👋 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 whistleblower complaint by an intelligence officer was triggered by a “promise” Trump made to a foreign leader and involves a series of actions that goes beyond any single discussion. The formal complaint was filed with Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who “determined that this complaint is both credible and urgent.” The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, however, has refused to turn it over to Congress. While it’s unclear to whom Trump was speaking at the time, White House records show Trump spoke to or interacted with Putin, Kim Jong Un, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and the Emir of Qatar in the five weeks prior to the complaint being filed on August 12th. Trump, meanwhile, denied that he made any “promise” to a foreign leader, calling the formal complaint “Presidential Harassment!” and rhetorically asking if there is “anybody dumb enough to believe that [he] would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader.” (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / ABC News / NBC News)
📌 Day 970: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee accused the acting director of national intelligence of withholding a whistleblower complaint in order to protect a “higher authority” official. Adam Schiff said Joseph Maguire, the acting DNI, consulted the Justice Department about the whistleblower complaint prior to his decision to withhold the complaint – a departure from standard practice. Schiff added that the Committee “can only conclude, based on this remarkable confluence of factors, that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or Administration officials.” (Business Insider / CBS News)
📌 Day 972: The acting director of national intelligence refused testify before Congress or hand over a whistleblower complaint to lawmakers. The complaint was submitted on Aug. 12 by a member of the intelligence community involving conduct by someone “outside the intelligence community” who does not involve intelligence activity under the supervision of Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence. Maguire had told Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, that he would not provide the complaint “because he is being instructed not to” by “a higher authority” who is “above” the cabinet-level position of the director of national intelligence. (New York Times)
2/ The White House and the Justice Department both advised the director of national intelligence that the whistleblower complaint is outside intelligence activities. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence told lawmakers on September 13th that the complaint “involves confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community.” ODNI also noted that the agency would work toward “protecting Executive Branch confidentiality interests.” (CNN)
3/ House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff threatened to sue the Trump administration over its refusal to turn over the whistleblower complaint that involves Trump’s interactions with a foreign leader. Schiff accused the White House and Justice Department of “trying to manipulate the system” to prevent the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, from sharing the complaint with Congress. Schiff issued a subpoena for the complaint last week, which Maguire has refused to turn over. (Politico / Washington Post / Reuters / NBC News / )
4/ Trump sued his accounting firm and the New York district attorney to block eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns from being sent to state prosecutors. Trump’s lawyers argued that he cannot be criminally investigated while in office, because the Constitution effectively makes sitting presidents immune from all criminal inquiries until they leave the White House. Cyrus Vance’s office issued a subpoena last month to Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA, which said in a statement this week that it “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.” Vance’s office is investigating the hush money payments made during the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, both of whom have alleged affairs with Trump, which he has denied. (NBC News / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC / Axios)
📌 Day 970: The Manhattan District Attorney subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s “personal and corporate tax returns” as part of its investigation into hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. Trump and his company reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 Cohen he paid Stormy Daniels just before the election to buy her silence about an affair she had with Trump. Cyrus Vance’s office is exploring whether the reimbursements violated New York state laws and whether the Trump Organization falsely accounted for the reimbursements as a legal expense. The subpoena was served last month to Mazars USA, which prepares Trump’s tax returns. (New York Times / NBC News / CNBC / Axios)
📌 Day 925: State prosecutors in New York subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents related to its role in hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. The investigation is examining whether senior executives filed false business records related to the $130,000 payment Michael Cohen made to Daniels, as well as the arrangement between Cohen and the National Enquirer to pay off McDougal. Falsifying business records would constitute a state crime. The Manhattan district attorney separately subpoenaed American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer. (New York Times)
5/ A federal judge temporarily blocked a California law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the primary ballot. U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. said he’d issue a final ruling in the coming days but took the unusual step of issuing a temporary injunction, saying there would be “irreparable harm without temporary relief” for Trump and other candidates. (Los Angeles Times / ABC News / Politico / Axios)
6/ Mitch McConnell will now back a measure to provide states with an additional $250 million in election security funding. McConnell and Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked Democratic efforts to bring election security legislation to the floor, including a measures that would have authorized funding to update voting equipment. (Washington Post / Politico)
poll/ The latest Fox News poll shows Trump losing to every Democratic frontrunner including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris. 52% of voters said they would support Biden if the 2020 election were held today to 38% who said they’d support Trump. 48% would support Sanders, 46% would support Warren, and 42% would support Harris, while 40% would support Trump. (Fox News / Newsweek)
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