his wife, sister, and mother, and was originally scheduled to end his trip at Trump’s golf club in Doonbeg. Pence will now fly back and forth from Doonbeg to Dublin for his meetings – more than an hour flight each way. Both Pence and an aide defended the arrangement, claiming that the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel was “the one facility” in Ireland that could accommodate the delegation traveling with Pence. Since 2017, Pence’s political group has spent about $224,000 at Trump properties. (NBC News / Daily Beast / Associated Press / New York Times / CNN /Washington Post)
3/ A company that Trump’s campaign manager owns received more than $900,000 in business from a pro-Trump super PAC. Brad Parscale created Red State Data and Digital to act as a “firewall company” that allowed it to continue working with the America First super PAC during the midterm elections without violating election rules that prohibit coordination between a campaign and a super PAC. Red State was founded on March 2, 2018 – days after it was announced that Parscale would become Trump’s 2020 campaign manager. (CNN / ABC News)
4/ A group of Trump’s allies is trying to raise at least $2 million to investigate reporters and editors Trump doesn’t like. In a fundraising pitch, the group claims it will provide damaging information about reporters and editors to “friendly media outlets,” such as Breitbart, as well as traditional media when possible. GOP consultant Arthur Schwartz will be involved with the fundraising effort, along with several others associated with the “loose network” of operatives identified by the New York Times last week. The prospectus for the project says it is “targeting the people producing the news.” (Axios)
5/ The Trump administration will divert $3.6 billion this week from 127 military construction projects to build to build 175 miles of Trump’s border wall. Trump declared a national emergency in February to draw funding from federal accounts to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said about half of the funding will come from military construction projects outside the United States and half will come from projects within the country. (Politico / Washington Post)
- 📌 Day 757: Trump declared a national emergency at the border to circumvent Congress and fund his border wall with money lawmakers refused to give him, saying “I didn’t need to do this,” but “I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.” In a Rose Garden news conference, Trump said he would sign the declaration to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to his border wall and then use presidential budgetary discretion to redirect $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs and another $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund. Between the $1.375 billion authorized for fencing in a spending package passed by Congress, and the roughly $6.5 billion in funding from executive action, Trump is will have about $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier – significantly more than the $5.7 billion that Congress refused to give him. Following the news conference, Trump signed the spending legislation. (New York Times / The Guardian / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News / ABC News)
6/ Trump tweeted a detailed aerial photo of an Iranian launchpad from that appears to have come from a classified intelligence briefing. The photo shows the aftermath of an accident at Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Center. Some experts suspect that the image in Trump’s tweet might have come from a drone or a spy plane, confirming that the U.S. is violating Iran’s airspace to spy on the missile program. Amateur satellite trackers, however, say image was taken by one of the United States’ most secretive surveillance satellites, USA 224. The capabilities of USA 224 are so closely guarded that people have been sent to prison for leaking photos from them. Trump denied responsibility for the extensive damage to the launchpad and defended his decision to tweet the photo, saying: “We had a photo and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do.” (Washington Post / NPR / Los Angeles Times / CNBC)
Trump is “not sure that (he’s) ever even heard of a Category 5” hurricane. Four such storms – including Hurricane Dorian – having threatened the U.S. since he took office. (CNN)
London Mayor Sadiq Khan mocked Trump for “dealing with a hurricane out on the golf course.” Trump cancelled his trip to Poland to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II to instead concentrate on Hurricane Dorian. Instead, he played golf at his private club in Virginia. (Politico)
Trump refused to retract his claim that Hurricane Dorian was poised to hit Alabama, even though the National Weather Service said he was wrong. The NWS office in Birmingham rejected Trump’s assertion that Alabama was in the storm’s path, tweeting: “We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama.” Trump, meanwhile, explained that it’s “Always good to be prepared!” (CNN / New York Times / The Hill / Yahoo! News)
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos scaled back an Obama-era federal student loan forgiveness policy for borrowers who claim they were misled or deceived by their colleges. The new rules will make it more difficult for federal student loan borrowers to cancel their debt on the grounds that their college defrauded them. (Politico)
U.S. manufacturing contracted for the first time since 2016, heightening fears that the trade war with China could bring on a recession. The Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers index fell to 49.1 in August. Figures below 50 indicate the manufacturing economy is generally shrinking. (Bloomberg / New York Times)
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