👋 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 that he’s under investigation for his role in firing James Comey and accused Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of overseeing the “witch hunt” against him. Rosenstein wrote the memo recommending Comey’s firing, but also approved the appointment of Robert Mueller, the special counsel now leading the Russia investigation. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)
- The greatest threat to Trump and his presidency comes from his own conduct. And his obsessive behavior. (Politico)
2/ Rod Rosenstein urged Americans to “exercise caution” when evaluating stories attributed to anonymous officials. It’s unclear why Rosenstein would issue the statement, but it follows several stories quoting unnamed sources on the direction of the Russia probe. (Washington Post)
3/ Rosenstein privately acknowledged that he may have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Rosenstein told Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department’s new third-in-command, that if he were to recuse himself, she would have to step in and take over the probe. She was sworn-in little more than a month ago. (ABC News)
- Former Bush official Rachel Brand takes over as the Justice Department’s third-highest-ranking official. Brand was confirmed in May. (Washington Post)
4/ Jared Kushner’s finances and business dealings are now part of the Mueller investigation. Kushner joins the list of Trump associates Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page who are now under investigation by FBI agents and federal prosecutors. Kushner has agreed to discuss his Russian contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Washington Post)
5/ The Trump transition team ordered members to preserve Russia-related documents, including records related to Ukraine and certain campaign advisers and officials. The memo says members “have a duty to preserve any physical and electronic records that may be related in any way to the subject matter of the pending investigations.” (New York Times / Politico)
6/ The House Intelligence Committee wants to talk to Trump’s digital director about Russia and possible connections between the Trump team and Russian operatives. Brad Parscale played a critical role on the Trump campaign, directing online spending and voter targeting with the use of a data bank built by the Republican National Committee. (CNN)
7/ The FBI won’t release Comey’s memos because they’re part of a “pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding,” a Freedom of Information Act request revealed. At least one of the memos is unclassified, but wouldn’t because it could “reasonably interfere with enforcement proceedings.” (BuzzFeed News)
8/ The White House is referring questions about a potential Oval Office recording device to outside counsel. A national security attorney suggested that the White House is attempting to defer and deflect the issue for as long as possible. (The Daily Beast)
9/ Trump’s personal lawyer hires his own lawyer to navigate the Russia probe. Michael Cohen’s decision is the latest sign that the Russia probe is intensifying and could end up focusing on many Trump associates, both inside and outside the White House. (Washington Post)
Exclusive: Trump personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has hired his own counsel: Stephen Ryan, of McDermott, Will & Emery.- source w knowledge— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) June 16, 2017
10/ An American lobbyist representing Russian interests contradicted Jeff Sessions’ sworn testimony about not having contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump’s campaign. Richard Burt attended “two dinners with groups of former Republican foreign policy officials and Senator Sessions.” (The Guardian)
11/ Trump picked his family’s event planner to run federal housing programs in New York. Lynne Patton will oversee the distribution of billions of taxpayer dollars despite having no housing experience and claiming to have a law degree the school says she never earned. (NY Daily News)
12/ Senate Republican leaders want to bring their health care bill to the Senate floor by the end of June as disagreements threaten to derail their efforts. Mitch McConnell and a small group of GOP aides are crafting the bill behind closed doors. Earlier this week, Trump called the House version “mean.” The comment has angered House Republicans and its likely damaged his ability to negotiate with them on infrastructure and tax reform. (Washington Post / Axios)
13/ Trump rolled back Obama’s Cuba policy, tightening travel restrictions and blocking business with the island. Trump called it a “completely one-sided deal.” At one point, Trump considered severing diplomatic relations with Cuba. (NBC News / The Hill)
14/ The Pentagon will send about 4,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, the largest deployment of Trump’s presidency. Trump gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to manage troop levels to help Afghanistan’s army against a resurgent Taliban. (Washington Post)
poll/ 65% think Trump has little to no respect for country’s institutions. Only 34% of Americans think Trump has a great deal or a fair amount of respect for them. (The Hill)
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