👋 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 – again – tried to deny his public assertion of a quid pro quo in which the Trump administration held up an aid package to Ukraine because Trump wanted an investigation that could politically benefit him. During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Mulvaney insisted that he “didn’t speak clearly maybe on Thursday” and that there couldn’t have been a quid pro quo, because “the aid flowed.” Mulvaney also claimed that the administration only held up military aid to Ukraine because of the country’s corruption and because other countries weren’t giving more aid as well. On Thursday, however, Mulvaney told reporters to “Get over it,” calling quid pro quo “absolutely appropriate” and that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.” Mulvaney also claimed at the press conference last week that the Trump administration withheld military aid in part to secure cooperation with a Justice Department investigation into the origins of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. (Washington Post / New York Times / Daily Beast)
Trump’s allies are assembling a list of possible Mulvaney replacements. Among those said to be on the list are former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and veteran political operative Wayne Berman. (Bloomberg)
📌 Day 1002: 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/ Rudy Giuliani asked the State Department and the White House to grant a visa to the former Ukrainian official who Joe Biden had pushed to have removed when he was vice president. Career diplomat George Kent told congressional investigators in his closed-door testimony that around January 2019 Giuliani requested a visa for Viktor Shokin, who had been pushed out as Ukraine’s top prosecutor in 2016 over concerns that he was not pursuing corruption cases. Giuliani, however, previously said he wanted to interview Shokin in person because the Ukrainian promised to reveal dirt on Democrats. (CNN)
- 📌 Day 987: Giuliani personally gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a file of documents of unproven allegations against Biden on March 28th and claimed that he was told that the State Department would take up an investigation of those claims. State Department Inspector General Steve Linick gave Congress the 79-page packet Wednesday, which included nearly 20 pages of communications between State Department employees working to push back against the “fake narrative” that Giuliani was pushing. Linick told Congress that the department’s office of legal counsel had provided the documents to him in May, which he gave to the FBI. The documents were in Trump Hotel folders and included “interview” notes Giuliani conducted with Viktor Shokin, the former General Prosecutor of Ukraine who was pushed out at the urging of Biden because he didn’t prosecute corruption. (NBC News / CNN)
3/ The Justice Department confirmed that Trump Jr. and former White House counsel Don McGahn were never called to testify in front of a grand jury as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation. Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. said it was perplexing why Trump Jr. and McGahn were never subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. “The reason is not that the individuals were insignificant to the investigation,” Judge Howell wrote, “To the contrary, both of the non-testifying individuals named in paragraph four figured in key events examined in the Mueller Report.” (Politico)
- Instagram profiles originating in Russia since the beginning of the year have been building a network of accounts designed to look like political groups in swing states. The profiles are linked to the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-backed troll group indicted by the U.S. for its alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election. (CNN)
4/ Trump won’t host next year’s G7 summit at his Trump National Doral Resort after all. Instead, Trump said his administration “will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately.” Trump abandoned his plan to host the summit at his private golf club after the decision alienated Republicans and became part of the impeachment inquiry. During calls with conservative allies over the weekend, Trump was told that Republicans are struggling to defend him. (Washington Post / Associated Press / Daily Beast / NBC News / CNN / New York Times / Politico)
- Trump claimed he’s the victim of the “phony emoluments clause,” as he defended his previous decision to host next year’s G7 summit at his Doral resort in Miami. (Politico / New York Times)
5/ Trump insisted that he’s “trying to get out of wars,” but that “we may have to get in wars, too.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, said “We prefer peace to war,” but Trump is prepared to use military force if “needed.” The confusing and conflicting statements come as Trump weighs a Pentagon plan to keep a small contingent of American troops in eastern Syria to combat the Islamic State, and block the advance of Syrian government and Russian forces into the region’s oil fields. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that nearly all of the troops ordered to leave northeastern Syria will move to western Iraq and conduct operations against the Islamic State extremist group from there. (Politico / CNBC / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
6/ Trump’s top two picks to fill the Homeland Security Secretary job aren’t eligible under federal law. Ken Cuccinelli, head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Mark Morgan, the lead at Customs and Border Protection are Trump’s two favorites for the job, but both men are serving on an acting basis and have not been confirmed by the Senate for a permanent role. The federal statute that governs vacancies states that acting officials in cabinet-level positions must either be next in line for a position or hold a Senate-confirmed position. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)
poll/ 51% of Americans support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office – up from 47% in September before the impeachment inquiry was announced. (Public Religion Research Institute)
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