👋 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/ The House Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing next week on the impeachment of Trump. The Dec. 4 hearing on the “constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment” will feature a panel of expert witnesses who will testify “on the application of the constitutional framework of high crimes and misdemeanors to the very serious allegations regarding the conduct of the President.” Chairman Jerry Nadler has invited the White House to also question witnesses. The House Intelligence Committee is expected to release its report summarizing the findings of its investigation to the Judiciary Committee soon after Congress returns from its Thanksgiving recess next week. The report will also detail how the White House refused to cooperate with the inquiry and argue that the refusal may warrant an additional article of impeachment against Trump. (Politico / CNN / New York Times / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Reuters)
2/ A federal judge ruled that the Defense Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget must turn over hundreds of documents related to Trump’s decision to withhold security aid from Ukraine. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered OMB and the Defense Department to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for 211 pages of records containing communications between the Pentagon, the Pentagon’s comptroller, and OMB. The preliminary injunction requires the first half of the documents to be turned over by Dec. 12, and the second half by Dec. 20. (Axios)
3/ The Office of Management and Budget officially started withholding $250 million in Pentagon aid to Ukraine on July 25 – the same day Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone. According to a summary of OMB documents provided to the House Budget Committee, the hold on the aid was initially placed at the beginning of July. Agencies were notified at a July 18 meeting that it had been frozen at the direction of the White House – a week before the Trump-Zelensky call. (CNN)
- 📌 Day 994: Trump gave a politically appointed official the authority to withhold nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine after career staff at the Office of Management and Budget questioned the legality of delaying the funds. Trump shifted the authority over the funds to Michael Duffey, who serves as associate director of national security programs at OMB. The aid in question is at the center of the House’s impeachment inquiry, and it was put on hold just days before the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky. Duffey was also allowed to oversee the apportionment of funds for other foreign aid and defense accounts. “It is absurd to suggest,” said an OMB spokesperson in a statement, “that the president and his administration officials should not play a leadership role in ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent.” (Wall Street Journal)
4/ The House Oversight and Reform Committee sued Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for refusing to comply with subpoenas for documents related to the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Trump, Barr, and Ross previously asserted that the materials were protected by executive privilege. The 85-page lawsuit comes a day after a federal judge ruled that former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify under subpoena in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry. (Politico / Axios / CNBC)
- 📌 Day 909: The House voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for failing to provide documents about the Trump administration’s efforts to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census. Barr and Ross withheld documents that had been subpoenaed by the Oversight and Reform Committee as part of its probe into the origins of the citizenship question. The Trump administration claimed it needed the citizen question to enforce the Voting Rights Act. In May, however, evidence emerged that the question was intended to specifically give an electoral advantage to Republicans and whites. Ross also previously testified before Congress that he added the question “solely” at the request of the Justice Department. It later came out that he’d asked the department to make the request. While Barr and Ross face up to a year behind bars and a $100,000 fine, it’s unlikely the Justice Department will pursue the case, because Barr is the head of the Justice Department. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
5/ The Justice Department asked a federal judge to temporary pause a ruling that orders former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn to testify in the House impeachment probe. McGahn and the Justice Department also asked that the order be suspended while the appeal plays out. Meanwhile, a lawyer representing Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, and Bolton’s deputy, Charles Kupperman, said his clients would keep resisting congressional subpoenas, arguing that the decision didn’t apply to their situation. (Politico / CNN / New York Times)
- 📌 Day 1040: A federal judge ruled that the former White House counsel must testify before impeachment investigators about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson found no basis for Trump’s claim that Don McGahn, who spent 30 hours talking to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, is “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony.” The ruling could also have implications for former national security adviser John Bolton and Bolton’s deputy, Charles Kupperman, were ordered not to appear by the White House. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NPR / Wall Street Journal)
6/ Trump put Jared Kushner in charge of overseeing the construction of his border wall. Kushner, who wants at least 400 miles built before Election Day, has reportedly been trying to convince U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the process of confiscating private land needed to build sections of the wall. (Washington Post)
7/ The Supreme Court blocked a House subpoena directing Trump’s accounting firm to turn over several years’ worth of financial documents after Trump’s lawyers agreed to an expedited review of a lower-court ruling granting access. The court ordered Trump’s lawyers to file a petition by Dec. 5 explaining why the court should accept the case. If the petition is denied, the lower-court ruling will go into effect and Mazars USA will turn over Trump-related financial documents from 2011 to 2018. If accepted, the case will likely be heard this term, with a decision before the end of June. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Axios)
8/ The White House deputy chief of staff is stepping down. Daniel Walsh was the chief operations officer for the White House. Walsh was in charge of coordinating foreign trips, making decisions about the use of government resources by White House staff, and overseeing the White House military office. Walsh is leaving the administration to take a job in the private sector. White House officials said they expect to announce Walsh’s replacement in the coming days but did not give a name. (Washington Post)
poll/ 50% of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 43% say he shouldn’t. Trump’s approval rating, meanwhile, has held steady: 42% approve of the job he’s doing and 54% disapprove. (CNN)
poll/ 48% of voters support the impeachment inquiry, while 43% oppose the investigation. 81% of Democrats support the probe, while 81% of Republicans opposed it. (Politico)
🚨 Dept. of We’re all F*cked.
Global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, according to a new United Nations report on climate change. Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 1.5% every year over the last decade. To meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord and stay below 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, emissions must decline by 7.6% every year between 2020 and 2030. The world already has warmed more than 1 degree Celsius. The “findings are bleak” the report concludes and that “deeper and faster cuts are now required.” (New York Times / Washington Post)
📌 Day 979: A United Nations report warned that ocean warming is accelerating and sea levels are rising “more than twice as fast” than in the 20th century – and faster than previously estimated. While sea levels rose by about a half-inch in total during the 20th century, they are now rising about 0.14 inches per year, driven by the rapid melting of ice in Greenland, Antarctica, and the world’s smaller glaciers. The report predicts that sea levels will “continue to rise” – possibly reaching around 1-2 feet by 2100 – even if countries curb emissions and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, which was the Paris Agreement’s goal. Temperatures are already 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels However, “if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly,” then the world could see 3.6 feet in total sea level rise by 2100. The report concludes that the world’s oceans and ice sheets are under such severe stress that hotter ocean temperatures, combined with rising sea levels, threaten to create more destructive tropical cyclones and floods. (NPR / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)
📌 Day 931: Climate change is putting pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself, according to a new United Nations report that was prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and, unanimously approved. The report warns that the world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates” and “the cycle is accelerating.” Climate change has already degraded lands, caused deserts to expand, permafrost to thaw, and made forests more vulnerable to drought, fire, pests and disease. “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases,” the report said. The report offered several proposals for addressing food supplies, including reducing red meat consumption, adopting plant-based diets, and eating more fruits, vegetables and seeds. As a result, the world could reduce carbon pollution up to 15% of current emissions levels by 2050. It would also make people healthier. (New York Times / Associated Press / Nature)
📌 Day 627: A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and “there is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)
📌 Day 676: The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already “transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration’s environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.” The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is “no convincing alternative explanation” for the changing climate other than “human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases.” Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that “I don’t know that it’s man-made” and that the warming trend “could very well go back.” (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)
📌 Day 685: Global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached the highest levels on record. Global emissions grew 1.6% in 2017 with 2018 expected to increase 2.7%. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon emissions, but that hasn’t stopped the Trump administration from moving to roll back regulations designed to limit those emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power-plant smokestacks. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference: “We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change.” (Washington Post / New York Times)
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