👋 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/ Mick Mulvaney tried to walk-back his claim that Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was in exchange for an investigation of the hacked Democratic National Committee server. Trump has repeatedly claimed his decision to hold up the aid was due to concerns about corruption in Ukraine and that European nations weren’t doing enough to help Ukraine. Trump was reportedly “not happy” with Mulvaney’s press briefing, in which his acting chief of staff said “We do that all the time with foreign policy” and that every one should “Get over it,” because “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney later issued a statement, which was first reviewed by Trump, saying that “There was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.” When Trump was asked to clarify Mulvaney’s statement, Trump responded: “I think he clarified it.” Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Mulvaney’s comments a “confession.” (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN)
- 📌 Day 1001: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that Trump blocked military aid to Ukraine to force Kiev to investigate his political rivals. Mulvaney called the quid pro quo exchange “absolutely appropriate” and that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.” Mulvaney added: “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney also told reporters the funds were withheld in part because of a request to have Ukraine investigate unfounded allegations that foreign countries assisted Democrats in the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly denied that there was a quid pro quo arrangement linking his demand for an investigation that could politically benefit him to the release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNBC)
2/ Associates of an indicted Ukrainian oligarch tried to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for Rudy Giuliani helping the oligarch avoid extradition to the U.S. Dmitry Firtash changed lawyers in July to Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, who were supporters of Trump and associates of Giuliani. They hired Lev Parnas, also a Giuliani associate, as a translator. Parnas was arrested last week along with several associates and accused of conspiring to violate campaign finance laws. The Justice Department has described Firtash as an associate of “Russian organized crime.” (Bloomberg)
- A career diplomat told congressional investigators he was ignored when he raised concerns in January 2015 about Hunter Biden working for a Ukrainian natural gas company that he believed could look like a conflict of interest. George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, testified that he had concerns that Ukrainian officials would view Hunter Biden as a conduit for currying influence with Joe Biden. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
3/ Rick Perry won’t comply with a subpoena from the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Relations committees, saying he would defer to Energy Department counsel, which said it was “unable to comply” with the subpoena for documents. (CNBC / Politico / CNN)
- Trump will nominate Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette to replace Rick Perry, who will leave at the end of the year. (Washington Post)
4/ The Trump administration imposed new tariffs on a record $7.5 billion worth of goods from the European Union, including Airbus, French wine, and Scottish whisky. The tariffs went into effect just after midnight after talks between U.S. and European trade negotiators failed to reach a deal. Civilian aircraft will now cost 10% more when imported to the U.S., while the cost of wine, olives, certain cheeses, butter, and other consumer goods will also rise. (CBS News / MarketWatch / CNBC)
- Trump’s top economic adviser warned Trump that continued escalation of the U.S.-China trade war could hurt the economy and his chances for re-election. Trump instead the Federal Reserve should share blame for any economic downturn, and that it should be doing more to stimulate growth. (Wall Street Journal)
5/ The Kurds say Turkey is violating the ceasefire brokered by the U.S. in northeastern Syria. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said Turkish shelling and artillery fire has continued despite Pence’s announcement that he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had brokered a five-day ceasefire in the region. (CNN / Associated Press)
- Mitch McConnell called Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria a “grave strategic mistake,” but never mentions Trump by name. (Washington Post)
6/ House Democrats are preparing a resolution to condemn Trump’s decision to select the Trump National Doral Miami for the next G7 summit, calling the selection inconsistent with the emoluments clause of the Constitution. (CNBC)
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