👋 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/ Obama warned then-President-elect Trump in November against hiring Michael Flynn as his national security adviser. Obama, who had fired Flynn as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Trump that he would have profound concerns about Flynn becoming a top national security aide. Trump hired Flynn anyway, only to fire him 24 days later when news broke that Flynn had lied to Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, amid an ongoing investigation into connections between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. The warning, which has not been previously reported, came less than 48 hours after the November election when the two sat down for a 90-minute conversation in the Oval Office. (CNN / New York Times / NBC News)
2/ Sally Yates said she warned the White House that Flynn could be “blackmailed” by Russia, and gave the White House a warning “so that they could take action.” The former acting attorney general’s testimony raises questions about how Trump responded to her concerns about Flynn, who wasn’t fired until two weeks later. Former director of national intelligence James Clapper also testified, saying Russia launched “cyber operations” against the Democratic and Republican parties during the 2016 presidential campaign. He said Putin sought to “advantage” Trump’s campaign and confirmed that British intelligence officials shared “very sensitive” information about Russian connections to Trump’s campaign. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)
Flynn was warned by the Trump transition team about the risks of his contacts with the Russian ambassador weeks before the December call that led to Flynn’s forced resignation. Officials were so concerned that Flynn did not fully understand the motives of the Russian ambassador that the head of Trump’s national security council transition team asked Obama administration officials for a classified CIA profile of Kislyak. The document was delivered within days, but it is not clear that Flynn ever read it. (Washington Post)
Flynn never told the Defense Intelligence Agency that Russians paid him. Flynn was paid nearly $34,000 by a Russian state media outlet when the DIA renewed his security clearance in April 2016. (NBC News)
Sally Yates testified today before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The hearing was Yates’s first appearance on Capitol Hill since her firing in January and is expected to fill in details about what and when she told the Trump White House in regard to Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia. (CNN / Associated Press / Washington Post)
Hearing may shed light on what White House knew about Flynn. (New York Times)
3/ Trump’s revised travel ban goes before a federal appeals court today. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals will examine the ruling that blocks the administration from temporarily barring new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It’s the first time an appeals court will hear arguments on the revised travel ban, which is likely destined for the Supreme Court. If the court sides with Trump, the travel ban will remain blocked unless the president also wins in another appeals court: the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will meet next Monday to hear arguments in that case. (Associated Press / CNN)
4/ Trump’s call for a Muslim ban was deleted from his campaign site shortly after Sean Spicer was pressed on why the plan was still there by a reporter. The site had a press release from then-candidate Trump’s call for the “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the US until the government could “figure out what is going on.” A US district court judge in March said he found “the history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the purpose of the second executive order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban.” The Trump administration has argued that the order is not a Muslim ban, but rather a travel ban. (CNN / Washington Post)
5/ The EPA dismissed half of its scientific advisers on a review board, which provides guidance on whether research has sufficient rigor and integrity. The move, which Scott Pruitt cited as his desire to make a “clean break” with the Obama administration, came as a surprise to members of the board, who had been informed both in January and recently by EPA career staff members, that they would be kept on for another term. (Washington Post / New York Times)
6/ Trump expressed his “unwavering support” for historically black colleges after the White House announced that it would treat a program that helps HBCUs get low-cost loans “in a manner consistent with the (Constitutional) requirement to afford equal protection of the laws.” (Washington Post)
7/ Macron wins French presidency, bringing relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval would follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Trump’s election. Macron won 66% of the votes compared to just under 34% for Le Pen - a gap wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had suggested. (Reuters)
- Macron faces many domestic challenges in translating his centrist promises into policy. He laid the groundwork Monday for his transition to power, announcing a visit to Germany and a name change for his political movement and appearing with his predecessor at a solemn World War II commemoration. (New York Times / Associated Press)
- The French National Front will change its name after Le Pen’s defeat. The far-right leader said that her party would undergo a “profound transformation” after its heavy loss to Emmanuel Macron. (Politico)
8/ An Idaho congressman told his constituents “nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” The republican representative drew criticism after a town hall where he responded to a question suggesting that the lack of health care was essentially asking people to die. (Idaho Statesman)
9/ The Texas governor signed a “sanctuary cities” ban into law while broadcasting on Facebook Live. The measure threatens law-enforcement officials with jail time if they don’t cooperate with federal agencies in cracking down on undocumented immigrants. Dubbed a “Show Me Your Papers” law, it allows police to inquire about a person’s immigration status, which has been condemned by Democrats and human-rights groups as legalized discrimination. (Texas Observer)
10/ Kushner’s sister is promising Chinese investors a path toward US residency in exchange for putting $500,000 into a New Jersey real-estate project. She cited the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program to make her pitch, though critics have accused organizers of the event of playing up their ties to the White House. (New York Times)
- Jared Kushner’s family apologized for name dropping in its pitch to Chinese investors. Nicole Kushner Meyer mentioned the name of Trump’s son-in-law when seeking more than $150m from wealthy Chinese for New Jersey real estate project. (The Guardian)
11/ Obama called on members of Congress to exercise the “political courage” to save the Affordable Care Act. In his first public comments about the law since the House voted to repeal it, Obama urged Republicans to be guided by a personal standard of ethics and integrity. “It takes great courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm.” (NPR / Politico)
12/ Trump has privately expressed regret with his choice of national security adviser, complaining during intelligence briefings about General H.R. McMaster “undermining” of his policy and screaming at McMaster on a phone call, accusing him of undercutting efforts to get South Korea to pay its fair share. On policy, Steve Bannon is convinced McMaster is trying to trick Trump into the kind of nation building that he campaigned against, while Reince Priebus is blocking McMaster on a key appointment. (Bloomberg)
13/ White House advisors asked Canadians to call Trump to talk him down from scrapping NAFTA. Staff reached out to the Canadian Prime Minister’s office to get Justin Trudeau to call Trump and lobby for NAFTA in what the paper calls with some understatement an “unconventional diplomatic manoeuvre.” (National Post / Axios)
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