👋 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/ Trump pressured the leader of Ukraine eight times to investigate Joe Biden’s son. Trump used a July 25th phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky to repeatedly pressure the recently elected leader to work with Rudy Giuliani on an investigation that Trump believed would deliver political dirt against Biden. Trump told Zelensky that Ukraine could improve its reputation and “interaction” with the United States by investigating a Ukrainian gas company with ties to Biden’s son Hunter, who served on the board of directors. In June and August, Giuliani met with top Ukrainian officials about the prospect of an investigation. Toward the end of August, the White House considered blocking $250 million to support Ukraine’s military in its war against Russian-backed separatists. On Sept. 12, however, that funding was released. Separately, lawmakers have been investigating whether Trump or Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian government to pursue probes in an effort to benefit Trump’s re-election bid. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times / Daily Beast / CNN)
📌 Day 841: Rudy Giuliani is encouraging Ukraine to pursue an investigation into Joe Biden’s son and his involvement in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch. Trump’s personal lawyer is meeting with the incoming government in Kiev to press them to try to discredit Mueller’s investigation and undermine the case against Paul Manafort. “We’re not meddling in an election,” Giuliani said. “We’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do.” (New York Times / NBC News)
📌 Day 945: Rudy Giuliani confirmed that the State Department helped him press the Ukrainian government to probe Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee. Giuliani has wanted Ukrainian officials to look into Biden’s effort to crack down on corruption in Ukraine and his son Hunter Biden’s involvement in a natural gas company there. Giuliani also wanted to know if Ukrainian officials and the DNC worked together to harm Trump’s 2016 campaign by releasing damaging information about Paul Manafort. (NBC News)
📌 Day 952: Trump is considering a plan to block more than $250 million in foreign aid to Ukraine. Since 2014, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with more than $1 billion in security assistance to bolster the country’s military, which faces an ongoing conflict with separatists that the Pentagon believes are backed by Moscow. (CNN / Politico)
📌 Day 964: Three House committees are investigating reported efforts by Trump and Rudy Giuliani “to pressure the government of Ukraine to assist” Trump’s re-election campaign. The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees wrote to the White House and State Department seeking records related to what they described as efforts to “manipulate the Ukrainian justice system.” (Reuters / CNBC)
2/ The whistleblower complaint about Trump made by an intelligence official involves Ukraine. In late July – two and a half weeks before the complaint was filed – Trump told Ukraine’s new president that he could improve Ukraine’s reputation and its “interaction” with the United States by investigating “corruption.” The complaint involved communications with a foreign leader and a “promise” that Trump made. (New York Times / Washington Post)
- 📌 Day 973: 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)
3/ Rudy Giuliani denied asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden immediately before admitting that he actually had. In an interview on CNN, Chris Cuomo asked Giuliani if he had pressed Ukrainian officials to pursue investigations into Biden’s son. “No, actually I didn’t. I asked Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said. “You never asked anything about Hunter Biden? You never asked anything about Joe Biden and the prosecutor?” Cuomo asked again. Giuliani replied that the “only thing” he asked was how the prosecutor got dismissed. “So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden,” Cuomo said. “Of course I did,” Giuliani said. (CNN / Washington Post)
4/ Trump dismissed the whistleblower complaint involving his conversations with Ukraine as a “ridiculous,” “partisan” attack. He then admitted that he didn’t know the identity of the whistleblower, but called a “political hack job” anyway. Trump then added that “It doesn’t matter what I discussed [with Ukraine’s president], but I’ll tell you this, somebody ought to look into Joe Biden’s statement.” Trump also defended his July conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky as “totally appropriate” while characterizing the conversation as “beautiful.” (Associated Press / Bloomberg / New York Times / ABC News / Wall Street Journal)
Hillary Clinton accused Trump of asking “a foreign power to help him win an election. Again,” referring to Trump’s call during the 2016 race for Russia to look into Clinton’s deleted emails. (CNN / The Guardian)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed changing federal law so sitting presidents can be indicted. “I do think that we will have to pass some laws that will have clarity for future presidents. [A] president should be indicted, if he’s committed a wrongdoing — any president. There is nothing anyplace that says the president should not be indicted,” Pelosi said. (NPR / Politico)
5/ California and 22 other states filed a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from blocking California’s authority to set emission standards for cars and trucks. Earlier this week, Trump revoked California’s authority, contending that the waiver was improperly granted because greenhouse gases don’t cause specific local or regional problems linked to traditional pollutants, like soot and smog. (New York Times / CNN / Associated Press / The Guardian / Wall Street Journal)
- 📌 Day 971: The Trump administration will revoke California’s right to set stricter air pollution standards for cars and light trucks than those required by the federal government. In July, California reached an agreement with Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW to support the state’s right to set its own fuel efficiency standards and to voluntarily produce cars averaging nearly 50 mpg by model year 2026. The rollback of California’s waiver will also affect 13 other states and the District of Columbia, which follow California’s emissions regulations. Last summer, the EPA proposed weakening fuel economy standards put in place by the Obama administration by freezing standards at roughly 37 mpg from 2020 to 2026. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state intends to strike back with a lawsuit, which is expected to go to the Supreme Court. (Los Angeles Times / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)
6/ Trump imposed terror-related sanctions on Iran’s central bank and sovereign wealth fund following the attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which the U.S. has blamed on Iran. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the new sanctions would cut off the last source of funds for Iran. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)
7/ Trump suggested that he could end the Afghanistan war “very quickly” but it’d require killing “tens of millions” of people. Trump made a similar claimed in July, saying he could win nearly 19-year war “in a week,” but didn’t want to go that route, because “I just don’t want to kill 10 million people.” (Washington Post)
- 📌 Day 914: Trump claimed that he could easily “wipe” Afghanistan “off the face of the earth,” but doesn’t “want to go that route” because he’d have to “kill 10 million people.” (Daily Beast/Vox)
8/ The Trump administration signed an asylum agreement with El Salvador. The deal could force Central American migrants who pass through El Salvador to first seek asylum there or be sent back to the country once they reach the U.S. (Associated Press / Washington Post / Axios)
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