👋 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/ James Comey said he’s “mildly nauseous” at the suggestions he swayed the election. The FBI director defended his “painful” decision on the Clinton email probe during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. “This was terrible,” Comey said. “But honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision,” because failing to inform Congress would have required an “act of concealment” which would have been “catastrophic.” Comey added that Russia is actively involved in trying to influence US politics, emboldened after the outcome of last year’s election, because “this works.” (New York Times / Politico / Associated Press / CNN / CBS News)
2/ A pair of Republican holdouts now back the health care bill. The latest proposal provides $8 billion over five years to help about 160,000 people with pre-existing medical conditions afford coverage by putting “downward pressure” on premium costs. The total individual market claims over those five years will probably be about $500 billion, mostly from people with pre-existing conditions. Republicans are still two or three votes away from being able to guarantee passage, but are pushing for a vote sometime this week. (Bloomberg / Associated Press / New York Times / Axios / Washington Post)
House Republicans plan to vote on their health care plan Thursday. They said they would hold a vote this week only if they felt certain it could pass — meaning they now believe they have the votes. If it passes, it will then face a challenge in the Senate, where widespread disagreement remains among Republicans about how to proceed on health care. (Washington Post)
- The House doesn’t know how many people the health care plan will cover or how much it will cost. The bill to repeal and replace Obamacare hasn’t been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, yet. (Vox)
3/ Trump’s national security adviser described his foreign policy approach as “disruptive.” H.R. McMaster said Trump’s unpredictable and unconventional ways could stabilize the Middle East, because Trump “does not have time to debate over doctrine.” Instead, he seeks to challenge failed policies of the past with a businessman’s results-oriented approach. (Reuters)
4/ Trump weighs how to approach a Middle East conflict while hosting Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House today. The conflict has eluded resolution for seven decades. Trump called it the “ultimate deal” and has tasked Jared Kushner with negotiating the peace agreement. (Bloomberg / NBC News)
- Trump vowed to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace, but offers no new policies. (Reuters)
5/ Trump was “directly involved” in the post-inauguration hunt for the rogue National Park Service tweeter. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Trump was “concerned” about who used the National Park Service Twitter account to retweet a side-by-side comparisons of the crowds at the Trump and Obama inauguration ceremonies. The tweet was deleted. (CBS News)
6/ Trump is expected to sign a long-awaited and highly controversial executive order on religious liberties on Thursday – the National Day of Prayer. A draft of the order, which leaked in February, would establish broad exemptions and legal protections for people and groups to claim religious objections. Civil liberties groups claim it would allow for discrimination against LGBT Americans. (Politico / Fox News / CNN / New York Times)
7/ The NSA collected more than 151 million records of Americans’ phone calls last year, despite Congress limiting its ability to collect bulk phone records. Under the old system, the NSA collected “billions of records per day.” (NBC News / New York Times)
8/ Ben Carson is not a fan of comfortable government housing projects for low-income Americans. Compassion, Carson explained, means not giving people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’” As he toured facilities for the poor in Ohio last week, Carson nodded as officials explained how they had stacked dozens of bunk beds inside a homeless shelter and purposefully did not provide televisions. (New York Times)
9/ Spicer: It’s “somewhat sad” we’re still debating why Trump won. The press secretary hit back at Hillary Clinton’s assertion that she would have won if not for late-in-the-game interference from the FBI and WikiLeaks, saying “you don’t get to pick what day the election is on.” (Politico)
- David Axelrod on Clinton: “It takes a lot of work to lose to Donald Trump.” The Democratic strategist add that “Jim Comey didn’t tell her not to campaign in Wisconsin after the convention. Jim Comey didn’t say don’t put any resources into Michigan until the final week of the campaign.” His advice to Clinton is to move on and stop talking about the election. (The Hill)
- The Comey letter probably cost Clinton the election. The impact of Comey’s letter, at a maximum, might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point. Meaning, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College. (FiveThirtyEight)
10/ Susan Rice declined to testify before the Senate subcommittee on Russian hacking. Republicans have raised concerns that Rice may have acted improperly, but GOP and Democratic lawmakers so far have found no evidence of wrongdoing. (CNN / Politico)
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