👋 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 released their impeachment resolution, which outlines the next steps by the six committees that are pursuing investigations of the Trump administration. The resolution doesn’t limit the scope of their ongoing probes and does not set a timeline for potential articles of impeachment. Under the proposed rules, the House Intelligence Committee will take the lead on planning public hearings as the inquiry advances and establish rules for Republicans to hear testimony from certain witnesses, but that those requests will be declined or approved by Adam Schiff. The House plans to vote on the resolution Thursday. (New York Times / The Guardian / Bloomberg)
2/ The top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council registered objections on two separate occasions regarding Trump’s handling of Ukraine. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told impeachment investigators during a closed-door deposition that he heard Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son as a “favor” after Zelensky brought up the defense cooperation between the U.S. and Ukraine. Vindman said he was so “concerned by the call” and that Trump’s request could be seen as “a partisan play” that could “undermine U.S. national security” that he reported it to the NSC’s lead counsel out of a “sense of duty.” Vindman is the first White House official to testify who listened in on the July 25th phone call between Trump and Zelensky, and reportedly told impeachment investigators that he took notes during the call and made recommendations to the White House to correct the memo summarizing the conversation. They weren’t used. Vindman said the White House transcript left out Zelensky saying the word “Burisma” — the name of the energy company that Hunter Biden had worked for – as well as Trump saying there were recordings of Biden. (New York Times / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NPR / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian / NBC News)
3/ Vindman’s sworn statement contradicted Gordon Sondland’s testimony, who told House investigators that no one had raised concerns about Trump’s actions. Vindman testified that he confronted Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, after Sondland, Kurt Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and then-national security adviser John Bolton met with senior Ukrainian officials at the White House about “Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president.” Vindman testified that he told Sondland “that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push.” Rep. Joaquin Castro, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, accused Sondland of perjuring himself during his closed-door testimony to impeachment investigators earlier this month. Vindman’s testimony also appears to contradict Perry’s denials that he ever heard the Bidens discussed in relation to U.S. requests that Ukraine investigate corruption. (Washington Post / The Guardian / New York Times / The Hill / Politico)
- Acting House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney called Vindman’s deposition “extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing.” (NBC News)
4/ Trump’s allies accused Vindman of being loyal to Ukraine because he was born there. Vindman came to the United States at age 3, was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq, and now serves as a top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. Fox News host Laura Ingraham and her guests, however, suggested that Vindman had engaged in “espionage” on behalf of Ukraine against the U.S. Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, accused Vindman of being a “Never Trumper,” tweeting that the colonel “has reportedly been advising two gov’s.” Republicans, however, joined Democrats in defending Vindman, calling the attacks “despicable,” “absurd, disgusting, and way off the mark.” (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Politico)
5/ The White House has not made a decision on whether to make the details of Mike Pence’s call with President Zelensky public – three weeks after Pence said he had “no objection” to releasing a reconstructed transcript of the call. White House officials have debated whether releasing the call details will help or hurt their attempts to push back against accusations that Trump made U.S. military aid to Ukraine contingent on the country launching an investigation into his political opponents. (NBC News)
6/ A top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes has been trying to unmask the anonymous whistleblower at the heart of the House’s impeachment inquiry by releasing information about him to conservative journalists and politicians. Derek Harvey has provided notes to House Republicans identifying the whistleblower’s name ahead of the depositions of Trump appointees and administration employees in the impeachment inquiry. His goal is to get the name of the whistleblower into the records of the proceedings, which could then be made public. Harvey was also “passing notes [to GOP lawmakers] the entire time” during ex-NSC Russia staffer Fiona Hill’s testimony. (Daily Beast / Washington Post)
7/ The House Judiciary Committee argued that it has an “urgent” need for access to Robert Mueller’s grand jury secrets. The Trump administration appealed an earlier decision to grant the House access to the details, and is asking the courts to stop the handover of grand jury transcripts. The House argues it wants to see the details both for its Ukraine impeachment investigation and in examining whether Trump attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation. (CNN)
📌 Day 1009: 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)
📌 Day 1012: The Trump administration appealed a judge’s ruling requiring the Justice Department to give the House Judiciary Committee grand jury material related to Robert Mueller’s report. Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling granted the Judiciary Committee access to portions of Mueller’s report and underlying grand jury information that were redacted. (Politico / CNBC)
poll/ 78% of Fox News viewers say they agree that the impeachment inquiry is like a “lynching.” Overall, 66% of registered voters believe the White House should comply with House subpoenas demanding testimony and documents, while 26% disagreed, and 8% were undecided. (USA Today)
General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota have sided with the Trump administration in its escalating battle with California over fuel economy standards for automobiles. The decision to intervene on behalf of the Trump administration puts them at odds with their leading competitors, including Honda and Ford, who reached a deal this year to follow California’s stricter rules for emissions instead of the much weaker federal auto emissions standards set by the Trump administration. The auto industry has “historically taken the position that fuel economy is the sole purview of the federal government,” said the CEO of the automakers association. (New York Times)
An indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani can be questioned under oath about financial transfers he made to Republican political campaigns. Lev Parnas’ defense attorney previously argued that some of the evidence gathered in the campaign finance investigation could be subject to executive privilege. Parnas owes a family trust more than $500,000, which alleges that Parnas transferred the money to his corporate accounts, to the Trump PAC America First Action, to the National Republican Congressional Committee, and to Pete Sessions for Congress – defrauding the family trust in the process. (CNN)
Attorney General William Barr issued two decisions limiting immigrants’ options to fight deportation. The decisions removes paths for legal immigration status people with old criminal convictions or multiple drinking and driving convictions. (NBC News)
The United States will not admit any refugees in October. Travel for refugees who were told they could come to the U.S. was postponed through October 21st, and then later to October 28th. The moratorium now runs through November 5th. About 500 flights have been cancelled this month at the expense of federal taxpayers. (CNN)
A federal judge temporarily blocked a restrictive Alabama law that prohibits almost all abortions and makes performing the procedure a felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. The only exception allowed is for pregnancies that pose a “serious health risk” for women. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson granted a preliminary injunction, saying the law violated precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court that determines the right to an abortion before a fetus reaches viability, and that the measure also violated the Constitution and would leave many patients in the state without options. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)
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