👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ An intelligence official in charge of election security warned the House Intelligence Committee last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get Trump re-elected. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions by Shelby Pierson during the meeting, arguing that Trump has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Trump reportedly “erupted” and “berated” his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office following the meeting over what he perceived as disloyalty. Trump also erroneously believed that Pierson had given information exclusively to Rep. Adam Schiff, complaining that Democrats would “weaponize” the disclosure. Yesterday, Trump announced that he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a vocal Trump supporter. (Washington Post / New York Times)
- Trump named Richard Grenell acting director of national intelligence. Grenell, the current ambassador to Germany, has little experience with the intelligence community or running a large bureaucracy, but will now oversee 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Grenell has also been a Trump confidant and adviser on issues beyond his work in Berlin, and will remain ambassador to Germany while he serves as acting DNI. (New York Times / Washington Post / Axios)
2/ Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee will spend more than $10 million to challenge Democratic voting-related lawsuits. The Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA, has filed multiple lawsuits against states they believe are unconstitutionally suppressing participation in elections. The super PAC is challenging state laws that restrict organizers from helping voters submit absentee ballots and make it a misdemeanor to organize vehicles to transport voters to their polling places unless the voters are “physically unable to walk.” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the Republican Party will “aggressively defend” its stake in the November elections, accusing Democrats of “trying to rig the game with frivolous lawsuits that do nothing but create electoral chaos, waste taxpayer money, and distract election officials in an attempt to advance the Democrats’ voter suppression myth because they know they can’t beat President Trump at the ballot box.” (Politico / New York Times)
3/ Roger Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison for obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Stone was convicted in November on seven counts of lying to congressional investigators and tampering with a witness about his efforts to obtain damaging emails related to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign that were stolen by Russian agents. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone had shown “flagrant disrespect” for Congress and the court and that Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / NBC News / ABC News / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Associated Press / CNBC)
4/ Trump said he wouldn’t immediately pardon Stone but would intervene if courts don’t overturn his conviction. Trump said Stone has “a very good chance of exoneration,” because “I personally think he was treated very unfairly.” Trump also accused the forewoman of the jury of being an “anti-Trump activist,” claiming that the trial was “tainted.” One former senior administration said: “It’s not a question of if, it’s when.” Earlier in the day Trump tweeted a clip from Tucker Carlson’s show suggesting that Trump “could end this travesty in an instant with a pardon and there are indications tonight that he will do that.” (Bloomberg / NBC News / Washington Post / Politico / The Guardian)
- Trump is assembling a team of advisers to help manage the clemency process as he considers more pardons. The White House is moving to take more direct control over pardons by limiting the Justice Department’s role in the clemency process. Meanwhile, Trump is said to be weighing a flurry of additional pardon announcements. (Washington Post)
5/ Dana Rohrabacher confirmed that he told Julian Assange he would get Trump to pardon him if he turned over information proving that Russia didn’t hack the Democratic National Committee emails. Rohrabacher said his goal was to find proof for the debunked conspiracy theory that WikiLeaks’ source for the emails was former DNC staffer Seth Rich. U.S. intelligence agencies and Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, however, concluded that Russian intelligence agents had hacked the Democratic Party and stolen the emails. Rohrabacher claimed he only wanted “truthful” information from Assange and never suggested that he “lie.” (Yahoo News)
- 📌 Day 1126: Trump offered to pardon Julian Assange if the WikiLeaks founder agreed to say Russia was not involved in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee. Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, claimed at a court hearing in London that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered Assange the deal in 2017. Fitzgerald said he had a statement from another Assange lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, that shows “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham denied the allegation, saying Trump “barely knows Dana Rohrabacher” and has “never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject.” In Sept. 2017, Rohrabacher said that as part of the deal, Assange would have to hand over a computer drive or other data storage devices that would prove that Russia was not the source of the hacked emails. The White House confirmed that Rohrabacher had called John Kelly, then Trump’s chief of staff, to talk about a possible deal with Assange. Kelly reportedly declined to pass it along to Trump. (The Guardian / Daily Beast / Washington Post / Washington Post / The Verge / CNBC)
6/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said the Trump administration is “desperate” and “needs more immigrants” to come in a “legal fashion” for the U.S. economy to continue growing. “We are desperate — desperate — for more people,” Mulvaney told a private group in England. “We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we’ve had in our nation over the last four years. We need more immigrants.” Since Trump took office, the State Department has issued 17% fewer immigration visas. (Washington Post)
poll/ 49% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president – up five percentage points since January. 45% of Americans are satisfied with the state of the nation – the highest since 2005. (Gallup)
poll/ 64% of small business owners approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president. [Editor’s note: Now’s a good time to remind the WTFam that this is my full-time job and it’s 100% sustained by your optional contributions. If you find my work valuable, consider supporting me by becoming a member.] (CNBC)
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