👋 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 tweets: The reports of my “phony collusion with the Russians” have been greatly exaggerated. Trump’s twitter tirade this morning essentially confirms yesterday’s news that special counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice. Nevertheless, Trump persisted: “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history”. (CBS News / New York Times / Washington Post / New York Daily News)
- The three prongs of Mueller’s Russia investigation explained. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, attempts to obstruct justice, and any possible financial crimes. (Washington Post)
- Mueller is examining whether Trump obstructed justice. The special counsel investigation has expanded to look into president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey. (Wall Street Journal)
- The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee wants obstruction to be part of House Russia probe. Adam Schiff is negotiating with his Republican counterpart about whether to investigate Trump for obstruction of justice as part of the panel’s Russia investigation. (Politico)
- The Senate intelligence committee won’t investigate whether Trump obstructed justice, leaving the criminal inquiry to special counsel Robert Mueller. (CNN)
- Putin – jokingly – offered Comey asylum during a marathon phone-in session with the Russian people. (The Guardian)
2/ Aides blame Trump for the obstruction of justice probe: “The president did this to himself” and “shot himself in the foot again with this cockamamie scheme to get Mueller to play ball” by spreading rumors that Trump might fire the special counsel. Senators, White House aides, former prosecutors, and FBI veterans are urging Trump not to do it, as firing Mueller now would require him to personally direct the Department of Justice to do so, which “could be shown that his purpose was to impede the investigation” and “could be additional evidence of obstruction of justice.” (The Daily Beast)
3/ Pence hired outside counsel to help with House and Senate committee inquiries, and the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. (Washington Post)
4/ Trump revised his travel ban to address arguments that it would expire today. Under the ban’s original wording, it would last “for 90 days from the effective date of this order.” A separate provision set the effective date as March 16, meaning the ban would have expired June 14. The administration is arguing that the court orders blocking the ban had implicitly delayed the effective date. (Bloomberg)
5/ A GOP congressman wants members of Congress to “curtail” their town halls after the Scalise shooting “until we agree that we need to be more civil.” In addition to yesterday’s shooting, Lou Barletta cited “those town halls where the police had to carry people out” as a safety concern and reason to cut back on hosting town hall forums. (CNN)
6/ Dennis Rodman gave Kim Jong Un a copy of Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal.” Rodman may be the only person in the world who has personal relationships with both Trump and the North Korean supreme leader. (Washington Post / CNN)
7/ The Australian Prime Minister mocked Trump in a speech. Malcolm Turnbull’s told a room of journalists, advisers, and politicians that “the Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls. We are winning so much! We are winning like we have never won before. We are winning in the polls. We are! Not the fake polls. Not the fake polls. They’re the ones we’re not winning in. We’re winning in the real polls.” (CNN / Wall Street Journal)
8/ Despite being investigated by the FBI, Paul Manafort is still offering prospective business partners access to Trump. Manafort consulted on a proposal for a Chinese construction billionaire. A lawyer involved in discussions said, “He’s going around telling people that he’s still talking to the president and — even more than that — that he is helping to shape Trump’s foreign policy.” Trump’s former campaign chairman is at the center of the FBI investigation into ties between Trump’s team and the Russians. (Politico)
9/ The Energy Department closed its office working on climate change abroad. The office was formed in 2010 to help the United States provide technical advice to other nations seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (New York Times)
10/ Trump ordered the government to stop working on the Y2K bug, 17 years after year 2000 came and went.
Federal workers still report on preparedness for the Y2K bug, consuming some 1,200 man-hours every year. [Editor’s note: I misunderstood this statistic. It was attributed to other, pointless paperwork. The Y2K requirements are often ignored in practice.] (Bloomberg)
poll/ 41% of Republicans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the US, down 17% since May. (Gallup)
poll/ 50% of the CEOs, business leaders, government officials and academics gave Trump an “F” for his first 130 days in office. 21% gave Trump’s performance a “D” and just 1% gave him an “A.” (CNN Money)
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