👋 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 was briefed about the whistleblower complaint before lifting the hold on military aid to Ukraine in September. White House lawyers discussed the complaint with Trump in late august – after the inspector general for the intelligence community concluded that the administration needed to send it to Congress – and explained they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to lawmakers. The two lawyers, Pat Cipollone and John Eisenberg, told Trump they would ask the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to determine whether they had to disclose the complaint. A week later, the OLC concluded that the administration did not have to hand it over. In early September (either Sept. 7 or 9), Trump told Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, that he was not seeking “a quid pro quo” with the Ukrainian government by withholding the aid. Three House committees opened an investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine on Sept. 9, and the administration lifted the freeze on $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine on Sept. 11. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN)
2/ Two officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget resigned over concerns about Trump’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine. Career OMB employee Mark Sandy told House investigators during a closed-door interview this month that one of the former OMB officials “expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold” before stepping down in September. A second official working in the legal division of OMB also offered a “dissenting opinion” over the legality of the hold before resigning shortly thereafter. Neither official has been identified, and it is unclear how closely their resignations were tied to the hold on U.S. military aid. (Washington Post / New York Times)
3/ Rudy Giuliani was negotiating personal business with Ukraine’s top prosecutor while encouraging the same prosecutor to investigate the Bidens and allegations that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 election. A February draft retainer called for Yuri Lutsenko to pay at least $200,000 to retain Giuliani Partners, and Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, a husband-and-wife legal team aligned with Trump, to help recover money allegedly stolen from Ukraine. Lutsenko also wanted Giuliani to help him get a meeting with Attorney General William Barr. Lutsenko said Giuliani told him he would have to hire a lobbyist to get the meeting, and that “They even offered me such a company.” Giuliani has repeatedly said he has no business in Ukraine and that none of the deals were finalized. (New York Times / Washington Post)
4/ Trump denied sending Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens. Giuliani, however, publicly admitted earlier this month that he went to Ukraine on Trump’s behalf to conduct an investigation “concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption.” Giuliani also said the investigation was carried out “solely as a defense attorney to defend my client against false charges.” Asked what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, Trump said “you have to ask that to Rudy.” Meanwhile, Giuliani called Trump to reassure him that he was joking when he told the media that he had an “insurance policy, if thrown under the bus” by Trump. (Bloomberg / Reuters)
5/ The FBI never placed undercover agents or informants inside Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to a draft of the Justice Department’s inspector general report. Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation is due on Dec. 9. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly alleged that FBI officials not only spied on the campaign but that Obama had ordered Trump’s phones tapped. The report is also expected to debunk allegations that the FBI relied on information from Christopher Steele’s dossier of damaging, unverified information about Trump to open the investigation. (New York Times)
📌 Day 1037: A report from the Justice Department’s inspector general didn’t find anti-Trump bias at the FBI when it obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to look into Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. According to a draft copy of Michael Horowitz’s report, there were errors and omissions in the documents related to wiretapping Page and that a low-level lawyer altered an email used to seek a renewal of the wiretap. Kevin Clinesmith attached additional material to the bottom of an email from an official at another federal agency, which contained several factual assertions. Horowitz concluded that the altered document did not impact the overall validity of the surveillance application, but referred his findings about Clinesmith to prosecutors for a potential criminal charge. Clinesmith left the Russia investigation in February 2018. Overall, the draft report concludes that the FBI had enough evidence for opening the investigation, that Joseph Mifsud, a Russia-linked professor who told a Trump campaign official that Russia had damaging information on Hillary Clinton in the form of hacked Democratic emails, was not an FBI informant, and that none of the evidence used to open the investigation came from the CIA or dossier of Trump-Russia ties compiled by Christopher Steele. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Washington Post)
Michael Flynn’s sentence was postponed until after the release of the inspector general report about the FBI’s Russia investigation. Flynn was scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 18 after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’ ambassador to the United States. (Politico / CNN)
6/ The Trump Organization reported conflicting information to New York City property tax officials and a lender who arranged financing for Trump Tower in Manhattan. Documents show Trump’s company reported higher occupancy rates to lenders and lower ones to tax officials over three consecutive years. The discrepancy occurred while the Trump Organization was refinancing a $100 million loan. (ProPublica)
poll/ 47% of adults say Trump should be impeached, while 40% say he shouldn’t be. (Reuters)
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