👋 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/ A Department of Homeland Security report casts doubt on the need for Trump’s travel ban. The report concludes that citizenship is an “unreliable” threat indicator and that people from the banned countries have rarely been implicated in U.S.-based terrorism. (Washington Post)
- Trump rejects the Homeland Security intelligence report that contradicts the White House’s assertion that immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries pose a particular risk of being terrorists and should be blocked from entering the U.S. (Wall Street Journal)
2/ A California Congressman calls for a special prosecutor to lead an investigation into the alleged ties between Trump and Putin. Rep. Darrell Issa said on HBO’s “Real Time” that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should not handle the problem because he was both on the Trump campaign and was appointed by Trump as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. (San Diego Tribune)
- Top Republican says special prosecutor should investigate Russian meddling in Trump’s election. Issa became one of the few Republican representatives to state publicly the need for an independent investigation into Russia’s reported election meddling. This comes as Democrats have increasingly pushed for an investigation into President Trump’s associates’ ties to Russia. (Washington Post)
3/ Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser breaks with the administration on his views of Islam. McMaster told his staff that Muslims who commit terrorist acts are perverting their religion, rejecting a key ideological view of Trump’s senior advisers, and signaling a potentially more moderate approach to the Islamic world. (New York Times)
- National security adviser: Term “radical Islamic terrorism” isn’t helpful for US goals.. McMaster said jihadist terrorists aren’t true to their religion and spoke in starkly different terms about Russia, saying the talk about Moscow being a friend of Washington is over. (CNN)
4/ Recently confirmed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt used a private email for state business. The revelation is in direct conflict with the former Oklahoma Attorney General’s written and oral testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Pruitt told lawmakers he had never used private email for state business in his confirmation process. (Fox 25 - KOKH)
- Scott Pruitt vows to slash climate and water pollution regulations at CPAC. Head of the EPA told the conservative audience they would be “justified” in believing the environmental regulator should be completely disbanded. (The Guardian)
5/ Trump turns the power of the White House against the news media, escalating his attacks on journalists as “the enemy of the people” and berating members of his own F.B.I. as “leakers” who he said were putting the nation at risk. (New York Times)
- Fox’s Shepard Smith: CNN is not “fake news.” The Fox News anchor defended CNN after several news organizations were barred from Sean Spicer’s question-and-answer session at the White House. (The Hill) “For the record, ‘fake news’ refers to stories that are created, often by entities pretending to be news organizations, solely to draw clicks and views and are based on nothing of substance,” Smith said during his program.
- Jake Tapper: White House excluding the press is “un-American”. (CNN)
- Trump’s blistering speech at CPAC follows Bannon’s blueprint. The chief strategist laid out a hard-edged new definition of conservatism animated by attacks on “the administrative state,” globalism and the “corporatist media.” (New York Times)
- Trump has found himself subsumed and increasingly infuriated by the leaks and criticisms he has long prided himself on vanquishing. Now, goaded by Bannon, Trump has turned on the news media with escalating rhetoric, labeling major outlets as “the enemy of the American people.” It is a sharp break from previous presidents — and from his own comfortable three-decade tango with the tabloids. (New York Times)
- Pro-Trump megadonor is part owner of Breitbart News empire, the far-right media outlet that heralded Trump’s rise and was once led by his top White House strategist. The news comes as Breitbart has enjoyed a higher profile within the White House press corps. (Washington Post)
- Trump is skipping the White House Correspondents Association dinner. The annual, celebrity-studded WHCA dinner has long been criticized as a display of too-cozy relations between the media and people they are supposed to cover fairly and critically. (BuzzFeed News)
6/ Muhammad Ali’s son reportedly detained at airport and asked twice about his religion because of his “Arabic-sounding” name. When Ali Jr. could not produce a photograph to show himself with his father (!?), who died last year, immigration officials separated Ali Jr. from his mother, and then detained him for approximately two hours. (Washington Post)
7/ Trump orders agencies to reduce regulations. The latest executive actionis aimed at reducing red tape and directs each federal agency to set up a task force to identify costly regulations that could be scaled back. (NPR)
8/ Trump administration makes its first move to build the border wall. U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a preliminary request for proposals “for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico.” (Bloomberg)
poll/ Most Americans continue to oppose U.S. border wall and doubt Mexico would pay for it. 62% of Americans oppose building a wall along the entire U.S. border with Mexico. 70% think the U.S. will ultimately pay for the wall, compared with just 16% who think Mexico would pay for it. (Pew Research)
poll/ Majority of Americans believe that Congress should investigate whether Trump’s presidential campaign had contact with the Russian government in 2016. 53% of the American public wants Congress to look into the alleged communications, while 25% disagree and 21% say they don’t have an opinion. (NBC News)
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