👋 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/ The Trump administration demanded that Russia stop supporting the Syrian government with military aid and diplomatic cover. Rex Tillerson is set to meet in Moscow this week and says Russia bears partial responsibility for the chemical attack on villagers. The Kremlin said Putin has no plans to meet with the secretary of state. (Washington Post)
- McCain: administration rhetoric is “partially to blame” for chemical attack in Syria. He disagrees with Tillerson’s position that the US needs to concentrate on defeating ISIS before it can further address Assad’s purported brutality against his own people, saying ISIS and Assad are “totally connected” issues. (CBS News)
- Spicer: Trump’s foreign policy is still “America first,” calling the potential proliferation of chemical weapons a national security threat to Trump’s America-first. (Politico)
2/ Tillerson is taking a hard line against Russia on the eve of his first diplomatic trip to Moscow. He called the country “incompetent” for allowing Syria to hold on to chemical weapons and accused Russia of trying to influence elections in Europe using the same methods it employed in the US. (New York Times)
- Tillerson: US will hold nations accountable for atrocities. Russia’s support of the Syrian regime has made it complicit in Assad’s actions, Tillerson said. (CNN)
- US air strike gives Tillerson a boost for Moscow talks. (Reuters)
3/ Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as Supreme Court justice. It’s taken more than a year of partisan fighting to get to this day. Obama nominated federal Judge Merrick Garland on March 16, 2016, but Republicans refused to consider Garland in the Senate, arguing that the next president should choose the nominee. (ABC News)
4/ The Office of Management and Budget will send a “guidance” letter to agencies ordering them to plan for big cuts. Agencies will likely consider selling real estate, laying off personnel, and eliminating programs deemed redundant in an effort to make themselves significantly smaller and less costly. (Axios)
5/ Trump scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on and is going back to the drawing board in a search for Republican consensus behind legislation to overhaul the US tax system. White House aides say the goal is to cut tax rates sharply enough to improve the economic picture in depressed rural and industrial pockets of the country where many Trump voters live. (Associated Press)
6/ Trump prepares order to expand offshore oil drilling, reversing an Obama-era policy that restricted the activity. The order is set to schedule the sale of new offshore oil and natural gas rights in US Atlantic and Arctic waters. The order is also expected to revoke former Obama’s decision to indefinitely withdraw most US Arctic waters and some Atlantic Ocean acreage from future leasing. (Bloomberg)
7/ Spanish police arrested a Russian programmer for alleged involvement in “hacking” the US election. Pyotr Levashov was arrested in Barcelona and was the subject of an extradition request by the US. (BBC)
8/ Trump makes nice with the Koch brothers, stopping by the table of the billionaire brothers while they were eating dinner at Mar-a-Lago. (Politico)
9/ Kushner and Bannon agree to “bury the hatchet.” Reince Priebus told the feuding pair to end the “palace intrigue” after weeks of damaging infighting. (The Guardian)
- Breitbart editors tell staffers to stop writing stories critical of Jared Kushner. Kushner had become a target of Breitbart after reports of his feuding with Stephen Bannon, the website’s former executive chairman. (Business Insider)
10/ Three organizations sue Trump for not releasing White House visitor logs. The Secret Service has not provided visitor log information despite FOIA requests. The groups are asking for the records of who is visiting the White House and who Trump is meeting with at his private properties in New York and Florida. (The Hill)
11/ Trump takes credit for Toyota’s planned $1.33 billion investment in an existing US factory. He said Toyota’s investment “is further evidence that manufacturers are now confident that the economic climate has greatly improved under my administration.” The spending plans have been in the works for years. (Bloomberg)
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