👋 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/ House Democrats could take the impeachment inquiry public as soon as mid-November. Moving the largely closed-door investigation toward the public spotlight comes as the Trump administration has tried to block witnesses and withhold documents while his allies have cast the inquiry as a smear campaign against Trump. Yesterday, House Republicans delayed proceedings for more than five hours when about two dozen of them entered and refused to leave a secure room where Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper was set to testify about what happened to the military aid Trump ordered withheld from Ukraine. (Washington Post / Bloomberg)
2/ The White House’s trade representative withdrew Ukraine’s trade privileges as Trump was withholding $391 million in military aid and security assistance. In late August, Robert Lighthizer pulled Ukraine’s trade privileges from a global trade program after John Bolton, then-national security adviser, warned him that Trump would probably oppose anything that benefited Kiev. (Washington Post)
- The White House trade adviser declined to say whether investigating the Bidens came up during trade talks with China. Peter Navarro said answering the question would “violate a principle here” and “I’m not going to talk about that stuff.” (CNN)
3/ Trump’s top envoy to Ukraine testified that the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. not only knew of a quid pro quo, but had also communicated the threat to Ukraine. William Taylor said he understood that on Sept. 1st, Gordon Sondland warned Andrey Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s aide, that security assistance “would not come” unless Zelensky committed to pursuing the investigation into Burisma, the energy company where Joe Biden’s son held a board seat. On Sept. 9th, Sondland texted Taylor to say there was “no quid pro quos” of any kind authorized by Trump. Sondland’s attorney added that his client “does not recall” such a conversation. By Taylor’s account, however, Sondland already knew the terms of the quid pro quo and had relayed them to Zelensky’s aide a week earlier. (Washington Post / Politico)
4/ Zelensky was concerned about pressure from the Trump administration to investigate Biden before before his July 25th call with Trump. Zelensky met with a small group of advisers on May 7th for a meeting that was supposed to be about Ukraine’s energy needs. Instead, the group spent three hours talking about how they were going to handle the calls for investigations coming from Trump and Giuliani, as well as how to avoid getting wrapped up in the U.S. election process. The meeting occurred before Zelensky was inaugurated, roughly two weeks after Trump called to congratulate him the night he won the April 21st election in Ukraine. (Associated Press / Axios)
5/ An inspector general report revealed that a Veterans Affairs office designed to protect whistleblowers instead stifled claims and retaliated against employees. The VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection – created by Trump in 2017 – had “significant deficiencies,” according to the report, including poor leadership, skimpy training of its investigators, a misunderstanding of its mission and a failure to discipline misconduct. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
6/ The White House said Trump would veto a bill requiring federal election campaigns to report “illicit offers” of campaign assistance from foreign governments and their agents. Earlier in the day, the House approved legislation to better protect the country’s elections from foreign interference. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans blocked three other election security bills. (Law and Crime / CBS News / The Hill)
The Department of Homeland Security warned that “Russian influence actors almost certainly will continue to target” the U.S. in 2020 election. The DHS Cyber Mission Center called the election a “key opportunity” to “advance Russian interests.” (Yahoo News)
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his intelligence services told William Barr that they played no role in the events leading to the Russia investigation, contradicting an unsubstantiated theory pushed by Trump and his allies that the Mueller probe was launched with the help of a Western intelligence asset working with the Obama administration to spy on the Trump campaign. “Our intelligence is completely unrelated to the so-called Russiagate and that has been made clear,” Conte told reporters. Prior to the briefing, Conte spent hours explaining Italy’s discussions with Barr to Italy’s parliamentary intelligence committee. Barr met twice with Italy’s intelligence agencies after asking them to clarify their role in a 2016 meeting between George Papadopoulos and a Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud, who told Papadopoulos that Russia had obtained damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” (New York Times)
Trump plans to order all federal agencies not to renew their subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham claimed that “not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving – hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved.” (Wall Street Journal / Axios)
📌 Day 1006: The White House confirmed that it will cancel its subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Trump appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity,” calling the Times “a fake newspaper” and saying that “we don’t even want it in the White House anymore.” Trump added: “We’re going to probably terminate that and the Washington Post. They’re fake.” (Politico)
Trump bragged that he’s building a wall along Colorado’s border with Mexico. Colorado does not share a border with Mexico. Trump told a crowd in Pittsburgh that the wall will be “a big one that really works — you can’t get over, you can’t get under.” Later, Trump tried to claim that he was only joking about building a wall in Colorado. (CNN)
A senior student-loan official resigned and called for canceling most of the nation’s outstanding student debt. Arthur Wayne Johnson, appointed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, called the student loan system “fundamentally broken.” (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
The National Archives is investigating Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ use of private email for official business. Ross sent or received official correspondence about discussions with the European Commission for Trade, a U.S. ambassador’s meeting with German car manufacturers, a dinner with the ambassador of Japan, an event related to billionaire businessman Bill Koch, and meeting requests from a far-right Internet troll. The nonprofit watchdog Democracy Forward obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request and is asking the government for a direct search of Ross’s personal email. (Politico / Washington Post)
Trump wants to nominate Ken Cuccinelli to be his next Homeland Security secretary, but doesn’t think Republican senators will support the nomination. Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia and an immigration hardliner, has made enemies within the GOP after leading a group that raised money to primary incumbent Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell. Cuccinelli has also supported some of Trump’s harshest immigration policies, including the new “public charge” rules, which would make it harder for immigrants to obtain legal permanent residency by denying green cards to people who use or are likely to use government benefits. (NPR)
The White House press secretary agreed with Trump that those “against” him are “human scum.” Stephanie Grisham appeared on Fox & Friends to defend Trump, who had tweeted earlier in the day that “The Never Trumper Republicans […] are human scum” and “worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats.” (Daily Beast)
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