👋 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 White House will not participate in the Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing on Wednesday. In a letter to Chairman Jerry Nadler, White House counsel Pat Cipollone called the inquiry “baseless” and “partisan,” and that “all” of Trump’s due process rights had been violated by the impeachment inquiry. Cipollone did not rule out the possibility that the White House would participate in future proceedings. The White House has a Friday deadline to decide whether or not Trump will offer a defense as part of the broader impeachment proceedings. (Politico / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post / Reuters / ABC News)
2/ The House Intelligence Committee will circulate its report on Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations into his political rivals. Lawmakers will have 24 hours to review the report before a vote on Tuesday over whether to pass the impeachment inquiry over to the Judiciary Committee. The panel is expected to approve the findings on a party-line vote. The Judiciary Committee, which will begin scheduled impeachment hearings on Wednesday, is expected to then draft and vote on articles of impeachment around the second week of December with a full House vote before the Christmas recess. (Politico / NBC News)
3/ House Republicans prepared their own report, which claims Trump did “nothing wrong” and committed “no quid pro quo, bribery, extortion, or abuse of power.” The 123-page rebuttal report claims Trump was acting on “genuine and reasonable” skepticism of Ukraine and had “valid” concerns about corruption – not political self-interest – when he pressured Ukraine to open investigations to benefit his 2020 re-election bid by withholding nearly $400 million in security assistance and a White House meeting. Republicans called the move “entirely prudent.” The report, however, does not acknowledge any wrongdoing surrounding the core allegations in the impeachment inquiry and ignores or downplays testimony from career officials who raised serious questions and concerns about the conduct of Trump and his top aides. (New York Times / CNN / Daily Beast / Axios / Wall Street Journal)
poll/ 53% of Republicans think Trump is a better leader than Lincoln; 47% said Lincoln was a better leader. Overall, 75% of Americans believe Lincoln was a better leader than Trump. (The Hill / Economist/YouGov)
The Trump administration released $105 million in military assistance to Lebanon after months of unexplained delays. The Office of Management and Budget has been holding the funds since September despite congressional approval. The White House has not explained the delay. (Associated Press)
The Trump administration’s changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could cause millions to lose food stamps. Three proposed rule changes to SNAP by the Department of Agriculture would create stricter work requirements for eligibility, cap deductions, and “reform” the way 40 states automatically enroll families. According to a study by the Urban Institute, 3.7 million fewer people would receive SNAP in an average month, 2.2 million households would see their average monthly benefits drop by $127, more than 3 million others would see an average drop of $37 per month, and 982,000 students would lose access to free or reduced lunches. (NBC News)
Trump called for a cease-fire between the Taliban and U.S. forces in Afghanistan during an unannounced Thanksgiving visit with U.S. troops overseas. Trump told troops that the Taliban “wants to make a deal” and that “we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire.” Trump claimed that he has made “tremendous progress” since he abruptly canceled his previous peace talks with the Taliban in September. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, however, indicated that a cease-fire wasn’t in progress or even part of the discussion with U.S. negotiators. Western diplomats and Taliban leaders were also confused by Trump’s remarks, since demanding a cease-fire would constitute a shift in the U.S. position and would require additional concessions from the Taliban. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / Associated Press)
The Trump administration indefinitely detained a Palestinian man by citing an obscure provision in the PATRIOT Act. After serving 15 years in federal prison, Adham Amin Hassoun was taken into custody by ICE and detained in New York while he awaited deportation. After no country would accept him, the Trump administration declared Hassoun a threat to national security under section 412 of the PATRIOT Act, which permits indefinite detention of resident aliens on national security grounds. It’s the first time the government has invoked Section 412. (Daily Beast)
The Trump administration moved to reduce its contributions to NATO. Previously, the U.S. provided about 22% of NATO’s direct funding, but the Trump administration plans to now reduce its contribution to about 16%. The U.S. expects other NATO members to make up the shortfall. (CNN)
Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina, accusing the two countries of manipulating their currencies to hurt American farmers. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
The Trump administration proposed tariffs on roughly $2.4 billion in French products after a five-month investigation that concluded that a French digital services tax discriminated against American Internet companies, like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s chief negotiator, proposed “additional duties of up to 100% on certain French products,” including cheese, yogurt, sparkling wine, and makeup. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)
Trump’s 2020 campaign won’t credential reporters from Bloomberg News to cover Trump campaign events after the company said it wouldn’t investigate Democratic 2020 candidates while Mike Bloomberg – the owner – was in the race. (Wall Street Journal / Axios)
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