👋 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/ Sean Spicer is searching for his own replacement as he’s expected to transition to a behind-the-scenes role overseeing communications strategy – senior to both the communications director and press secretary. Spicer’s deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has frequently replaced him in the daily press briefings as he’s slowly retreated from public view over the past month. He’s often caught between striving for the respect of the press corps and Trump’s erratic tweets. (Politico / Bloomberg / Washington Post)
2/ Steve Bannon explains the change in Spicer’s role: “Sean got fatter.” The White House has pared back the daily press briefings, downgrading them from “briefings” to “gaggles,” and from on-camera to off-camera. They are now shorter and less frequent. (The Atlantic)
3/ Spicer hasn’t talked to Trump about whether Russia interfered in the election. The US intelligence community concluded that Russia orchestrated a hacking and influence campaign to swing the election in Trump’s favor. “I have not sat down and asked him about the specific reaction,” Spicer said. “I’d be glad to touch base with him and get back to you.” Trump’s repeatedly raised doubts about their conclusions. (Politico / The Hill)
4/ The Senate will vote on their health care bill next week, despite not having enough support to pass it. The Senate will release the bill’s text Thursday, with the CBO expected to score its impact on the federal budget and insurance coverage by early next week. The Senate could hold a vote next Thursday, before lawmakers leave for the July 4th recess. Failure to vote by then would open Republican lawmakers up to pressure from constituents at town-hall meetings. (Wall Street Journal / BuzzFeed News)
- Democrats held the Senate floor last night to spotlight Republicans behind-the-scenes efforts to repeal Obamacare. Democrats criticized the closed-door meetings using series of floor motions, inquiries, and lengthy speeches to highlight what Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called “the most glaring departure from normal legislative procedure that I have ever seen.” (Reuters / ABC News)
- Here’s what we know about the Senate health-care bill. The blurry outlines of an Obamacare overhaul are coming into focus as Senate Republican leaders prod their members toward a health-care vote next week. (Washington Post)
5/ Trump’s pick for FBI Director removed a past case involving the Russian government from his law firm bio at King and Spalding. Christopher Wray made the edit on January 12, when he was not considered for the FBI Director job, “or any position in government.” Wray’s law firm has worked closely with the Russian the energy sector, representing companies in deals with the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft and Gazprom. (CNN)
6/ Wray billed New Jersey taxpayers more than $2.1 million while representing Chris Christie during the Bridgegate trial for legal charges and expenses. The public wasn’t aware that Wray was working for Christie for almost two years. Christie hasn’t said whether he recommended Wray for the FBI job. (WYNC)
7/ Michael Flynn failed to report a business trip to Saudi Arabia where he represented US and Russian state-sponsored companies, and Saudi financing interests to build 16 nuclear power plants a congressional letter issued Monday shows. The letter questions why Flynn failed to mention one trip and underreported a second for the renewal of his federal security clearance. It also questions why Flynn failed to mention “any of these contacts with Saudi or other foreign officials on his security clearance application or during his interview with security clearance investigators.” (McClatchy – DC)
8/ The FBI is investigating Flynn’s former business partner and looking at whether payments from foreign clients were lawful. The now-defunct Flynn Intel Group received payments by three Russian companies and the Netherlands-based company Inovo. (Reuters)
9/ Robert Mueller adds a witness-flipping expert to his team. Andrew Weissmann is best known for gaining witness cooperation in the Enron investigation. He previously headed the Justice Department’s criminal fraud unit. (Reuters)
10/ Rex Tillerson has a three-point plan for future US-Russia relations in an effort to seek constructive working relationship with Putin on a limited set of issues. Step 1: Tell Moscow that aggressive actions against the US are a losing proposition. Step 2: Engage on issues that are of strategic interest to the US. Step 3: Emphasize the importance of “strategic stability” regarding geopolitical goals. (BuzzFeed News)
11/ The House health care plan is unpopular in three states where a Republican Senator will have a swing vote. 31% of Nevada voters, 35% of West Virginia voters, and 29% of Alaska voters approve of the AHCA. (Axios)
poll/ 81% of Americans don’t want Trump to interfere with the Mueller probe. Trump’s approval rating stands at 36%, his lowest in the CBS News Polls since becoming president. 57% percent now disapprove. (CBS News)
poll/ 18% of Americans support Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. 44% of Americans are “very concerned” and 26% are “moderately concerned” that withdrawing from the agreement will hurt the country’s standing in the world. 64% of Americans disapprove of how Trump is handling the issue of climate change, with 34% approving. (Associated Press)
poll/ 73% of Americans feel the current tone of politics is encouraging violence. 68% say the tone and level of civility in politics is getting worse. (CBS News)
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