👋 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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⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:
What happened today? Trump’s legal team concluded its oral arguments after less than two hours in the chamber with White House counsel Pat Cipollone calling on the Senate to “end the era of impeachment” by declaring Trump not guilty. The White House team reiterated their arguments that the allegations by the House — that Trump abused his power in his dealings with Ukraine and obstructed Congress’ investigation into his actions — don’t rise to the level of impeachable offenses. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow claimed that the revelations from John Bolton’s manuscript – that Trump tied the withholding of military aid to Ukraine to investigations into his political rivals – were “inadmissible” and that “[Impeachment] is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts.” Rep. Adam Schiff, the House’s lead impeachment manager, suggested that Trump’s own lawyers made an “effective” case for why the Senate should call Bolton as a witness. And, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s lawyers “showed how weak their case was” and that “Their whole argument is diversion.”
What’s next? The Senate will return Wednesday for eight hours of question-and-answers followed by another eight hours on Thursday. A vote on whether to hear witnesses is expected on Friday.
⚡️Impeachment.wtf — The internet’s most comprehensive guide to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Maintained by the WTF community. Updated daily.
1/ John Bolton told Attorney General William Barr last year that he had concerns that Trump was granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to Bolton’s unpublished manuscript. Barr responded by saying he was also concerned that Trump had “created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries,” pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations into Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE and Halkbank, Turkey’s second-largest state-owned bank. The former national security adviser submitted his book manuscript nearly a month ago to the White House for review. A Justice Department’s spokeswoman, meanwhile, said “There was no discussion of ‘personal favors’ or ‘undue influence’ on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the President’s conversations with foreign leaders was improper.” (New York Times)
📌 Day 1103: Trump told former national security adviser John Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until Ukrainian officials helped with investigations into Biden and other Democrats, according to an unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s forthcoming book,“The Room Where It Happened.”Bolton’s account directly contradicts one of Trump’s defense arguments, that there was no quid pro quo when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son in the July phone call. Bolton’s account was included in drafts of a manuscript he circulated to close associates. A draft was also sent to the White House for a standard review process on Dec. 30 — 12 days after Trump was impeached. The White House ordered Bolton and other key officials with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s dealings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. (New York Times)
Former White House chief of staff John Kelly believes John Bolton’s allegation that Trump told the former national security adviser that U.S. security aid to Ukraine was conditioned on an investigation of Trump’s political rivals. (CNN / Politico)
2/ Mitch McConnell told GOP senators a closed-door meeting that he doesn’t have enough votes to block witnesses in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. After Trump’s defense team wrapped up arguments, Republican Senate leaders pressured the party’s senators to not call for witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial – i.e. “whipped the vote” – at a private GOP Senate meeting. McConnell had a card with “yes,” “no” and “maybes” marked on it. McConnell said the vote total wasn’t where it needed to be to block witnesses or documents. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)
3/ Republican senators have discussed reviewing John Bolton’s unpublished manuscript in a classified setting to “see for ourselves if there is anything significant.” Sen. Lindsey Graham supported the proposal by Sen. James Lankford, tweeting that the move would allow “each senator the opportunity to review the manuscript and make their own determination.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, rejected the idea of reviewing the book behind closed doors, calling it “an absurd proposal.” (CBS News / Bloomberg / New York Times)
poll/ 75% of voters say witnesses should be allowed to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial. 48% say the Senate should not remove Trump from office, while 47% say the Senate should. (Quinnipiac)
Trump announced his plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which proposes a redrawn border while discarding the longtime American goal of granting the Palestinians a full-fledged state. Trump called the plan – nearly three years in the making – a “win-win” for both sides. Palestinian leaders rejected the plan before its release. (The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post)
The State Department blocked NPR’s reporter on Mike Pompeo’s government plane for an upcoming trip to Europe and Central Asia, which includes a stop in Ukraine. Michele Kelemen was removed from the list of reporters allowed to fly with Pompeo days after the secretary shouted and cursed at another NPR reporter for asking pertinent questions about Ukraine. (Politico / CBS News / CNN / New York Times)
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