👋 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/ The Justice Department is reviewing information Rudy Giuliani gathered from Ukrainian sources claiming to have damaging information about the Bidens. Attorney General William Barr acknowledged that the Justice Department had established an “intake process” for evaluating the information, confirming an assertion made by Sen. Lindsey Graham that the department had “created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified.” Barr and other officials suggested that Giuliani was being treated no differently than any tipster. Meanwhile, a Justice Department official said Giuliani had “recently” shared information with federal law enforcement officials through the process. (Washington Post / NPR / New York Times)
2/ Trump recalled Gordon Sondland from his post as the ambassador to the European Union on the same day that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was “escorted” out of the White House by security guards. Sondland, a key witnesses in the House impeachment hearings, testified that “we followed the president’s orders” and that “everyone was in the loop.” State Department officials told Sondland that they wanted him to resign, but Sondland declined and said he would have to be fired. In response, State Department officials recalled him. (New York Times)
- 📌 Day 1114: The White House fired a national security official who testified against Trump during the impeachment inquiry. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who reported his concerns over Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s leader to NSC officials, was “escorted out of the White House,” his lawyer said. Earlier in the day when asked whether he wanted Vindman to leave, Trump said: “Well, I’m not happy with him.” Trump also suggested that his impeachment should be “expunged […] because it was a hoax.” And, when asked if his Democratic political opponents “should be held accountable,” Trump replied: “You’ll see.” (Bloomberg / Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Politico / CNN)
3/ Chuck Schumer called on all 74 inspectors general to investigate retaliation against whistleblowers who report presidential misconduct. Schumer requested investigations into “any and all instances of retaliation” against witnesses who have made “protected disclosures of presidential misconduct” after the firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council. Schumer said the firings were “part of a dangerous, growing pattern of retaliation against those who report wrongdoing only to find themselves targeted by the President and subject to his wrath and vindictiveness.” (Politico / Associated Press / CNN)
A handful of Republican senators tried to stop Trump from firing Gordon Sondland, but Trump did it anyway. The senators were concerned that it would look bad for Trump to fire him, especially since Sondland was already expected to leave after the impeachment trial was over. (New York Times)
Kellyanne Conway suggested that more officials could “maybe” be forced out of their roles. (Politico)
4/ The Trump administration released a $4.8 trillion budget proposal that would cut funding for domestic and safety net programs. The proposal would cut Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, despite Trump’s promises that he would protect both. The proposal would also cut spending for the EPA (26.5%), Health and Human Services (9%), Department of Education (8%), Interior Department (13.4%), and the Housing and Urban Development (15.2%). Meanwhile, spending for the military, national defense, and border enforcement would increase. The Pentagon’s budget would maintain current levels, but calls for a nearly 20% increase for “modernizing the nuclear stockpile.” Even if all the proposed cuts are approved by Congress, the $4.8 trillion budget proposal would fail to eliminate the federal deficit over the next 10 years, according to an internal summary of the plan. White House officials plan to promote the proposal as a way to reduce the deficit by 2035 – missing Trump’s initial promise to eliminate the deficit by 2028. (Washington Post / Associated Press / Axios / New York Times / Politico / Reuters / Vox / Wall Street Journal)
5/ New York state sued the Trump administration for its policy to exclude New Yorkers from enrolling in federal Trusted Traveler programs. The Trump administration “cut off” New Yorkers from joining or renewing their participation in the programs in response to New York’s passage of a law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses while limiting immigration authorities from accessing the state’s DMV records. (Reuters)
- 📌 Day 1113: The Department of Homeland Security temporarily blocked New York state residents from enrolling in the Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, in retaliation for a state law that limits immigration agents’ access to the state’s driver’s license data. The Trump administration expects to kick “roughly 175,000 New Yorkers” out of the programs by the end of this year. The administration also threatened to take action against other states that push to limit immigration agents’ access to state-level data. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)
Trump does not want another summit with Kim Jong Un before the presidential election. North Korea, meanwhile, has recently resumed missile testing. (CNN)
More than 100 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries following the January 8 Iranian missile attack in Iraq. Trump initially downplayed severity of injuries as just “headaches.” (CNN)
Billionaire conservative casino owner Sheldon Adelson is planning to donate at least $100 million to Trump’s re-election campaign and Republican congressional election efforts in 2020. Adelson and his wife have donated more than $100 million to Super PACs and dark money groups in each of the last two presidential election cycles, and could end up donating more than $200 million in 2020. (The Guardian)
Amazon wants to depose Trump over the Pentagon’s decision to award a $10 billion cloud computing project to Microsoft in October. In a federal court filing, Amazon noted that Trump has a “well-documented personal animus towards” Amazon, its CEO Jeff Bezos, and The Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Amazon said that Trump is the only who can testify about the “totality of his conversations and the overall message he conveyed” about the bidding process. Trump also reportedly told then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last year to “screw Amazon” out of the contract. (Associated Press / New York Times / CNBC)
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