What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

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by @matt_kiser

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Day 40: Split. Choice.

1/ Betsy DeVos press release celebrates Jim Crow education system as a pioneer of “school choice”, saying the legal segregation of historically black colleges and universities gave black students “more options.” Trump met with the leaders of a number of HBCUs yesterday. DeVos commemorated the meeting in a press release today. (Slate)

  • DeVos slammed for calling black colleges “pioneers” of school choice. DeVos’ statement painting African Americans’ efforts to create higher education options for themselves in a segregated society as a “choice” earned her criticism from Democratic members of Congress and others. (Talking Points Memo)

2/ House leaders are split on whether a Russian inquiry is needed. The top Republican and Democrat on the Intelligence Committee gave sharply conflicting views of their investigation into Russian efforts to influence the election, raising questions about whether they will be able to work together. Republican Devin Nunes said that there was no evidence anyone from the Trump campaign had communicated with the government in Moscow. Democrat Adam Schiff said that it was too early to rule out the ties, because the panel had not yet been provided with any evidence collected by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. (New York Times)

UPDATE:

FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier to continue his work. While Trump has derided the dossier as “fake news” compiled by his political opponents, the FBI’s arrangement with the spy shows that bureau investigators considered him credible and found his line of inquiry to be worthy of pursuit. (Washington Post)

  • GOP intelligence chairman David Nunes: “There’s no evidence of anything” regarding Russia-Trump campaign contacts. Nunes said the House Intelligence Committee won’t subpoena Trump’s tax returns and decries “McCarthyism” and “witch hunts” based on reports that Americans may have connections to the Russian regime. (Salon)
  • George W. Bush said ‘‘we all need answers’’ on the extent of contact between Trump’s team and the Russian government. He didn’t rule out the idea that a special prosecutor could be necessary to lead an investigation. (Boston Globe)

3/ Trump goes to Congress to make a sale. Trump is under pressure to show that his White House can be effective in delivering on the sweeping changes he has promised by working with allies on Capitol Hill. Trump’s aides are promising an “optimistic” speech designed to rally Americans toward a hopeful future. Trump will address Congress shortly after 9 p.m EST tonight. (CNN)

  • A guide for Trump’s first speech to Congress. Instead of reflecting on the state of the U.S., like a State of the Union address, the first joint session speech is typically used to outline a new president’s goals for his administration. Trump will do exactly that — and try to downplay the chaos that has plagued his first 40 days in office. (Politico)
  • Trump prepares to address a divided audience: The Republican Congress. On health care, tax reform and federal spending, GOP lawmakers hold differences of opinion within their own party that are obstructing passage of ambitious Republican policies, and so far Trump has shown little desire to openly referee those disputes. (Washington Post)

4/ Sessions vows to get tough on crime, saying a recent spike in violence in some cities is “driving this sense that we’re in danger.” He’s pledged to commit more federal energy to fighting crime even though crime rates remain far below their 1970s and 1980s levels. Trump is expected to emphasize that the rise in violence in some cities was not “a one-time blip” but rather “the beginning of a trend” during his address to a joint session of Congress tonight. (New York Times)

  • Sessions tells the Justice Department to ease up on police probes into alleged civil rights abuses by local police departments. The attorney general says it’s undermined police and led to an increase in violent crime in some cities. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Sessions pushes tougher line on marijuana even though a growing number of states are moving to legalize or decriminalize pot. “Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” Sessions said. (Politico)

5/ Trump envisions a compromise bill allowing many immigrants to stay in US where those who aren’t serious or violent criminals could stay in the US legally, hold a job and pay taxes, without having to worry about being deported. A path to citizenship for those in the country illegally would not be part of Trump’s vision for this deal, with the possible exception of “Dreamers” – those brought into the US illegally as children. (CNN)

6/ Trump gave himself an A grade for his presidency, but only a C for communicating. how. great. he. has. been. in a “Fox and Friends” interview today. He also blamed Obama for organizing opposition against him, called the House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi “incompetent,” and criticized his own press secretary for how he has handled leaks. He has called “Fox and Friends” one of his favorite shows. (New York Times)

  • Trump gave himself a “C or C+” grade for communicating with the public: Needs improvement. He offered high marks for his accomplishments, but he gave himself a “C” for messaging, conceding that he has not been able to properly explain what he’s done. (Washington Post)

7/ Trump says Obama is helping organize protests against his presidency. Trump has been dismissing the protests against his presidency and demonstrations at congressional town hall meetings across the country as concocted by his political enemies. “I think that President Obama is behind it because his people certainly are behind it,” Trump said. “In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. It will probably continue.” (Washington Post)

8/ Trump begins E.P.A. rollback with executive order on clean water rules. The order, which will have almost no immediate legal effect and could take longer than a single presidential term to dismantle, directs E.P.A. chief Scott Pruitt to rewrite the 2015 rule known as the Waters of the United States. The rule gives the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major bodies of water as well as in streams and wetlands that drain into them.

Trump is also expected to sign a similar order instructing Pruitt to begin the process of withdrawing and revising Obama’s 2015 climate-change regulation, aimed at curbing emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants. In his former job as attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt led or took part in 14 lawsuits intended to block the E.P.A.’s major regulations, including the clean water and climate rules that he is now charged with dismantling. (New York Times)

  • Trump to direct rollback of Obama-era water rule. Trump will instruct the E.P.A. and Army Corps of Engineers to “review and reconsider” a 2015 rule known as the Waters of the United States rule. The move that could ultimately make it easier for agricultural and development interests to drain wetlands and small streams. (Washington Post)

9/ Sen. Lindsey Graham: Trump budget is “dead on arrival.” Trump’s proposing $54 billion in cuts to fund an equivalent boost in defense spending, but lacks key details stoking bipartisan concern. (The Hill)

  • E.P.A. braces for a possibly “devastating” 25% budget cut. There is widespread concern within the E.P.A. that the changes will dramatically alter the function of an agency that was created under Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970, and will weaken the agency to the point where it can only do its most basic functions. (CNN)
  • Trump proposes cutting the State Department budget by 37%. The plan would cut aid given by U.S. Agency for International Development. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Pentagon budget next year sounds huge at first, but… it comes with a significant cut in foreign aid, including programs that military officials say contribute to global stability and are seen as important in helping avoid future conflicts. (New York Times)
  • Trump says “revved up economy” will pay for budget proposals. The extra $54 billion dollars he has proposed spending on the U.S. military will be offset by a stronger economy as well as cuts in other areas, he said. (Reuters)

10/ Trump urges insurers to work together to “save Americans from Obamacare.” Trump met with major health insurers in the midst of political divisions over how to dismantle and replace Obama’s signature health-care law and intensifying public pressure to preserve the policy. He criticized the Affordable Care Act for creating minimal health coverage requirements that restricted the types of plans insurers could sell. (Washington Post)

  • Schumer predicts health-care law “will not be repealed.” Schumer pointed to widespread disagreement among Republicans about how to go about undoing key parts of the law, as well as intense pressure from constituents urging them not to rush ahead with their effort. (Washington Post)

11/ Trump’s silence on deadly Olathe shooting is disquieting. Nearly a week has passed since two India-born engineers were singled out and shot at an Olathe bar, presumably because they were immigrants, darker in skin tone and possibly viewed by the shooter as unwanted foreigners. (Kansas City Star)

UPDATE:

White House condemns Kansas attack, calling it “racially motivated.” The comments are the most direct the White House has made on the incident. (CNN)

12/ New NSC chief pushed Trump to moderate his language on terrorism, urging him to stop using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” The phrase, however, will be in Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress tonight — even though McMaster reviewed drafts and his staff pressed the president’s speechwriter not to use it. (Politico)

13/ Trump signed off on checking White House staffers’ phones to make certain they weren’t communicating with reporters by text message or through encrypted apps. The decision sent a signal across the administration that Trump is furious at leaks from inside the White House. (CNN)

14/ Trump appears to blame generals for SEAL’s death in Yemen raid. Trump highlighted that the controversial raid in Yemen that left one Navy SEAL dead had been a success, and in the works before he took office. He said “they lost” the SEAL — apparently in reference to the generals who planned the mission. (The Hill)

poll/ Trump is delivering on his campaign promises. 56% of registered voters say that Trump is staying true to his 2016 campaign message. 65% say Trump has accomplished what was expected of him — or more. Overall, half of voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 45% disapprove. (Politico)

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