👋 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 Intelligence Committee concluded that Trump tried to “use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.” The 300-page impeachment report also asserts that Trump “placed his own personal and political interests” ahead of U.S. national interests, “subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential re-election campaign.” The report continues that “This continued solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election presents a clear and present danger that the president will continue to use the power of his office for his personal political gain.” The Intelligence Committee is expected to approve the report along party lines Tuesday evening, ahead of the first impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. (New York Times / Politico / CNN / Bloomberg / NBC News / ABC News / Washington Post)
- Trump called the impeachment inquiry “very unpatriotic” during the opening of the NATO leadership summit in London. He also called the inquiry a “performance” and said it was “a bad thing for our country.” (Associated Press)
2/ House Democrats are considering expanding their articles of impeachment to include charges beyond Trump’s alleged abuse of power related to Ukraine. Some members of the Judiciary Committee have discussed drafting articles for obstruction of justice and other “high crimes” outlined in the Mueller report, as well as allegations that Trump has used the presidency to personally enrich himself. Others on the committee support a more narrow approach that focuses solely on Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations into his political opponents. (Washington Post)
3/ Ukraine knew about Trump’s hold on military aid in July and attempted to keep the information from going public, according to the former Ukrainian deputy minister of foreign affairs. Olena Zerkal learned about the freeze from an incoming diplomatic cable and informed Ukrainian senior officials, who tried to prevent it from surfacing in order to avoid getting drawn into the impeachment discussion. Zerkal asked for a meeting with a senior aide to Zelensky to discuss it on July 30. The cable had been sent the previous week, but Zerkal could not confirm the precise date it had been transmitted. (New York Times)
4/ Rudy Giuliani repeatedly called the White House the same day that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was abruptly recalled, according to phone records released by the House Intelligence Committee. Marie Yovanovitch was recalled from her post in May following claims by Trump’s surrogates that she was undermining his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. Call records also show that Devin Nunes had multiple contacts in April with Giuliani and Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate indicted for campaign finance violations. The contacts came as the U.S. envoy worked with Giuliani to persuade Ukraine’s president to commit publicly to investigating Trump’s political opponents. Separately, phone records also show that Giuliani repeatedly called the White House Situation Room’s switchboard and other White House numbers on Aug. 8. Giuliani eventually spoke with someone from Mick Mulvaney’s Office of Management and Budget on Aug. 8 for nearly 13-minutes. The whistleblower complaint was filed on Aug. 12. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Axios / Daily Beast)
The House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report accused Trump’s allies of coordinating with a conservative journalist to peddle “false narratives” about Trump’s opponents as part of his multi-pronged pressure campaign on Ukraine. The report indicates that journalist John Solomon’s articles throughout 2019 spread Trump-backed conspiracies about Ukraine. The phone records show multiple communications between Solomon, Giuliani, Parnas, Nunes, and the White House’s budget office. (CNN)
The Justice Department is “likely” to file additional charges in the case against two Giuliani associates indicted for campaign finance crimes. “We think a superseding indictment is likely,” said a prosecutor during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in the case of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who are accused of violating federal campaign finance laws. An attorney representing Parnas asked that materials seized during his client’s arrest be released to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump. Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty. (NBC News / Politico / Bloomberg / CNBC) / ABC News)
5/ An investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee found no evidence that Ukraine attempted to interfere in the 2016 election. The Republican-led committee was investigating claims by Trump and his allies that Ukraine tried to undermine Trump’s candidacy and boost Hillary Clinton in 2016. Trump has used the claims to defend his demands for political investigations from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Politico / CNN)
A federal appeals court ruled that Deutsche Bank and Capital One must comply with a congressional subpoena for Trump, his children, and his company’s financial records. In August, a New York district judge declined to block the subpoenas, which were issued by the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees in April as part of an investigation into foreign influence. Trump is expected to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. (New York Times / Reuters / Axios)
Trump said he has “no deadline” to finalize a trade deal with China and would be willing to wait until after the 2020 election to “see whether or not the deal is going to be right.” Stocks in Europe fell and Dow futures lost more than 100 points in response to Trump’s comments. (CNBC / Bloomberg / New York Times / CNN)
The Department of Defense awarded a $400 million contract to build sections of Trump’s border wall in Arizona to a company owned by a Republican donor. Fisher Sand and Gravel’s bid to build 31 miles of new barrier was initially rejected because it didn’t meet the required project standards. However, after CEO Tommy Fisher appeared on Fox News multiple times to promote his company, Trump urged the Army Corps of Engineers to award Fisher the contract. Fisher Sand and Gravel has previously been fined more than $1 million for environmental and tax violations, and the former co-owner of the company was sentenced to 37 months in prison in 2009 after pleading guilty to tax fraud. (Grand Forks Herald / Fox 5 San Diego / Washington Post / The Independent)
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