👋 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/ A key witness in the impeachment inquiry acknowledged that there was a quid pro quo linking U.S. aid to Ukraine with an investigation into Trump’s political rival. In revised testimony, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, said he told Andriy Yermak, a Ukrainian national security adviser, that Ukraine “would likely not” receive military aid until it publicly committed to investigating the 2016 election and Joe Biden. Sondland told Congress that his memory was “refreshed” after reviewing the opening statements by Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former adviser to Trump on Russian and European affairs. Sondland’s addendum also recounted a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky raised his concerns to Mike Pence about the suspension of military aid. Sondland said he believed that withholding the $391 million in security assistance was “ill-advised,” but claimed he didn’t know “when, why or by whom the aid was suspended.” The revelation comes after House committees leading the impeachment inquiry released transcripts of witness testimony by Sondland and Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine. (Politico / NBC News / New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)
Analysis: Five takeaways from the Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker testimonies. (Washington Post)
Excerpts: Sondland’s and Volker’s testimonies. (New York Times)
READ: U.S. Ambassador to the European Union House testimony on Ukraine investigation. (CNN)
READ: Former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker’s House testimony on Ukraine investigations. (CNN)
2/ House Democrats requested that Trump’s acting White House chief of staff appear for a deposition in the impeachment probe. Mick Mulvaney is unlikely to comply with the request, however, as the White House has directed senior officials to not participate in the impeachment investigation. Lawmakers leading the inquiry believe Mulvaney “may have been directly involved in an effort orchestrated” by Trump and Rudy Giuliani to withhold a “White House meeting and nearly $400 million in security assistance” in order to pressure Ukraine to pursue investigations that would benefit “Trump’s personal political interests, and jeopardized our national security.” (CNBC / Politico / ABC News / New York Times)
- A senior adviser to Mike Pence will likely comply with a request to testify. Jennifer Williams was listening to the phone call on July 25 in which Trump asked for a “favor” of his newly-elected Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky. Williams would be the first person on Pence’s national security team to appear. (CNN)
3/ An associate of Rudy Giuliani will cooperate with a subpoena issued by House investigators as part of the impeachment inquiry into Trump. Lev Parnas, who helped Giuliani dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter at Trump’s request, initially ignored the House Intelligence Committee’s request for documents last month, but now intends to comply with the subpoena. The change in strategy reportedly occurred when Trump denied knowing Parnas after he was arrested. Parnas was also charged last month with campaign finance violations. (Reuters / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)
4/ Phone records show that Trump made at least six phone calls to a woman who says he sexually assaulted her at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Summer Zervos, a former candidate on “The Apprentice,” claims that Trump forced himself on her with unwanted kissing and groping while she visited him for lunch in his hotel room on Dec. 21, 2007. Trump’s Verizon cellphone bills over a three-month period in 2007 and 2008 shows that Trump called Zervos on the day that his private calendar said he was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Trump called Zervos and other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct of being “liars,” prompting Zervos to sue him for defamation. That hotel stay is a key part of the defamation lawsuit against Trump in New York State Supreme Court. (Washington Post)
📌 Day 468: A former contestant on “The Apprentice” is suing Trump for defamation after he called her a liar for accusing him of sexual assault. Summer Zervos was among the more than 10 women who came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign and accused Trump of sexual assault and misconduct. He denied all of their claims. (New York Times)
📌 Day 784: A New York appellate court ruled that a former contestant on The Apprentice can proceed with her defamation lawsuit against Trump. Summer Zervos is one of about a dozen women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct before the 2016 election. Trump called Zervos and the other women “liars,” prompting Zervos to file a lawsuit in 2017. The New York State Appellate Division’s First Department turned down Trump’s argument that the case should be delayed until he is out of office because, as a sitting president, he was immune from a lawsuit brought in state court. The decision means Trump may have to sit for a sworn deposition. (ABC News / Washington Post / Politico)
5/ Roger Stone’s trial began today. Stone faces charges related to his alleged efforts to exploit the hacked Hillary Clinton emails for his own political gain. Stone is accused of lying to lawmakers about WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses, and obstructing a House Intelligence Committee probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election. The indictment says a senior Trump campaign official “was directed” to contact Stone after WikiLeaks released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in July 2016 to find out about additional releases and “what other damaging information” WikiLeaks had “regarding the Clinton campaign.” The indictment does not name the official or say who directed the outreach to Stone. Jury selection began with an observer being taken out of the courtroom on a stretcher after appearing to have a seizure, followed by Stone leaving due to what he said was food poisoning. (Associated Press / NBC News)
poll/ 62% of Trump supporters say there is nothing Trump could do that would cause him to lose their support. Among those who disapprove of the job Trump is doing, 70% say there’s nothing the president could do to gain their support. (Monmouth University)
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