👋 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.
Send your thoughts, suggestions, or complaints to:
1/ A federal judge directed the Justice Department to hand over Robert Mueller’s secret grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which Attorney General William Barr has withheld from lawmakers. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell rejected the Trump administration’s claim that the impeachment probe is illegitimate, saying the material could help the House Judiciary Committee substantiate “potentially impeachable conduct” by Trump. The materials must be disclosed by Wednesday. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico)
Attorney General William Barr’s review of the origins of the Russia probe is now considered a criminal investigation. Barr tapped Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham in May to review the FBI’s investigation and look at whether the U.S. government’s “intelligence collection activities” in the probe of possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia were “lawful and appropriate.” The shift gives Durham the power to issue subpoenas for witness testimony and documents, to convene a grand jury, and to file criminal charges. Trump has repeatedly attacked the Russia investigation, portraying it as a hoax and illegal operation conducted by an illegitimate special counsel. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / Reuters)
A Russian agent and gun rights activist was released from federal prison and is expected to be immediately deported to Russia after serving her 18-month sentence. Maria Butina pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with a senior Russian official to act as an agent of a foreign government without registering with the U.S. Justice Department after she tried to infiltrate conservative political groups and the National Rifle Association to promote Russian interests during the 2016 presidential campaign. Butina intends to return to her hometown in Siberia. (Politico / NPR / Washington Post / CNN)
2/ A top adviser on Trump’s National Security Council is expected to corroborate testimony that Trump pushed for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into Joe Biden and his son, using the military aid as leverage. Tim Morrison’s testimony is expected to be significant because he was named 15 times during Bill Taylor’s deposition, which Democrats view as damning for Trump. Morrison was also listening in on the July 25th call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Morrison is also expected to say that he didn’t see anything wrong with what the Trump administration did with regard to Ukraine. Morrison would also be the first currently serving White House official to testify. (CNN)
3/ Lawyers for former national security adviser John Bolton have discussed a possible deposition with the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry. Bolton was reportedly so disturbed by efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponents that he called it a “drug deal,” calling Rudy Giuliani a “hand grenade.” Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser, told lawmakers last week that she saw “wrongdoing” and that Bolton encouraged her to report her concerns to the National Security Council’s attorney. (CNN / CNBC)
4/ The House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas to three of Trump’s top officials. Acting budget director Russ Vought, Michael Duffey, a senior official in the Office of Management and Budget, and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, counsel at the State Department, all previously declined requests by investigators to testify voluntarily. (Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg)
- Federal prosecutors in New York subpoenaed the brother of one of the indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani. Since the October 9th arrests of Igor Fruman and his associate Lev Parnas, federal agents visited the New York home of Steven Fruman and served him with a subpoena from Manhattan federal prosecutors. (CNN)
5/ The Trump administration attempted to persuade a Pentagon official to not cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry. The day before Laura Cooper was scheduled to give voluntary, private testimony, she received a letter warning her that the White House had ordered executive branch officials not to give documents or testimony to Congress “under these circumstances.” Cooper nevertheless provided testimony to Congress about what she knew about Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals. (New York Times / Politico)
- Lindsey Graham introduced a resolution condemning how House Democrats have conducted the impeachment investigation into Trump. The measure calls on House Democrats to hold a formal vote to open an impeachment inquiry to give the “same rights to Trump as Clinton and Nixon” had during their investigations. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said they will eventually release the transcripts of the closed-door proceedings and hold public testimonies. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said that such a vote, however, is unnecessary under House rules. (USA Today)
6/ The White House is looking for a communications specialist to lead impeachment messaging efforts. Two people are currently under consideration for the job: Tony Sayegh, a former top Treasury aide, and Pam Bondi, the former Florida Attorney General. Sayegh was previously a candidate to become White House communications director after Hope Hicks left the White House last year. (Politico / CNN)
poll/ 49% of Americans think Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 49% percent are against it. Nine in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are against impeachment and 89% of Democrats and Democratic-leaners are in favor of impeachment. (NBC News / SurveyMonkey)
A federal judge held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt for violating an order to stop collecting loans from former students at a defunct for-profit college. Judge Sallie Kim of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco fined the Education Department $100,000 for violating a preliminary injunction against collecting loans from former students at Corinthian College. Money from the fine will be used to compensate the 16,000 people harmed by the Department of Education’s actions, which includes garnishing former students’ paychecks and seizing their tax returns. The Trump administration was forced to admit earlier this year that it erroneously collected loans from thousands of former Corinthian students despite being ordered to stop doing so. (Washington Post / Politico)
The U.S. federal budget deficit jumped 26% to nearly $1 trillion in 2019. The $984 billion deficit is the highest level in seven years, and is projected to top $1 trillion in 2020. (New York Times / Washington Post)
Trump has asked the full DC Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear his attempt to stop a subpoena of his accounting firm Mazars USA. Trump previously lost his attempt to stop the House subpoena for eight years of documents held by Mazars. (CNN)
The Trump Organization is exploring selling the lease to the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The company leases the building, the Old Post Office Pavilion, from the federal government’s General Services Administration. The hotel could fetch more than $520 million. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Washington Post / New York Times)
Rudy Giuliani butt-dialed a reporter and can be heard discussing overseas dealings and saying “The problem is we need some money” to an unidentified man during the three minute call. The Oct. 16th call came in at 11:07 p.m. and went to voicemail; the reporter was asleep. Trump, meanwhile, defended Giuliani, calling his personal attorney a “great gentleman” and a “great crime fighter.”(NBC News / Politico)
Become a member.
Help keep WTF Just Happened Today going with a small contribution.