👋 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 repeatedly used unsecured cellphones to communicate with Rudy Giuliani and others involved in his campaign to pressure Ukraine. Phone records released this week revealed Trump’s extensive unencrypted communications that were vulnerable to monitoring by foreign spies, and his refusal to follow security guidance given to him by his aides. “It happened all the time,” said one former senior aide. Trump is not identified by name in the phone records, but House Intelligence Committee investigators believe he is the person with a blocked number listed as “-1” in the files. (Washington Post / CNN / The Independent)
2/ More than 500 legal scholars signed an open letter asserting that Trump committed “impeachable conduct.” The group noted that Trump’s attempt at affecting the results of the 2020 election was not a matter that could be left to voters at the polls. “Put simply, if a President cheats in his effort at re-election, trusting the democratic process to serve as a check through that election is no remedy at all,” the professors wrote. “That is what impeachment is for.” (Washington Post)
3/ The White House rejected an invitation to participate in Monday’s impeachment hearings before the House Judiciary Committee. In a sharply worded letter, the White House called the process “completely baseless” and “a reckless abuse of power” by the Democrats, who “should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.” Trump had until 5 p.m. ET to decided whether to have his lawyers participate in the remaining House Judiciary Committee impeachment proceedings. Lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee are expected to present findings on Monday from the 300-page report that concluded Trump put his personal political interest above the national interest. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / NBC News / CNN)
More than 100 members of Congress have made 256 visits to Trump properties since he was elected. At least 122 visits were made to attend a political fundraiser or special interest group event. Since the impeachment inquiry was announced, 50 members of Congress have visited a Trump property. (CREW)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held an off-the-books meeting with group of wealthy conservative donors during the NATO summit in London this week. Pompeo attended a gathering of the Hamilton Society, which was held at the hotel where Pompeo was staying, without alerting members of the press who were traveling with him. Attendees were required to leave their cellphones outside of the meeting to ensure that nothing Pompeo said during the gathering would be recorded. (CNN)
The House voted to restore protections of the Voting Rights Act that were rolled back by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling. The Voting Rights Advancement Act would amend the 1965 bill and restore protections for certain jurisdictions to obtain “pre-clearance” from the federal government before implementing any changes to voting practices. The bill passed 228 to 187, with all but one Republican opposed. (Politico / Associated Press / New York Times / The Hill)
The Senate confirmed eight Trump court picks in three days. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has had 170 judicial confirmations. (The Hill)
The Senate passed a bill to permanently fund historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions. The FUTURE Act (Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education) will provide $255 million annually. Federal funding had expired on October 1. (CNN)
The White House directed a Republican senator to block a bill acknowledging the Armenian genocide for a third time. Sen. Kevin Cramer was asked to prevent lawmakers from passing the bill by unanimous consent, even though he was a co-sponsor of a similar resolution during the last Congress. Cramer said he didn’t think it was “the right time” to pass the bill, which would formally recognize Turkey’s genocide against the Armenian people, because Trump had just returned from a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Cramer also said he does not intend to continue blocking the resolution in the future. (Axios / KTVZ)
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