👋 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/ Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would send the articles of impeachment to the Senate “when I’m ready – and that will probably be soon.” Pelosi’s comments came after Democrats started pushing to end the holdout, believing that Mitch McConnell will never relent on the rules for the trial. Pelosi, however, reiterated her demand to McConnell that he first detail the rules for a Senate trial so she could choose a team of “impeachment managers,” who will prosecute the House’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress case, saying “Is that too much to ask?” McConnell, meanwhile, has signed onto a resolution seeking to change the rules of the Senate to dismiss articles of impeachment if they are not transmitted within 25 days of their approval – in this case, Jan. 12. (New York Times / Politico / Axios / CNN / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)
McConnell told Republican senators that he expects Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate as soon as Friday, setting up an impeachment trial that begins early next week. (Politico)
Trump met privately with McConnell at the White House to discuss the impeachment trial. McConnell’s office has been in discussion with the White House for weeks regarding the trial, working together on various ideas and proposals for how the trial should be set up. “We want this to start as quickly as possible,” said the White House legislative director. “We want the President to be acquitted as quickly as possible.” (CNN)
Trump said he doesn’t plan to block John Bolton from testifying at a Senate impeachment trial, but that he would need to protect his executive privilege. “When we start allowing national security advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say, we can’t do that,” Trump said. (Bloomberg)
2/ Two Senate Republicans called the Trump administration’s classified briefing on the strike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani “insulting and demeaning,” and that Trump’s national security team failed to justify claims of an “imminent” attack. Mike Lee called it “worst briefing I’ve had on a military issue” while Rand Paul said “There was no specific information given to us of a specific attack […] I didn’t learn anything in the hearing that I hadn’t seen in a newspaper already.” During the briefing, which was led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and CIA Director Gina Haspel, lawmakers were urged not to question Trump’s war powers and to stand down on attempting to provide a constitutional check to the executive branch. Trump, defending his national security team, told reporters at the White House that he’s “never seen [Mike Lee] like that,” before claiming that “numerous” lawmakers called it “the greatest presentation they’ve ever had.” Mike Pence, meanwhile, claimed that the administration could not provide Congress – in closed-door, classified setting – with the “most compelling” intelligence because doing so “could compromise” sources and methods. (CNN / New York Times / NBC News / ABC News / Politico)
- Trump suggested that he ordered the killing of Soleimani to disrupt a previously undisclosed plot to “blow up our embassy” in Baghdad. Trump declined to share details of the alleged plot and instead focused on how the administration had “caught a total monster. We took him out,” referring to Soleimani. (Politico)
3/ The House adopted a war powers resolution that forces Trump to go to Congress for authorization before taking further military action against Iran. The measure directs Trump to “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces” against Iran without congressional authorization under a section of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, except when necessary to “defend against an imminent armed attack.” The Senate is also expected to take up war powers resolutions related to Iran. (New York Times / NBC News / CBS News / Politico / CNN)
4/ U.S. officials have “high confidence” that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile downed a Ukrainian jetliner shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board. One U.S. official said Iran may have shot down the aircraft by mistake. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada had “intelligence from multiple sources” that an Iranian surface-to-air missile brought down the jetliner, adding that “This may well have been unintentional.” The Boeing 737-800 crashed outside Tehran, Iran, shortly after take-off Wednesday morning. Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said it wouldn’t provide Boeing or the U.S. access to the recovered black box flight recorders. Trump, meanwhile, mused that the plane was flying in a “pretty rough neighborhood” and “Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press / Bloomberg / CNBC / CNN / Yahoo News)
- WATCH: Video appears to show an Iranian missile hitting a plane near Tehran’s airport – the area where a Ukrainian airliner stopped transmitting its signal before it crashed on Wednesday. (New York Times)
poll/ 52% of American called Trump’s behavior with Iran “reckless.” Separately, 69% agreed that the attack made it more likely Iran would strike American interests in the Middle East, 63% agreed that there would be a terrorist attacks on the American homeland, and 62% agreed that the U.S. and Iran would go to war. (USA Today / CNN)
The Trump administration proposed changes to environmental rules that would make it easier to build pipelines, mines, and other industrial projects. The move would narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act, reduce federal oversight, and exempt projects without significant federal funding from environmental reviews. The proposed regulations would also redefine “major federal action” to exclude privately financed projects with minimal government funding or involvement. (Washington Post / NPR / Politico / Associated Press)
China’s chief trade negotiator will travel to the U.S. next week to sign the phase-one trade deal with the U.S. China’s Commerce Ministry confirmed the visit, marking the first official acknowledgment by the Chinese government that they plan to sign the agreement to help ease bilateral tensions between the world’s two largest economies. (Wall Street Journal)
The New York City Bar Association asked Congress to investigate Attorney General William Barr for bias, saying his actions and statements have positioned the Justice Department as “political partisans willing to use the levers of government to empower certain groups over others.” The group said Barr has “disregarded” his fundamental obligations” as a government lawyer to “to act impartially, to avoid even the appearance of partiality and impropriety, and to avoid manifesting bias, prejudice or partisanship in the exercise of official responsibilities.” (Bloomberg)
A federal appeals court lifted an order blocking $3.6 billion in military funds for construction of Trump’s border wall. Last month, a U.S. District Court judge blocked Trump from unilaterally increasing funding for his wall to a level above what he had first requested in his budget. Congress had authorized Trump to spend $1.375 billion for border wall improvements. (Politico)
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