👋 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/ Former national security adviser John Bolton said he is “prepared to testify” in Trump’s impeachment trial if subpoenaed by the Senate. Bolton, who so far has complied with a White House directive to not cooperate in the inquiry, has direct knowledge of Trump’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in blanks in the impeachment case. A Senate subpoena requires at least 51 votes, which means four Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to call a witness. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / ABC News / Axios / Associated Press)
- Rudy Giuliani also said he is willing testify at the Senate trial, but that he “would do demonstrations. I’d give lectures. I’d give summations.” Giuliani said that while “I don’t know if anybody would have the courage to give me the case,” he would lead Trump’s defense and “prosecute it as a racketeering case, which I kind of invented anyway.” (ABC News / NBC News)
2/ Trump called for a quick end to the impeachment process, tweeting to “get this done.” Trump’s tweet came shortly before Bolton’s announcement. The House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump last month, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to formally transmit the charges to Senate – a requirement before the Senate can hold a trial. Pelosi has been holding the documents as Democrats seek guarantees about the scope of a Senate trial, including witnesses. (ABC News / Washington Post)
- Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested that Republicans should change the Senate rules so they can hold a Senate impeachment trial within days if Nancy Pelosi refuses to submit the articles of impeachment against Trump. Graham said he would work with Mitch McConnell on a unilateral Republican move that would allow the Senate to proceed without the articles, which charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. A 51-vote majority is required to change the rules for the impeachment trial. (Washington Post / Reuters / NBC News)
3/ Leaked emails from the Pentagon show that Trump personally directed the hold military aide to Ukraine. An Aug. 30 email from Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget to Elaine McCusker, the acting Pentagon comptroller, stating “Clear direction from POTUS to hold” aid from Ukraine. Earlier the same day, Trump met with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the hold on $391 million in military assistance for Ukraine. (Just Security / CNN / Talking Points Memo)
4/ The Trump administration is withholding 20 emails between a Mick Mulvaney aide and an Office of Management and Budget official discussing the freeze of military aid to Ukraine. In response to a court-ordered Freedom of Information Act request, the Office of Management and Budget said it would defy the order not turn over any of the 40 pages of emails, suggesting that the disclosure would “inhibit the frank and candid exchange of views that is necessary for effective government decision-making.” The FOIA request sought emails exchanged between Robert Blair, a top aide to Mulvaney, and Michael Duffey, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, who was in charge of handling the process for releasing the security assistance to Ukraine. (New York Times)
Chuck Schumer demanded that the Senate call Mick Mulvaney and White House aide Robert Blair to testify about their roles in blocking aid to Ukraine, as well as insight into the effort by Trump’s national security team to get the hold lifted. Schumer’s comments came after previously undisclosed emails were released. He added: “these new revelations are a game changer.” Mulvaney and Blair, as well as John Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, have been blocked by the White House from testifying despite subpoenas having been issued. Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, has said he does not want any witnesses called. (New York Times)
Mitch McConnell defended his coordination with the White House over the Senate impeachment trial, calling it a “fantasy that the speaker of the House will get to hand design the trial proceedings.” McConnell added: “That’s obviously a non-starter.” (CNN)
Bill Taylor, who led the U.S. embassy in Ukraine and served as a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry, has left his post. Taylor twice testified as part of the House probe into Trump, providing testimony about an alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine. (CNN)
5/ House Democrats will vote this week on a resolution to restrain Trump’s military actions. In a letter to House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s airstrike “provocative and disproportionate” and that it had “endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.” The war powers resolution would essentially end additional military operations in Iran unless there is the threat of an imminent attack. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that this tweets are sufficient “notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner.” The resolution is expected to pass the House as early as Wednesday, which would force a vote on the Senate floor soon after. (Politico / Washington Post / CNN / Associated Press)
- 📌 Day 1081: Trump authorized a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander late Thursday.
6/ The Trump administration blocked Iran’s top diplomat from entering the U.S. to address the United Nations Security Council about the assassination of Iran’s top military official in Baghdad. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reportedly requested a visa a “few weeks ago” to enter the U.S. to attend a Jan. 9 Security Council meeting. A Trump administration official, however, informed U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres today that U.S. would not allow Zarif into the country. (Foreign Policy)
- More than 60 Iranians and Iranian-Americans were stopped and held for additional questioning at the U.S.-Canadian border. Some were held for up to 10 hours and asked about their political views and allegiances before being released, while others were denied entry. Customs and Border Protection denied the claims that travelers were stopped or referred to “secondary screening” because of their country of origin. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News)
7/ The U.S. military will reposition troops within Iraq in preparation for a possible withdrawal. In a draft letter to Iraqi military officials, U.S. forces will be relocated “to prepare for onward movement” and says that “we respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper, meanwhile, said the U.S. has not made any decision to leave Iraq. The letter was released a day after Iraqi lawmakers passed a nonbinding resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country. (Washington Post)
poll/ 57% of Americans think Trump committed an impeachable offense, and 52% said they think Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine and his refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry are enough evidence to remove him from office. (FiveThirtyEight)
A Trump administration plan would no longer require federal agencies to consider the environmental consequences of new infrastructure projects, weakening the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed changes would also limit the range of projects that require environmental review. (New York Times)
The Trump administration will now deport asylum-seeking Mexican nationals – including families – to Guatemala. The program was implemented in late November and guidance was sent to asylum officials in recent days detailing how Mexicans were now to be included in the process. (BuzzFeed News)
Paul Manafort said he used Sean Hannity to receive backchannel messages from Trump while prosecutors investigated him for financial crimes, according to a 2018 interview summary. Manafort told the Robert Mueller’s office that after FBI agents raided his home in July 2017, he spoke with Hannity, whom he understood to be passing along messages from Trump. (BuzzFeed News / Daily Beast)
Trump asked a New York judge to throw out an advice columnist’s lawsuit accusing him of defamation after he denied her claim that he raped her in a department store dressing room two decades ago. Trump’s lawyer claimed that E. Jean Carroll can’t sue Trump in New York because the statements were made in Washington. Carroll, however, said in an earlier filing that Secret Service agents blocked her attempts to serve the complaint, prompting a judge to rule that she could serve it by mail to the White House. (Bloomberg)
A former Fox News reporter claimed that Trump told her she was “the hottest one at Fox News” and urged her to come to his office “so we can kiss” before he became president. Courtney Friel said Trump called her after she expressed an interest in working on his Miss USA beauty pageant. (New York Daily News / The Guardian / Daily Beast)
Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has been referred to the U.S. Treasury Department for possible sanctions violations related to a trip to Venezuela for a meeting with a top aide of President Nicolas Maduro. (Associated Press)
Trump spent at least 86 days at a golf club in 2019. Since 2017, Trump has spent at least 252 days at a Trump golf club and 333 days at a Trump property as president. By comparison, Obama played 333 rounds of golf during his eight years in office. (CNN)
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