👋 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/ Trump considered firing the intelligence community’s inspector general for reporting the whistleblower’s complaint to Congress after concluding it was credible. Trump reportedly doesn’t understand why Michael Atkinson shared the complaint, which outlined how Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals as he was withholding military aid from the country. Trump believes Atkinson, whom he appointed in 2017, has been disloyal. Trump publicly criticized James Comey, the former FBI director, and Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, before he dismissed them for perceived disloyalty. (New York Times)
2/ House Republicans plan to argue that “the President’s state of mind” made it impossible for Trump to have committed an impeachable offense during his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to an 18-page staff memo outlining their strategic approach to the House impeachment inquiry. The memo highlights “four key pieces of evidence” to defend against impeachment: the lack of conditionality on the July 25 call; that Zelensky said there was no pressure from Trump; Ukraine didn’t know about the freeze on U.S. military aid; and that the aid was released without investigation into the Bidens. (Axios)
3/ Mick Mulvaney withdrew his request to join a federal lawsuit seeking a decision on whether top Trump officials can be compelled to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. Mulvaney’s legal team first notified the court that he planned to file his own lawsuit seeking court guidance on how to respond to a subpoena for his testimony. Mulvaney’s lawyers later said in a court filing that “after further consideration,” the acting White House chief of staff will instead obey the White House instruction to refuse to cooperate with the House of Representatives. (Reuters / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
👀 Impeachment Watch FYI.
The first public presidential impeachment hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday before the House Intelligence Committee.
Bill Taylor, the Trump administration’s top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs will testify.
Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is scheduled to testify before the same committee on Friday.
4/ Roger Stone first told one of Trump’s top aides as early as spring 2016 that WikiLeaks would release materials that could damage Hillary Clinton – and that the campaign viewed the materials as “a gift.” Rick Gates, who served as Trump’s deputy campaign manager, also testified that he was with Trump in July 2016 when he received a phone call from Stone. After Trump hung up, he told Gates that more information would be coming – in reference to additional email releases that would hurt Democrats. Gates also said his boss, Paul Manafort, told him to stay in touch with Stone about WikiLeaks and that Trump would need to be updated on WikiLeaks’ plans to release Democratic campaign emails — which authorities concluded were hacked by Russia. (Wall Street Journal / Politico / Washington Post)
5/ The Supreme Court heard arguments over whether the Trump administration can shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. At question is whether Trump improperly tried to end DACA by calling it illegal without considering how it would affect immigrants. Lower courts ruled that the administration’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” in violation of law. The court’s Republican-appointed justices, however, seemed to agree that the Trump administration had the authority to cancel DACA, which would affect the roughly 800,000 “dreamers” brought to the U.S. as undocumented children. On Twitter, Trump – without evidence – called DACA recipients “very tough, hardened criminals,” adding that he would be open to making a deal with Democrats. DACA provides enrollees a chance to work legally in the U.S. as long as they follow the rules and have a clean record. More than 90% of DACA recipients are employed and 45% are in school. (New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News / NBC News)
- Nearly 70,000 migrant children were held in U.S. government custody this year — up 42% in fiscal year 2019 from 2018. The U.S. government also separated 69,550 migrant children from their parents over the past year – more than any other country according to United Nations researchers. (Associated Press)
6/ The Trump administration is preparing to restrict the amount of scientific and medical research the EPA can use to inform public health regulations. A new draft of the Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science proposal would also require scientists to disclose all raw data, including confidential medical records, before the EPA could consider the conclusions of an academic study. The new proposal would also apply retroactively to all current public health regulations. (New York Times)
7/ Trump’s economic advisers are exploring a “tax cut 2.0” – a proposed 15% tax rate for the middle class. While any new plan is unlikely to pass Congress before the 2020 election, the proposal would provide Trump with a simple tax message for the campaign focused on the middle class. Tax cuts for individuals and families from the 2017 tax law will expire in a few years, but the reductions for businesses are permanent. (Washington Post)
🐊 Dept. of Swamp Things.
Former national security adviser John Bolton suggested that Trump’s foreign policy is motivated by financial interests. During a private speech, Bolton said he believes there is a business relationship dictating Trump’s position on Turkey because none of his advisers are aligned with him on the issue. The Trump Organization owns a property in Istanbul and Ivanka Trump attended the opening with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2012. Bolton left the administration on Sept. 10. Erdogan is set to visit the White House this week. (NBC News)
At least eight former White House, transition team, and Trump campaign officials were hired as contractors by Health and Human Services and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. The Trump allies were hired as contractors to provide “strategic communications” support, charging up to $380 per hour. (Politico)
Trump claimed Ivanka Trump personally created 14 million new jobs – and then repeated the claim twice more. The entire U.S. economy has created fewer than 6 million new jobs since Trump took office. (New York Magazine)
A senior Trump administration official embellished her resume with misleading claims and even created a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it. State Department official Mina Chang claimed to be a Harvard Business School “alumna” who ran a nonprofit that worked in 40 countries. (NBC News)
Trump’s senior policy adviser promoted story ideas about white nationalism, “white genocide,” xenophobic conspiracy theories, and eugenics-era immigration laws to Breitbart News in the run-up to the 2016 election, according to a review more than 900 previously private emails Stephen Miller sent Breitbart editors from March 4, 2015, to June 27, 2016. Miller would later help architect Trump’s immigration policies, including setting arrest quotas for undocumented immigrants, an executive order banning immigration from five Muslim-majority countries, and a policy of family separation. (Southern Poverty Law Center / Mother Jones)
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