👋 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/ The top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council testified that “there was no doubt” that Trump was seeking investigations into political rivals, according to a transcript of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s deposition. Within an hour after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, Vindman told White House lawyers that Trump had made a “troubling and disturbing” request for an investigation. Vindman also testified that “there was no ambiguity” that Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told him the idea of tethering a White House meeting to the Ukrainians investigating the Bidens “had been coordinated with White House Chief of Staff Mr. Mick Mulvaney.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Politico)
- Read: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony. (New York Times)
2/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney refused to comply with a subpoena. Mulvaney informed investigators “one minute” before his scheduled deposition that he would not appear, citing “absolute immunity.” During an Oct. 17 press conference, Mulvaney admitted that Trump froze military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to open a political investigation. Mulvaney is the highest-ranking White House official to be subpoenaed for testimony as part of the impeachment inquiry. (Axios / Politico / CNN / Reuters / Associated Press / The Hill / ABC News / NBC News / Washington Post)
3/ A State Department official testified that Trump wanted the Ukraine president “to go to microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.” Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent’s assessment came from a summary of a conversation that Trump had with Gordon Sondland. (Axios / Washington Post)
Ukraine planned to publicly announce investigations into Trump’s political in an interview on Sept. 13. However, two days before the scheduled interview, the Trump administration released the assistance after news of the hold on military aid had leaked. Zelensky’s office then canceled the interview. (New York Times)
Two Rudy Giuliani associates urged Ukraine’s prior president to announce investigations into Biden and 2016 election interference in exchange for a state visit to Washington. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman urged then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a late February meeting in Kiev. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
4/ A former National Security Council official testified that there was a “good chance” Russia had compromising materials on Trump during the 2016 election, according to closed-door testimony made public by House impeachment investigators. Fiona Hill, who served until July as the White House’s top expert on Russia and Europe, also told lawmakers that she was “shocked” when she read the transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky. Hill also testified that then national security adviser John Bolton “repeatedly” told staff “that nobody should be talking to Rudolph W. Giuliani, on our team or anybody else should be.” (Washington Post / Politico / CNN)
READ: Fiona Hill’s testimony. (NPR)
John Bolton reportedly knows about “many relevant meetings and conversations” regarding the Trump administration’s campaign against Ukraine. The former national security adviser didn’t appear for his deposition scheduled on Thursday, because he and his former deputy, Charles Kupperman, are asking for a court ruling on competing demands by the executive branch and the legislative branch. (New York Times)
5/ Republicans intend to subpoena the whistleblower to testify in the House’s impeachment investigation. Democrats, however, have rejected the idea citing safety concerns. They also hold veto power over any GOP subpoena requests for witness testimony. The whistleblower’s attorney, meanwhile, issued a cease and desist letter to the White House due to Trump’s “rhetoric and activity that places” the whistleblower “in physical danger.” Trump has repeatedly attacked the credibility of the whistleblower, demanded to “meet his accuser,” and called for the identity of the whistleblower to be revealed publicly. (The Hill / CNN)
Ivanka Trump called the identity of the whistleblower “not particularly relevant” compared to the “motivation behind all of this.” (Associated Press)
Trump Jr. worried about “all the sacrifices we’d have to make to help my father succeed” after visiting Arlington National Cemetery the day before Donald Trump’s inauguration. Trump Jr. wrote in his new book that his family had already suffered because they had to “voluntarily giving up a huge chunk of our business and all international deals to avoid the appearance that we were ‘profiting off the office.’” (Washington Post)
6/ House Democrats established three parameters for their public impeachment hearings, which begin next week. Investigators will follow “three interrelated lines of inquiry” to determine if Trump asked a foreign leader to initiate investigations to benefit his personal political interests, used the power of the Office of the President to apply pressure on Ukraine, and whether the Trump administration tried to conceal information from Congress about Trump’s actions and conduct. (Politico)
7/ Trump is “not concerned” about the impeachment inquiry. He called it a “hoax” because “I never even heard of these people. I have no idea who they are.” (Reuters)
The EPA’s chief of staff refused to disclose to the EPA inspector general how he obtained an advance copy of a witness’s testimony. The agency’s independent watchdog is investigating Ryan Jackson’s efforts to influence a scientist ahead of her congressional testimony. (Washington Post)
Senior Trump administration officials considered resigning en masse last year in a “midnight self-massacre” over concerns about Trump’s “misguided impulses.” In the new book, “A Warning” by “a senior Trump administration official,” officials ultimately rejected the idea because they believed it would further destabilize the government. (Washington Post / New York Times)
Become a member.
Help keep WTF Just Happened Today going with a small contribution.