👋 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 White House is conducting its own investigation into why a rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Zelensky was placed into a secret server for secure storage. Trump’s advisers and White House lawyers began the fact-finding review to find out why deputy White House counsel, John Eisenberg, placed the rough transcript of the call in a computer system typically reserved for the country’s most closely guarded secrets. Eisenberg has said he limited access to the transcript over concerns about leaks. It is unclear who asked for or initiated the review, though acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has encouraged it and his aids are helping with it. Some officials fear the review is intended to assign blame for the impeachment inquiry. (New York Times)
2/ Mick Mulvaney put Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry in charge of managing the U.S.-Ukraine relationship instead of diplomats at the National Security Council and the State Department. The State Department’s Ukraine expert, George Kent, testified during a closed-door hearing before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees that Mulvaney was responsible for stripping control of the country’s relationship with Ukraine from those who had the most expertise. Kent also told lawmakers that he had been told by a supervisor to lie low after he raised complaints about Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to undermine U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine. Current and former officials said Mulvaney met frequently with Sondland and that details of their discussions were kept from then-National Security Adviser John Bolton and other officials who were raising internal concerns about the hidden Ukraine agenda. Mulvaney was also the one who, at Trump’s direction, placed a hold on nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine leading up to Trump’s July 25 phone call to pressure Zelensky to pursue Giuliani’s agenda against the Bidens. (Washington Post / CNN)
A former top White House foreign policy adviser told House impeachment investigators that she viewed Sondland as a national security risk because he was so unprepared for his job. Fiona Hill did not accuse Sondland of acting maliciously or intentionally putting the country at risk, but described him as and Trump donor-turned-ambassador. (New York Times)
Michael McKinley, who resigned as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, testified that he quit because career diplomats had been sidelined on Ukraine. During his closed-door deposition to the House Intelligence Committee, McKinley testified about how experts had been sidelined as Trump pursued his own agenda on Ukraine. McKinley also testified that he repeatedly asked Pompeo for a show of support for the Marie Yovanovitch after she was abruptly removed from her post following a monthslong push by Trump to get rid of her on the basis of “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.” Pompeo was silent. (New York Times / CNN)
House Democrats requested that Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor appear for a deposition in the investigation into Trump’s alleged misconduct involving Ukraine. (NBC News)
3/ The federal investigation into Giuliani’s business dealings with two men indicted last week on campaign finance charges in Ukraine includes a counterintelligence probe, suggesting that FBI and criminal prosecutors in Manhattan are looking at a broader set of issues. The counterintelligence probe relates to whether a foreign influence operation was trying to take advantage of Giuliani’s business ties in Ukraine and with wealthy foreigners to make inroads with the White House. New York attorney Kenneth McCallion said he was approached by federal investigators earlier this year about Giuliani’s connections to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the two men indicted last week on campaign finance violation charges. McCallion said he was approached this spring about Giuliani’s business dealings again by FBI counterintelligence agents. (USA Today / CNN)
A Giuliani business associated was arrested and charged with participating in a scheme to use foreign money to build political support for a recreational marijuana business. David Correia is the fourth defendant arrested in a campaign finance case involving Giuliani. The business relationship between Giuliani and Correia, Lev Parnas, and Igor Fruman is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by federal authorities in New York. (ABC News / New York 4 / Washington Post)
A grand jury issued a subpoena seeking documents from former Rep. Pete Sessions about his dealings with Giuliani. The subpoena seeks documents related to Giuliani’s business dealings with Ukraine, his involvement in efforts to remove the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, and any interactions between Sessions, Giuliani and the four Giuliani associates who were indicted last week on campaign finance and conspiracy accounts. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
Giuliani privately urged Trump in 2017 to extradite a Turkish cleric living in exile in the U.S., a top priority of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Before he would go on to become Trump’s personal attorney, Giuliani repeatedly told Trump that the U.S. should eject Fethullah Gulen from the country. Gulen is a permanent U.S. resident who lives in Pennsylvania, and Turkey has demanded that the U.S. turn him over to Turkey to face charges of plotting a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan. Gulen denies any involvement in the coup attempt. (Washington Post)
4/ The House voted to condemn Trump’s withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria. The nonbinding resolution passed 354 to 60 – shortly before a bipartisan group of congressional leaders were scheduled to meet with Trump to discuss the incursion, and hours before Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were to travel to Turkey to call for a cease-fire. Trump, meanwhile, attempted to distance himself from the ongoing conflict “between Turkey and Syria” and his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region, saying that Turkey and the Kurds are fighting “over land that has nothing to do with us.” (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)
Democratic leaders walked out of a White House meeting with Trump after he had a “meltdown” and called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “third-grade politician.” The White House called the meeting to discuss Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, which came shortly after House Democrats and Republicans voted to oppose his action and urge the administration to contain the fallout from Turkey’s incursion into Syria. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)
Trump sent a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week urging him to make a deal with the Kurds, saying: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump also warned Erdogan not to “let the world down” by invading northern Syria. The letter was sent on October 9th – three days after the two had spoken by phone and the same day the Turkish incursion into Syria began. (CNN / Vox / CNBC / New York Times / NBC News)
Turkey dismissed a U.S. call for an immediate ceasefire in northeast Syria. (Wall Street Journal)
5/ Trump vetoed a bill that would have ended his national emergency declaration at the southern U.S. border. The veto, which was expected, sends the bill back to Congress, where it is unlikely to meet the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto. Trump vetoed a nearly identical version of the bill seven months ago. (New York Times / Reuters)
6/ The Trump administration has hired a lobbyist for every 14 political appointments made. The 281 lobbyists working in the administration is four times more than the Obama administration had six years into office. And former lobbyists serving Trump are often involved in regulating the industries they worked for. (ProPublica)
7/ Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits, and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings to make them appear more profitable to the lender — and less profitable to the tax authorities. (ProPublica)
poll/ 52% of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 46% say he should not be. (Gallup)
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