1/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was warned by a senior adviser last summer that he should “expect Congress to become unhinged” if the White House withheld security aid to Ukraine. In a June 27 email, Mulvaney wrote Robert Blair: “Did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back?” Blair replied that it was possible, but to “Expect Congress to become unhinged” if the White House tried to rescind spending passed by the House and Senate. Blair also warned that withholding the aid could add to the narrative that Trump was pro-Russia. Mulvaney’s email came a week after Trump initially asked about holding back the Ukraine assistance and around the same time Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukraine to conduct internal investigations into Joe Biden and his son. (New York Times / CNN)
2/ Rudy Giuliani held a backchannel call in 2018 as part of a shadow diplomatic effort aimed at removing President Nicolas Maduro from power. Giuliani and then-Rep. Pete Sessions participated in the Sept. 2018 phone call with Maduro to negotiate his exit and reopen Venezuela to business. Giuliani also met then-national security adviser John Bolton around the time of the call to discuss a plan to ease Maduro from power. White House officials said they did not know why Giuliani was involved. (Washington Post / CNN)
3/ Trump’s tariffs backfired and led to job losses and higher prices, according to a Federal Reserve study. While the tariffs did reduce competition for some U.S. industries, the tariffs more than offset the effects of rising costs and retaliatory tariffs, the study found. (MarketWatch)
4/ The White House warned that it would “take action” if North Korea tests another long-range or nuclear missile, according to national security adviser Robert O’Brien. North Korea recently warned that failure to offer a new initiative regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program could result in an unwanted “Christmas gift” from Kim Jong Un. (Reuters)
5/ The Taliban agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan in hopes of reaching a peace agreement with the United States, which has demanded a ceasefire before any peace negotiations can begin. Taliban officials did not say when the ceasefire would begin and there has been no immediate response from Washington. (The Guardian)
- 📌 Day 1047: 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)
6/ Putin thanked Trump for helping to prevent a possible terrorist attack in Russia on New Year’s Eve. American intelligence agencies reportedly provided Russia’s Federal Security Service with information that led to the arrest of two suspects who were allegedly planning to carry out an attack on a crowd in St. Petersburg. Moscow’s version of the readout stated that Trump and Putin “discussed a range of issues of mutual interest” along with continued cooperation combating terrorism. No additional information about the planned attack was made public. This is the second time that Putin has called to thank Trump for helping to prevent an attack in St. Petersburg. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg)
poll/ Trump and Barack Obama tied for America’s most admired man in 2019. Both earned 18% of support among Americans as the man “living today in any part of the world” they admired most. It’s Obama’s 12th time in the top spot versus the first for Trump. (Gallup / ABC News / Politico)
- Republican Sen. James Lankford doesn’t think Trump “as a person is a role model for a lot of different youth.” Lankford cited Trump’s tweets and “some of the things he says” as reasons why he doesn’t think Trump is someone who young people can look up to. Lankford, however, says he continues to support Trump because of his positions on abortion and religious liberty for Christians. (CBS News)
👋 Programming note: WTF Just Happened Today will be on holiday break Dec. 31st through Jan. 2nd. We’ll return on Jan. 3rd, unless there’s a reason to return sooner. Special note: In the event there is no news between now and then (ha ha ha), WTFJHT won’t waste your time and fill space. Instead, we’ll return Jan. 6th.
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