👋 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.
Send your thoughts, suggestions, or complaints to:
1/ Trump lost his appeal to stop a House subpoena requiring him to turn over his tax documents to investigators. The 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. upheld a lower court ruling that required Trump’s longtime accountant Mazars USA to turn over eight years of Trump’s personal tax returns. The judges ruled that the courts “lack the power to invalidate a duly authorized congressional subpoena merely because it might have been ‘better [if]…the full House’ had specifically authorized or issued it.” Courts, the ruling continues, don’t get a say in how each chamber conducts itself unless Congress “adopts a rule that offends the Constitution.” The case is the first major dispute between Trump and the House to have reached the appeals court level – one level below the Supreme Court. (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / Politico / BuzzFeed News / CNN / CNBC / Axios / Bloomberg)
2/ A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from enforcing the “public charge” rule, which would’ve made it easier to reject green card and visa applications from immigrants whom the government determines are or might become a financial “burden” on U.S. taxpayers. U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels in Manhattan issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the rule days before it was set to take effect on Oct. 15. Daniels said the government failed to explain why it was changing the definition of a “public charge” or why the change was needed. Daniels said the rule is “simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification,” calling it “repugnant to the American Dream.” (New York Times / The Hill / NPR / CBS News)
3/ A federal judge ruled that Trump’s national emergency declaration to fund construction of his border wall is unlawful. U.S. District Court Judge David Briones in Texas agreed with the complainants, who argued that the declaration doesn’t qualify as an “emergency” under the definition in the National Emergencies Act. They also argued that Trump overstepped his authority by issuing the declaration in order to gain access to additional funding for the wall from the military, even though his administration already received $1.375 billion in funding from Congress. Briones asked complainants to propose the scope for a preliminary injunction against the declaration. (CNN / New York Post / The Hill)
4/ Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told lawmakers that Trump personally pressured the State Department to have her ousted from her position. Yovanovitch defied Trump’s ban on cooperating with the House impeachment inquiry and spoke to Congress during a closed-door deposition. She said she was “abruptly” recalled in May and told the president had lost confidence in her. Yovanovitch said she’d done nothing to deserve her dismissal and that she was confused when Trump “chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives,” referring to Giuliani and a group of former Ukrainian officials who saw her as a political and financial threat to their interests. (Associated Press / Washington Post / New York Times)
More whistleblowers have come forward to speak with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Two congressional sources say these new whistleblowers were emboldened by the actions of the original intelligence community whistleblower who raised concerns about Trump’s dealings regarding Ukraine. Congressional investigators are currently vetting the new whistleblowers’ credibility. No information is currently available about the departments or areas of government from which these new whistleblowers originated or what they’ve said. (Daily Beast)
At least four national security officials raised alarms about Ukraine policy before and after Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. The nature and timing of the previously undisclosed discussions with National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg indicate that officials were delivering warnings through official White House channels earlier than previously understood. (Washington Post)
The White House accidentally sent Democrats a list of talking points related to Yovanovitch’s deposition, the second time in a month that Trump administration officials have accidentally sent Ukraine-related talking points to Democrats. (The Hill / The Week)
5/ Giuliani’s business relationship with the two men accused of running an illegal campaign finance scheme is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. The investigation by federal authorities in New York became public after Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested while attempting to flee the U.S. yesterday and named as witnesses in the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump. Parnas has also been working for the legal team of Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who’s currently facing bribery charges in the U.S. Both Parnas and Fruman had worked in an unspecified capacity for Firtash before Parnas joined the Ukrainian’s legal team. (ABC News / New York Times / Vanity Fair / Reuters)
- 📌 Day 994: Two men who worked with Giuliani to find damaging information about Biden and his son have been charged with conspiring to violate campaign finance laws that prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to U.S. campaigns. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are two key subjects in the House’s impeachment inquiry. They were indicted and accused of making “secret agreements” to hide the fact that they were laundering foreign money into U.S. campaigns through a range of corporate identities by using “straw donors” to make the contributions. The indictment alleges that on one occasion, they lobbied a then-sitting member of Congress at the request of “one or more Ukrainian officials.” (BuzzFeed News / Washington Post / ABC News / New York Times / Reuters / Associated Press / NBC News)
6/ Turkey accidentally attacked a contingent of U.S. Special Forces in northern Syria during its ongoing bombing campaign against U.S.-allied Kurdish militias in the region. U.S. troops operating in the majority-Kurdish city of Kobani were bombarded by Turkish artillery fire. The Turkish Defense Ministry denied that its military intentionally targeted U.S. forces. A senior Pentagon official later confirmed the incident, saying Turkish forces should have precise knowledge of American positions. No injuries have been reported. (Newsweek / Washington Post / Yahoo! News)
7/ Trump is sending thousands of U.S. troops to protect Saudi Arabia’s oil fields days after withdrawing U.S. troops and allowing Turkey to attack U.S.-allied Kurdish forces. The U.S., European, and Saudi Arabian governments blame Iran for a September attack on Saudi oil facilities, but Tehran insists they had nothing to do with it. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the deployment of 3,000 service members, two fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing, two Patriot Missile batteries, and one THAD missile defense system to protect the facilities. While plans for the deployment were first announced in Sept. shortly after the attack, they included “modest” reinforcements rather than the “thousands” announced today. (NBC News)
Trump’s former top aide on Russia and Europe will give testimony about Giuliani and E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland next week. Fiona Hill will testify about how Giuliani and Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and standard White House protocols in order to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine. The Trump administration is expected to attempt to prevent her from testifying, a key test for whether congressional committees pursuing an impeachment inquiry can obtain testimony from other former officials who have left the administration. (NBC News)
A senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resigned amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over Pompeo’s failure to support personnel who have become ensnared in the Ukraine controversy. McKinley was closely involved in the Trump administration’s policy on Venezuela, Mexico, Southeast Asia, and Afghanistan. (Washington Post)
Shepard Smith announced that he is stepping down as lead news anchor and leaving Fox News. Smith seems to have signed a non-compete agreement. “Under our agreement, I won’t be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near feature,” he said. (CNN Business / New York Times)
Trump said the U.S. has come to a “very substantial phase one deal” with China. “Phase two will start almost immediately” after the first phase is signed, Trump said while standing alongside Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office. (CNBC)
Become a member.
Help keep WTF Just Happened Today going with a small contribution.