👋 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 senior defense official told House impeachment investigators that Trump directed the mid-July freeze in military aid to Ukraine through the Office of Management and Budget. Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, said she attended a meeting on July 23, where “this issue” of Trump’s “concerns about Ukraine and Ukraine security assistance” were shared by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Cooper also told House impeachment investigators that she discussed the frozen aid with Kurt Volker, the then-U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, on Aug. 20. Volker told her that he was attempting to lift the hold on the aid by having the Ukrainians publicly launch investigations being sought by Trump. Trump, meanwhile, accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of doctoring the transcripts from closed-door depositions conducted by House investigators. (Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / Politico)
Read: Laura Cooper’s testimony. (NBC News)
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman will be removed from his post at the White House National Security Council after testifying that “there was no doubt” that Trump was seeking investigations into political rivals. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said Vindman and several dozen other policy roles will be removed as a part of the White House’s “streamlining” efforts. (Talking Points Memo / Politico)
2/ The State Department had released some military aid to Ukraine days before Trump announced that he authorized the funds. In a classified memorandum to Mike Pompeo, State Department lawyers said they had determined that Trump and the White House Office of Management and Budget had no legal ground to freeze the money to Ukraine. On Sept. 11, Trump claimed that he had released $141 million in funds, but the process was started by at least Sept. 7, and that the State Department’s Legislative Affairs office told congressional appropriators on Sept. 9 that there was no hold on the money. Then-National Security Advisor John Bolton had also told the State Department on Sept. 9 that the funding could go through. (Bloomberg / Axios)
3/ A Rudy Giuliani associate told the incoming Ukraine administration in May that unless they investigated the Bidens, the U.S. would freeze aid and Mike Pence would not attend Volodymyr Zelensky’s swearing-in ceremony. Lev Parnas claimed that he traveled to Ukraine in May with his business partner, Igor Fruman, to pressure the Zelensky administration at Giuliani’s direction. While no one disputes that the meeting occurred, Fruman disagrees that the intention was to present an ultimatum to Ukraine’s new leadership. The meeting, however, occurred after Giuliani had canceled his planned trip to Kiev with the intention of urging Zelensky to pursue the investigations. Giuliani claimed at the time that he canceled his trip at the last minute because he was being “set up.” (New York Times)
📌 Day 1023: 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)
📌 Day 841: Rudy Giuliani is encouraging Ukraine to pursue an investigation into Joe Biden’s son and his involvement in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch. Trump’s personal lawyer is meeting with the incoming government in Kiev to press them to try to discredit Mueller’s investigation and undermine the case against Paul Manafort. “We’re not meddling in an election,” Giuliani said. “We’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do.” (New York Times / NBC News)
4/ Mick Mulvaney asked to join a federal lawsuit over whether Congress can compel senior Trump advisers to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry. One of Trump’s former top national security advisers, Charles Kupperman, filed the suit last month, saying that he faces conflicting orders from Congress and the White House regarding his obligation to participate in the inquiry. Mulvaney’s attorneys said the acting White House chief of staff faces the same dilemma, which is why he skipped his scheduled deposition last week and claimed that he was protected by “absolute immunity.” (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times)
- John Bolton filed a motion to keep Mick Mulvaney from joining a separation-of-powers lawsuit filed against Trump and the House leadership. The former national security adviser’s lawyers argued that Mulvaney should not be allowed to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff because Mulvaney is considered a key player in the effort to get the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into Trump’s political opponents. Bolton previously said he’s willing to testify in the impeachment inquiry if the judge rules in favor of the House. (New York Times / Washington Post)
5/ Two supporters of Energy Secretary Rick Perry secured an energy and gas contract from Ukraine after Perry recommended one to be Zelensky’s energy adviser. Perry attended Zelensky’s inauguration in May, where he gave Zelensky a list of possible Ukrainian energy secretaries, which included longtime Perry supporter Michael Bleyzer. A week later, Bleyzer and his partner, Alex Cranberg, submitted a bid for a 50-year drilling contract in Ukraine, which was awarded to the two about a month after Perry’s visit. The recommendation was made as Zelensky was attempting to secure the nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid. (Associated Press)
6/ A federal judge dismissed Trump’s lawsuit to block New York from providing his state tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee. Trump’s lawyers argued that New York officials were “co-conspirators” with Democrats in Washington when the state enacted a financial disclosure law that makes tax records available to certain congressional committees. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols ruled that his court in Washington was not the proper jurisdiction to sue New York officials and that Trump could continue his fight by filing the lawsuit in New York. (CNN / NBC News / Bloomberg / CNBC)
📌 Day 900: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing congressional committees to access Trump’s New York state tax returns. The bill requires state tax officials to release the state returns for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose” on the request of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation. Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, called the bill “more presidential harassment.” The House Ways and Means Committee has unsuccessfully tried to access six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. The House sued the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service last week to try to force them to release the returns. (New York Times / NBC News)
📌 Day 915: Trump sued the House Ways and Means Committee and the New York state officials to block his state tax returns from being turned over to the committee. In May, New York passed a bill that allowed the Ways and Means Committee chairman to obtainTrump’s state tax returns. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to would block the application of the new state law. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / CNN)
7/ Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley claimed that two senior Trump advisers approached her about helping them “save the country” by undermining Trump, according to her new memoir, “With All Due Respect.” Haley said that former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly tried to recruit her to ignore Trump and help them work around him. She refused. “Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president,” Haley writes, “they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country.” (Washington Post / CBS News / ABC News / NPR / CNBC)
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