👋 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 pulled the US from the Paris climate accord, prioritizing the economy over the environment and global alliances. Trump will stick to the process laid out in the Paris agreement, which will take about four years to complete, leaving a final decision up to American voters in the 2020 election. Trump said the US will “begin negotiations to reenter the Paris accord” to “see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great.” He argued that the Paris agreement would “punish” Americans by instituting “onerous energy restrictions” that stymie economic growth, while leaders around the world said the exit from the accord is an irresponsible abdication of American leadership. The US is the world’s #2 greenhouse-gas producer, and would have accounted for 21% of the total emissions reduced by the accord through 2030. All but two countries — Nicaragua and Syria — signed onto the 2015 accord. (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / Politico / NPR)
White House Memo:
“The Paris Accord is a BAD deal for Americans, and the President’s action today is keeping his campaign promise to put American workers first. The Accord was negotiated poorly by the Obama Administration and signed out of desperation.”
- Al Gore on Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement: “Removing the United States from the Paris Agreement is a reckless and indefensible action. It undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time. (Al Gore)
- Obama: The Trump administration joins a “handful of nations that reject the future,” adding the accord “opened the floodgates” to jobs as opposed to being the economic drag Trump has cast it as. (ABC News)
- Elon Musk quits Trump’s advisory council in response to the US withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. (The Daily Beast)
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
2/ Germany, France and Italy respond: The Paris deal cannot be renegotiated. “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” the leaders of the three countries said in a joint statement. (Reuters)
3/ Congress is examining whether Jeff Sessions had a third undisclosed meeting with Russia’s ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential campaign. During his confirmation hearing on January 10, Sessions testified that he “did not have any communications with the Russians” during the campaign. In March, reports emerged that Sessions met with Kislyak in July and September. He insisted those meetings were part of Senate duties and not the campaign. (CNN)
4/ Senators had asked Comey to investigate Sessions for possible perjury before he was fired by Trump. “We are concerned about Attorney General Sessions’ lack of candor to the committee and his failure thus far to accept responsibility for testimony that could be construed as perjury,” Senators Patrick Leahy and Al Franken wrote to Comey in their first request. The Senators sent requests to Comey and, later, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe in three letters dated March 20, April 28 and May 12. (CNN)
5/ Putin insists Russia never engaged in hacking, but praised Trump’s lack of political background as a good thing. Putin denied any state role, but acknowledged that some individual “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have mounted an attack. He added that Trump is “a straightforward person, a frank person,” which is a political advantage because “he has a fresh set of eyes.” (Associated Press / New York Times)
6/ The former pro-Brexit UKIP leader is a “person of interest” in the FBI investigation into Trump and Russia. Nigel Farage’s relationships with both the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has raised the interest of the FBI. “If you triangulate Russia, WikiLeaks, Assange and Trump associates the person who comes up with the most hits is Nigel Farage. He’s right in the middle of these relationships.” (The Guardian)
7/ The administration is considering returning two Russian diplomatic compounds in NYC and Maryland, which were closed by Obama as punishment for interference in the election. The Trump administration told the Russians that it would give the properties back to Moscow if it would lift the freeze on construction of a new US consulate in St. Petersburg. (Washington Post)
8/ The White House will stop answering questions about the Trump-Russia investigation. Spicer told reporters that any future questions about the investigation would be addressed by Trump’s personal lawyer. (The Hill)
9/ The federal government now requires US visa applicants to provide their last five years’ worth of social media handles, email addresses and phone numbers. They must also provide 15 years of biographical information including addresses, employment and travel history. (Reuters)
10/ Trump exempted his entire senior staff from his own ethics rules, allowing them to work with political and advocacy groups that support the administration. Conway, for instance, can now communicate and meet with organizations that previously employed her consulting firm, while Bannon can talk with Breitbart News, which he chaired until last year. The White House said that the waivers were in the public interest because the administration needed appointees’ expertise on certain issues. (The Daily Beast / Washington Post)
11/ Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday as long as Trump doesn’t block him. Trump could invoke executive privilege and try to prevent testimony from Comey, who is expected to be asked about several conversations he had with Trump. Presidents have a constitutional right to keep discussions a secret in many instances. However, Trump has made it difficult to assert executive privilege by repeatedly and publicly referring to his conversations with Comey. A public session will be held in the morning, followed by a private briefing. (New York Times / Politico)
poll/ A majority of Americans in every state say that the US should participate in the Paris Climate Agreement. 69% of all voters say the US should participate in the agreement, while 47% of Trump voters want the US to participate. (Yale - Climate Change in the American Mind)
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