👋 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/ After more than 14 hours of impeachment debate, the House Judiciary Committee abruptly postponed an expected party line vote on whether to approve articles of impeachment against Trump. The committee will now reconvene Friday at 10 a.m. ET to vote. Lawmakers spent the day debating the articles and multiple proposed Republican amendments intended to gut the impeachment resolution – including an amendment to remove charging Trump with abuse of power – which were all rebuffed in one vote after another. The panel, however, is expected to eventually approve two articles of impeachment against Trump: a charge that Trump abused the powers of his office by pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals while withholding U.S. security aid and a White House meeting; and a charge of obstructing Congress for refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry into his conduct and for failure to respond to congressional subpoenas. Trump would become the fourth president in American history to face impeachment by the House for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Once the Judiciary votes, the full House is expected to debate and vote on the articles next week with a trial set to begin in the Senate in early 2020 – about 10 months before the next election. (New York Times / Washington Post / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Bloomberg / CNN)
2/ Senate Republicans are pushing for a short impeachment trial that would include calling zero witnesses. The plan contradicts Trump’s desire to stage a theatrical trial with public defense of his conduct by calling “a lot of witnesses,” including Joe and Hunter Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and the anonymous whistleblower, whose complaint about Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky served as the catalyst for the impeachment inquiry. Mitch McConnell is also expected to hold a final vote to acquit Trump, instead of holding a vote on dismissing the articles of impeachment. (Washington Post / CNN / Bloomberg)
3/ The White House Office of Management and Budget claimed in a new memo that it withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine as a temporary exploratory measure – not as part of a political effort to override Congress’ appropriation of the money. The OMB memo asserts that the office withheld the aid as a way of studying whether the spending complied with U.S. policy. The new memo says OMB extended the hold on the aid eight times in August and September until finally releasing the aid almost immediately after the last hold on September 10. (Washington Post)
- Mike Pence rejected a request from House Democrats to declassify the details of a Sept. 18 call between Pence and Ukrainian President Zelensky. In a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Pence’s attorney claimed the request was illegitimate and claimed it “serves no purpose” because the impeachment inquiry is already over. (Politico)
4/ A Rudy Giuliani associate received $1 million from a Russian account in September – one month before he was charged with conspiring to funnel foreign money into U.S. elections. Lev Parnas spent most of that money “on personal expenses and to purchase a home,” according to a court filing. The money – deposited into an account in Parnas’ wife’s name – came during the same month that Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman received the first request for documents from the Congressional committees investigating the Trump administration’s actions in Ukraine. Federal prosecutors asked a judge to jail Parnas for understating his income and assets. Prosecutors also said that in the past three years, Parnas had received more than $1.5 million from Ukrainian and Russian sources. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
5/ Trump sent more than 100 tweets and retweets insisting that he committed “no crime” and “did nothing wrong,” while calling the impeachment inquiry “Crazy!” Trump also took time to promote Mar-a-Lago opening for the season, proclaiming: “I will be there in two weeks, The Southern White House!” (Politico / NBC News)
Congressional negotiators reached a “deal in principle” to approve $1.37 trillion in federal spending for 2020, likely averting a government shutdown next week. The House could vote on the spending bill as soon as Tuesday, with the Senate acting before the end of the week. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Politico)
Trump signed off on the so-called phase-one trade deal with China. The arrangement would cut Trump’s tariffs on $360 billion of Chinese goods by half in exchange for Chinese commitments to purchase more U.S. agricultural goods. The “phase one” deal does not address the major structural changes to China’s economy that Trump has demanded, but will likely avert a new round of tariffs due to take effect on Dec. 15. (Bloomberg / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)
The Defense Department’s inspector general will review a $400 million border wall construction contract awarded to a company that members of the Trump administration have publicly and privately endorsed. Fisher Sand & Gravel was awarded the contract despite concerns that the proposal “did not meet the operational requirements of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” The IG also said he has “concerns about the possibility of inappropriate influence” exerted on the Army Corps of Engineers by members of the Trump administration. (NBC News / Associated Press)
The Senate confirmed Trump’s 50th circuit court nominee despite the pick being rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. In three years, Mitch McConnell’s Senate has confirmed two Supreme Court justices, 50 Circuit judges, and 120 District judges. (Politico / The Hill)
The Senate passed a resolution officially recognizing the Armenian genocide. Three previous attempts to pass the measure were blocked by GOP senators at the request of the White House. (NBC News)
The Senate confirmed Trump’s pick to be the next ambassador to Russia. Senators voted 70-22 to confirm John Sullivan, who currently serves as the deputy secretary of State. Sullivan will replace former Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who left the post to run for governor in Utah. (The Hill / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
Four months before Trump Jr. received special treatment from the Mongolian government for a hunting permit, the Mongolian ambassador and foreign minister visited Mar-a-Lago. Trump Jr. received his hunting permit on Sept. 2 to kill a threatened argali sheep – after he left the region following the August hunt. Trump Jr. also met with Mongolia’s president, Khaltmaagiin Battuiga, before the leaving the country. (ProPublica / USA Today)
Trump mocked 16-year-old Greta Thunberg after she won Time magazine’s Person of the Year award. Trump, who was a finalist for the nomination, called her win “ridiculous” and suggested she should “chill” and work on her “Anger Management problem.” Meanwhile, #BeBest began trending on Twitter – a reference to Melanie Trump’s anti-cyberbullying campaign, which encourages people to be kind on social media and speak “with respect and compassion.” (CNN / Washington Post / NBC News / Axios / The Hill)
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