👋 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/ Trump is considering big changes at the White House in an effort to contain the escalating Russia investigation that threatens to consume his presidency. “Everything is in play,” an advisor said. Trump may bring back a trio of former campaign officials (Corey Lewandowski, David Bossie and David Urban) to handle communications and political duties related to the Russia investigation, and – shockingly – he’s even considering having lawyers vet his tweets. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
2/ Kushner wanted a secret communications channel with the Kremlin so Michael Flynn could discuss strategy in Syria and other security issues directly with senior military officials in Moscow. The channel was never set up, but was proposed by Kushner during an early December meeting at Trump Tower with ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the US for the communications. (Washington Post / New York Times)
- Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, including two phone calls between April and November last year. Kushner’s attorney said his client did not remember any calls with Kislyak between April and November. (Reuters)
- In December Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, a Russian banker and “Putin crony” who is also graduate of a “finishing school” for spies. (NBC News)
3/ Trump has “total confidence” in Jared Kushner, despite coming under fire that he tried to create backchannel with Russia to shield the Trump team from public view. Some Democrats are calling for Trump to revoke Kushner’s security clearances. (New York Times)
4/ National security adviser: “I would not be concerned” by backchannel communications with Russia. H.R. McMaster didn’t specifically comment on the controversy surrounding Kushner. (CNN)
6/ Trump attacks “fake news” for reporting that Kushner had discussed setting up a secret communications channel with the Russians. (New York Times)
7/ The Senate Intelligence Committee wants all of Trump’s Russia-related documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015. It’s the first time that Trump’s official campaign structure has been drawn into the Senate committee’s ongoing bipartisan investigation. (Washington Post)
8/ The Trump campaign likely didn’t preserve digital documents. “You’d be giving us too much credit,” a former aide said. “The idea of document retention did not come up. The idea of some formal structure did not come up.” Failure to keep track of emails, messages and other records could expose Trump’s current and former aides to criminal charges down the line. (Politico)
9/ A Russian oligarch with ties to Paul Manafort wants immunity for cooperating with congressional intelligence committees. The Senate and House panels turned him down because of concerns that immunity agreements will complicate federal criminal investigations. The two did business together in the mid-2000s, when Manafort was providing campaign advice to Kremlin-backed politicians in Ukraine. Oleg Deripaska is a member of Putin’s inner circle. (New York Times)
10/ Trump privately said he plans to leave the Paris agreement on climate change, despite his public position that he hasn’t made up his mind. Leaving the Paris agreement is the biggest thing Trump could do to unwind Obama’s climate policies and signal to the rest of the world that climate change isn’t a priority for his administration. (Axios)
- Exxon CEO urges Trump to keep the US in the Paris climate agreement in a personal letter. (The Financial Times)
11/ Angela Merkel: Europe can no longer “completely depend” on the US after G7 leaders failed to persuade Trump to back the Paris climate accord. “There are no signs of whether the US will stay in the Paris accords or not,” Merkel said. (New York Times)
12/ Trump tweets that North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test showed “great disrespect” to China. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan. (The Hill)
13/ Tourism to the US has declined 11% since Trump took office, hitting a low of 16% in March. (NBC News)
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