👋 Away Message: So we had a little scheduling snafu here at WTF HQ, where both myself and Joe (voice of the pod) double-booked ourselves with personal and professional obligations next week. Oopsie! Not a very great job using a calendar on my part, I guess. On the other hand, it appears the government isn't going to be open for business anyway... Unless something truly WTF-y happens, I'll see you all again on Tuesday, October 10th, because Monday is a holiday (Indigenous Peoples' Day).
In the mean time, try our little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding and for being here. I'm going to miss you.
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1/ Trump’s Justice Department will overrule its own prosecutors and reduce Roger Stone’s sentencing recommendation, calling it “extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offenses.” Federal prosecutors initially recommended that Stone serve up to nine years in prison for obstruction of justice, lying to Congress, and witness tampering. The Justice Department’s reversal came hours after Trump tweeted that the recommended sentence was “horrible and very unfair” and a “disgraceful” “miscarriage of justice” that should not be allowed to happen. In the sentencing memo, federal prosecutors said Stone “obstructed Congress’ investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lied under oath, and tampered with a witness,” and that Stone “displayed contempt for this Court and the rule of law” after he was indicted. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / NPR / Politico / CNBC / ABC News / Axios / CNN / Reuters)
2/ Three career prosecutors handling the Roger Stone case resigned after the Justice Department said in a new sentencing memo that Stone’s sentence should be “far less” than the seven to nine years that they had recommended. The memo noted that DOJ still wanted Stone to be incarcerated but declined to say for how long. Prosecutors Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, and Jonathan Kravis told the judge they were withdrawing immediately as attorneys. (Washington Post / CNN / Daily Beast / NBC News)
3/ The Office of Management and Budget was fully aware of the Pentagon’s concerns about Trump’s hold on Ukraine funding and attempted to bury them, according to new, unredacted emails. OMB also appears to have mislead the Government Accountability Office about the circumstances surrounding the freeze. Pentagon officials were reportedly so concerned over the hold on aid by OMB that they noted the aid was at “serious risk” of not being used before the last day of the fiscal year and questioned if the move was illegal. (Just Security / CNN)
📌 Day 1092: The Trump administration violated the law when it froze military aid to Ukraine, according to a nonpartisan congressional watchdog. The Government Accountability Office said the White House budget office violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld funds that had been appropriated by Congress for a “policy reason.” The Office of Management and Budget claimed it “withheld the funds to ensure that they were not spent ‘in a manner that could conflict with the President’s foreign policy.’” The GAO, however, rejected the argument, saying “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)
📌 Day 1112: Trump’s July 18 hold on Ukraine military aid stunned Pentagon officials working to expedite delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, according to emails and internal Pentagon documents. In an email to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, a top Defense official communicated his concern about Trump’s “reported view that the US should cease providing security assistance” to Ukraine and its subsequent impact on national security in hopes that Esper could persuade Trump to drop the hold. (CNN)
4/ Trump’s budget proposal would reduce the number of repayment options for student loan borrowers and get rid of the public service loan forgiveness program. The program allow employees of a non-profit or public institutions to have their federal student loans canceled after making 10 years of on-time payments. Up to a quarter of American workers are estimated to be eligible for the program. (CNBC)
5/ Trump created 1.5 million fewer jobs in his first three years in office than Obama did in his final three. The figures from the Department of Labor show a 19% decline in job creation under Trump. (HuffPost)
6/ Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to unanimously pass three election security-related bills. The bills required campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission about foreign offers of assistance, banned voting machines from being connected to the internet, and provided funding for the Election Assistance Commission. Under the Senate’s rules, any one senator can ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill, but any one senator can object and block their requests. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) opposed each of the requests. [Editor’s note: You can contact Blackburn’s office at (202) 224-3344]. (The Hill)
7/ A whistleblower complaints alleges that the Justice Department denied grants to two nonprofits in favor of less established groups whose applications were not recommended by career DOJ officials. An internal DOJ memo recommended that more than $1 million in anti-human trafficking grants go to the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa of Phoenix. Instead, the grants were awarded to Hookers for Jesus in Nevada and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation in South Carolina despite receiving lower rankings from outside reviewers. The task force said the Lincoln Tubman Foundation’s was still in its “infancy” with “little to no experience.” In 2017, Hookers for Jesus received $300,000 through the federal Victims of Crime Act, but the funding was not renewed in 2018 after the state obtained a program manual that said it was “mandatory” for guests of the shelter to attend and volunteer at a specific church. The training manual also called homosexuality immoral and drug abuse “witchcraft.” (Reuters)
poll/ 66% of voters believe Trump will be reelected in November compared to 28% who believe he’ll lose to a Democrat. 65% of voters say they are optimistic about the 2020 presidential election, while 30% are pessimistic. (Monmouth University Polling Institute)
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