What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics.
Curated by @matt_kiser

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Day 363: Gag order.

1/ Trump accused Russia of helping North Korea evade sanctions and claimed that Pyongyang is getting "closer every day" to being able to deliver a long-range missile to the United States. Russian tankers were caught supplying fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months. North Korea requires imported fuel to keep its intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear program functioning. "Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea," Trump said. (Reuters)

2/ The Pentagon wants to allow nuclear retaliation in response to cyberattacks against the United States. The latest draft of the U.S. nuclear strategy, which was sent to Trump's desk for approval, is the first to expand the list of justifications for "first use" nuclear strikes. It includes attempts to destroy national infrastructure via cyberattack. (New York Times / HuffPost)

3/ Steve Bannon cited executive privilege and refused to answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee yesterday. House investigators in both parties were outraged by his refusal, leading the committee to subpoena Bannon on the spot, vowing to force him to answer their questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Politico)

  • What Steve Bannon told Congress yesterday. Bannon admitted that he'd had conversations with Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and legal spokesman Mark Corallo about Don Junior's infamous meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016. (Axios)

4/ Bannon didn't respond to House Intelligence Committee questions because the White House directed him not to. During Bannon's testimony, his attorney relayed questions in real time to the White House asking if his client could answer the questions. Bannon was instructed not to discuss his work on the transition or in the White House. White House officials believed they had an agreement with the committee to limit questions to the presidential campaign. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, called the "gag order" an "audacious" move by the White House. (Associated Press / CNN / CNBC)

5/ Bannon struck a deal with Robert Mueller to be interviewed by prosecutors instead of testifying before the grand jury. A source close to Bannon said he will cooperate with the special counsel and that "Mueller will hear everything Bannon has to say." (The Daily Beast / CNN)

6/ The chance of a government shutdown increased as Trump aligned himself with the conservative House Freedom Caucus on immigration, criticizing a proposed bipartisan deal as "horrible" on border security and "very, very weak" on legal immigration reform. Democrats are threatening to vote against any spending bill that doesn't include a DACA fix. Republicans, meanwhile, need 60 votes to pass a spending bill in order to keep the federal government funded past the Friday deadline. Trump is confident that Americans will blame Democrats for a shutdown, despite Republicans controlling the House, Senate, and the White House. (Reuters / NBC News)

7/ Robert Mueller's probe would continue in the event of a government shutdown. Employees in the special counsel's office are exempt from furlough and would continue their work, despite a potential lack of appropriations. The government is set to shut down Friday night if lawmakers are unable to agree on a spending bill. (CNN)

8/ The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to review an order to restart DACA. A federal judge ordered that previous beneficiaries of DACA must be allowed to renew their status in the program, but the government is not required to accept new applications. The Justice Department also appealed a related decision, which imposed a nationwide stop on the Trump administration's decision to end the program until the case can be heard. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Robert Mueller's team is investigating newly uncovered financial transactions from Russian diplomatic accounts and people or businesses inside the United States. Among them are transactions by former ambassador Sergey Kislyak 10 days after the 2016 presidential election and a blocked $150,000 cash withdrawal five days after the inauguration. (BuzzFeed News)

  2. Trump's alleged affair with a porn star and the reported $130,000 in hush money scandal, explained. (Vox)

  3. Three-quarters of the National Parks Service advisory panel resigned in frustration. Nine out of 12 members abruptly quit, citing frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or hold a single meeting last year. All of the members who resigned had terms that were set to expire in May. (Washington Post)

  4. Wisconsin Democrats flipped a state senate seat in a special election. The district voted for Trump and Mitt Romney in the past two presidential elections. (The Hill)

  5. Jeff Flake delivered a speech from the Senate floor comparing Trump's anti-press rhetoric to former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin that Trump inspires modern-day authoritarians. Trump promised to announce his "Fake News Awards" today. (Los Angeles Times / Reuters)

  6. John Kelly told Democratic lawmakers that the U.S. will never construct a physical wall along the entire stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border and that some of Trump's campaign promises on immigration were "uninformed." (Washington Post)

  7. Border patrol agents routinely vandalize containers of water and supplies left in the Arizona desert for migrants in an attempt to deter and punish people who illegally cross from Mexico. (The Guardian)

Day 362: Subpoenaed.

1/ Steve Bannon was subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. It's the first time Mueller has used a grand jury subpoena to get information from someone in Trump's inner circle. Mueller, however, may end up letting Bannon forgo the grand jury appearance if he allows investigators to question him at the special counsel's offices in Washington. (New York Times)

2/ Bannon met with the House Intelligence Committee this morning behind closed doors. Lawmakers are sure to question Bannon on what he knew about the Trump Tower meeting, which he's previously called "treasonous." (The Hill)

  • Hope Hicks is expected to meet with the House Intelligence Committee as early as Friday. The White House Communications Director will be one of the closest Trump confidants to be privately interviewed as part of the Russia probe. The committee plans to ask her about any contacts that may have occurred between Trump associates and the Russians. (CNN / NBC News)

3/ The government could shut down if lawmakers can't agree on a spending bill by Friday. GOP leaders are looking to a short-term funding measure to keep certain government agencies open while talks continue, but Democrats are unlikely to support any deal that doesn't include protections for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump preemptively blamed democrats for a shutdown, tweeting "The Democrats want to shut down the Government over Amnesty for all and Border Security. The biggest loser will be our rapidly rebuilding Military, at a time we need it more than ever." Democrats presented Trump with a bipartisan immigration bill last week, and said Trump and Republicans would be to blame for a government shutdown. Current federal funding expires on Saturday. (NBC News)

5/ Senate Democrats have 50 votes in favor of restoring net neutrality. Only one more Republican vote is needed in order to reverse the FCC's decision to deregulate the broadband industry. The attorneys general from 22 states have filed a lawsuit to block the net neutrality repeal. (Washington Post / New York Times)

6/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Trump can't be racist because he was on "The Apprentice." Sanders said claims that Trump is racist were "outrageous," adding, "Frankly, if the critics of the president were who he said he was, why did NBC give him a show for a decade on TV?" (Bloomberg)

7/ The White House doctor said Trump is in "excellent" overall health and that he performed "well" on a cognitive exam. At 6'3", 239 pounds, Trump is one pound away from being considered obese as defined by the Centers for Disease Control. (The Hill / Politico)

poll/ The number of uninsured Americans rose by 3.2 million in Trump's first year in office. The uninsured rate increased 1.3 percentage points since the last quarter of 2016, leaving 12.2% of Americans without health insurance. (Gallup)

poll/ 42% of Republicans consider negative news stories that are accurate to be "fake news." (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee want Devin Nunes to release the Fusion GPS transcript. Fusion also supports the release of the transcript. (Business Insider)

  2. U.S. counterintelligence officials warned Jared Kushner about Wendi Deng Murdoch, who could be using their friendship to further the interests of the Chinese government. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. Kim Jong-Un called Trump's nuclear button tweet the "spasm of a lunatic." (The Independent)

  4. Paul Manafort's trial will likely to start in September at the earliest after a federal judge rejected Robert Mueller's bid to kick off the trial in May. (Politico)

  5. Sixty-four trade groups, foreign governments, Republican candidates and more stayed at or held events at Trump properties during his first year in office. Before taking office, Trump said he would hand off control of his global business empire to his sons Donald Jr. and Eric. He didn't, however, divest himself of assets that could cause a conflict of interest. (Reuters)


Watch Orrin Hatch remove a pair of glasses he's not wearing:

Day 358: Racist.

1/ Trump vaguely denied calling Haiti a "shithole country," tweeting that "the language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough." Trump then blamed Democrats for the "outlandish proposal," which he called "a big setback for DACA!" He did not, however, deny that he called El Salvador or African countries "shitholes." (NBC News / Washington Post)

2/ Senator Richard Durbin contradicted Trump, saying the comments were "hate-filled, vile and racist" and that he repeatedly referred to African countries as "shitholes" during the private immigration meeting. Durbin said, "The most disheartening thing to me is my belief that that was the first time words that hateful had been spoken in the Oval Office of the White House." (New York Times / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

3/ The United Nations human rights office called Trump's comments "shocking," "shameful," and "no other word for this but racist." Haiti, the African Union, Mexico, and France all rejected Trump's comments. (Reuters / USA Today)

4/ Don Lemon: "The president of the United States is racist." The CNN Tonight host added that "A lot of us already knew that," and that Trump's comments were "disgusting," but not shocking. "They're not even really surprising." (Washington Post)

5/ Anderson Cooper: "The sentiment the President expressed today is a racist sentiment." Cooper also said that Trump's remarks about American immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations were "Not racial. Not racially charged. Racist." (CNN)

6/ At an event to honor Martin Luther King Jr, Trump decried racism, saying: "No matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal." He then signed a proclamation on Friday declaring Monday Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which every president since Ronald Reagan has signed. (The Guardian / USA Today / CNN)

poll/ 55% of Americans think Trump's mental fitness is an issue. Republicans called the question "unfair and politically motivated." (Axios)

poll/ 50% of Americans would vote for Oprah over Trump, but 54% voters don't want her to run. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump canceled his visit to London to avoid mass protests. He was originally scheduled to open a new U.S. embassy, but will send Rex Tillerson to do it instead. Trump tweeted that the "reason" he canceled his "trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration" and their decision to sell the previous embassy. (The Guardian)

  2. The US ambassador to Panama resigned over differences with the Trump administration. (CNN)

  3. Jeff Bezos donated $33 million to a scholarship fund for young "dreamers," which will help fund 1,000 college scholarships. (Washington Post)

  4. Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week. Lewandowski said he won't plead the fifth as other witnesses have done. (The Daily Beast)

  5. Trump extended the Iran nuclear deal, but said he will "terminate" the agreement unless Congress and European allies agree to improve it. (Politico)

  6. The Education Department awarded a debt-collection contract to a company Betsy DeVos invested in before becoming education secretary. (Washington Post)

  7. Trump paid a former porn star $130,000 one month before the 2016 election so she wouldn't publicly discuss an alleged sexual encounter from 2006. Michael Cohen, the top attorney at the Trump Organization, arranged the payment to Stephanie Clifford. (Wall Street Journal)