👋 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1/ The Trump administration repealed Obama’s landmark clean water protections that had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands, and other bodies of water. The Obama-era Waters of the United States rule was designed to limit pollution in about 60% of the nation’s bodies of water, protecting sources of drinking water for about one-third of the U.S., and extended existing federal authority to limit pollution in large bodies of water. The EPA plans to also establish a stricter legal definition of what qualifies as “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act before the end of the year. The existing rules would be replaced with a much narrower definition of the types of tributaries, streams, and wetlands that are subject to protections. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CBS News)
2/ The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can continue to deny most Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. while a legal battle over the issue plays out in the lower courts. The Court issued a brief, unsigned order that says the administration can enforce new rules that generally refuse asylum applications from migrants who failed to apply for it in another country after leaving home but before arriving at the southern border. For instance, migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador cannot seek asylum in the U.S. if they didn’t first ask for it in Mexico. A separate lawsuit to overturn the new rules is still working its way through the lower courts. (New York Times / NBC News / Reuters / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
3/ The CEOs of 145 companies called on the Senate to pass “common-sense gun laws,” stating that it is “simply unacceptable” to do nothing about gun violence in America. The letter urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the House that would require background checks for all firearm sales and stronger “red flag” laws, which could prevent shootings in cases where family members or law enforcement report concerns about someone who may be at risk of harming themselves or others. (NPR / New York Times)
4/ The Trump administration discussed offering China a limited trade agreement that would delay or roll back some U.S. tariffs increases set to take effect in October and December in exchange for Chinese commitments on intellectual property and agricultural purchases. Several of Trump’s top economic officials are reportedly trying to resurrect the deal they were previously negotiating with China that officials said was “90 percent” done. A senior White House official, however, said the U.S. is “absolutely not” considering an interim trade deal with China. (Bloomberg / Politico / CNBC)
5/ The FBI and other federal agencies accused Israel of placing cell phone surveillance devices near the White House within the past two years. The devices were likely intended to spy on Trump, according to senior U.S. officials, but it is unclear whether the attempts were successful. When Trump administration officials heard about the surveillance devices, however, they didn’t rebuke Israel, which is usually the case when incidents of foreign spying are discovered on U.S. soil. A spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy called the claims “absolute nonsense,” and insisted that “Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period.” (Politico)
6/ The U.S. deficit surpassed $1 trillion in the first 11 months of the fiscal year – up 19% from a year ago and exceeding $1 trillion for the first time since 2012. The government said it expects to borrow more than $1 trillion for the second year in a row in 2019. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)
7/ The Justice Department recommended indicting former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe over his alleged “lack of candor” during an internal watchdog probe in 2017. McCabe authorized the FBI to investigate possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election. The grand jury hearing the case was recalled this week after going months without meeting but left without revealing any immediate signs of an indictment. (Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / CNN / New York Times)
8/ The House Judiciary Committee approved a resolution defining the rules for its impeachment investigation into Trump. The measure also triggers a House rule that gives Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler the ability to deem committee hearings as impeachment hearings, allowing staffers to question witnesses for an hour at the end of every hearing, gives Trump’s lawyers the ability to respond in writing to public testimony, and allows the committee to collect information in secret “executive sessions.” The Judiciary Committee believes it has identified five areas of potential obstruction in Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, in addition to the hush-money payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump, and allegations that Trump has used his public office to benefit his private business. The resolution passed along party lines, 24-17. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / CNN / Washington Post / Reuters)
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