👋 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/ Russians discussed having potentially “derogatory” information about the Trump team during the campaign. Intercepted communications suggest that the Russians believed “they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information.” (CNN)
2/ Michael Flynn will turn over some business records to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Flynn initially refused to cooperate with a Senate subpoena, claiming his constitutional right against self incrimination. The committee then subpoenaed records from two of his businesses, which cannot be shielded by the Fifth Amendment. (Wall Street Journal)
3/ The Russia investigation now includes Trump’s personal attorney. Michael Cohen turned down invitations from the House and Senate investigators “to provide information and testimony” about any contacts he had with people connected to the Russian government. He said he’ll “gladly” testify if Congress subpoenas him. (ABC News / CNN / New York Times)
4/ Investigators are examining why Kushner met with a Russian banker during the transition and what they wanted from each other. It is not clear if Kushner wanted to use the banker as a go-between or whether it was part of the effort to establish a direct, secure line to Putin. The banker, Sergey Gorkov, is a close associate of Putin. (New York Times)
5/ James Clapper says Russia “absolutely” meddled in the 2016 election. The former director of national intelligence said there has never been a case of election interference more aggressive than what happened in 2016. He added, however, that it’s unclear if the “interference actually affected the outcome of the election.” (CNN)
6/ Kellyanne Conway called Kushner’s Russian backchannel “regular course of business.” Former national security officials have said that backchannels are out of the norm for a presidential transition and that could possibly be illegal. (Politico)
7/ Trump called for the Senate to end the filibuster so his agenda could pass “fast and easy.” Eliminating the filibuster would allow legislation to pass with a simple majority (51 votes), rather than the 60 votes currently needed for a bill to pass the Senate. (The Hill)
8/ The White House communication director resigned after three months. Mike Dubke’s exit comes as Trump weighs larger staff changes in an effort to contain the deepening Russia scandal. Dubke stepped down as communications director on May 18, but offered to stay through Trump’s first foreign trip, which just ended. (Politico / Axios)
9/ Intelligence briefings must be short and full of “killer graphics” in Trump’s administration. The daily briefings are so casual and visually driven – maps, charts, pictures, and videos – that the CIA director and director of national intelligence are worried Trump may not be retaining all the intelligence he is presented. Rank-and-file staffers are “very worried about how do you deal with him and about sharing with him sensitive material.” (Washington Post)
10/ A Texas lawmaker threatened to shoot a colleague after reporting protesters to ICE. Representative Matt Rinaldi called ICE on “several illegal immigrants” after seeing signs in the gallery at the State Capitol that read, “I am illegal and here to stay.” Rinaldi then threatened to shoot a lawmaker who objected. (New York Times / NPR)
11/ Trump called for more spending on health care so it’s “the best anywhere.” Trump’s budget proposal from last week called for cuts between $800 billion and $1.4 trillion in future spending on Medicaid, in addition to cuts in healthcare programs for low-income children. His budget did not propose new healthcare spending. (Washington Post)
12/ Trump is expected to roll back Obamacare’s birth control coverage for religious employers. The White House is reviewing a draft rule to provide “conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate,” which would undo the required free contraception requirement from the Affordable Care Act. (New York Times / Washington Post)
13/ Trump’s budget proposal wants the poor to work for their government benefits by enabling states to apply for waivers to add work requirements. Currently, states can’t force Medicaid recipients to work. While the food stamp program contains an employment requirement, it is often waived. Both would change if the budget is passed. (CNN Money)
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