👋 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 and the White House intensify their war on the media. It started with Trump tweeting about a “failing” New York Times story suggesting he was detached from the effort to overhaul the health care bill. He called the story false and said the Times didn’t call for a comment. The Times responded saying they did call – as they always do. (CNN)
2/ Later, Trump tweeted that the “FAKE NEWS” Washington Post is the “guardian of Amazon” for taxes purposes. Amazon doesn’t own the newspaper. It’s privately owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. There is no federal “internet tax.” Fake news. (Politico / Recode)
3/ Mitch McConnell wants to send a revised version of the health care bill to the CBO by Friday, in an effort to hold a vote before the August recess. Trump teased that “a big surprise” could be coming in the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, suggesting that Senate Republicans are “going to get at least very close” to passing their health care bill. It’s unclear if Trump even knows what’s in the Senate bill. When asked by reporters if Trump understood the details, McConnell ignored the question and smiled. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times)
4/ An estimated 208,500 additional deaths could occur by 2026 under the Senate health plan, based on the study of the effects of health care reform in Massachusetts on mortality. The authors found that for every 830 individuals insured, one life was saved. 14 million Americans could lose their health insurance in 2018 and 22 million by 2026, the CBO projects. Using state-level coverage losses and the findings of the study, it’s estimated that 22,900 excess deaths would occur in 2020 and grow to 26,500 extra deaths by 2026. [Editor’s Note: there’s some obvious nuance here and it’s recommended you read the entire article to fully grasp the potential impact of the health care bill on mortality] (Vox)
5/ Trump’s advisers are struggling to convince him that Russia still poses a threat. There is no paper trail – schedules, readouts or briefing documents – to indicate Trump has dedicated time to the issue. He has, however, continued to tweet about Obama failing to stop Russian meddling in the election. Trump has repeatedly blamed the Democratic National Committee, China, and “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds” for election-related cyberattacks. (CNN)
6/ Trump’s lawyer postponed filing a complaint about Comey and his memos in what Trump considered to be an illegal “leak.” Marc Kasowitz, however, still intends to file the complaint with the Justice Department. He has delayed it as a courtesy to Robert Mueller and his investigation, which Trump has repeatedly called a “witch hunt.” Trump has also refrained from publicly criticizing the special counsel lately as part of his legal team’s approach to reducing further confrontation. (Bloomberg)
7/ Paul Manafort’s consulting firm received more than $17 million from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. In Manafort’s retroactive registration as a foreign agent, he indicated that he was retained by the Party of Regions to advise Ukrainian officials in their dealings with American government officials. The report makes Manafort the second former senior Trump adviser to disclose work for foreign interests. Michael Flynn was the other. (New York Times / Bloomberg / Washington Post)
8/ Trump tapped the lawyer that helped draft the Patriot Act for the top State Department role. If confirmed, Jennifer Newstead would serve as the State Department’s top legal adviser, overseeing issues involving foreign policy and security, as well as playing a key role in justifying the use of military force, how to apply the laws of war to cyber attacks, determining what represents a military coup, and more. The Patriot Act was amended in 2015 after years of criticism from civil liberties groups that it violated Americans’ privacy. (BuzzFeed News)
9/ The FBI interviewed at least a dozen employees of a Russia-based cyber-security company, gathering facts about how Kaspersky Lab works, including to what extent the US operations report to Moscow. Kaspersky has long been of interest to the US government, whose founder graduated from the KGB-backed Institute of Cryptography, Telecommunications, and Computer Science. Kaspersky Lab paid former national security adviser Michael Flynn $11,250 in 2015 for cyber security consulting. (NBC News)
10/ The computer system of at least one US nuclear plant was hacked. There is no evidence that any sensitive or operational systems were breached. Authorities have not said who may be responsible, but agencies are looking at the possibility that another country may be behind the hack. (ABC News)
11/ Fox News hired Jason Chaffetz to provide political analysis. In May, Chaffetz announced that he he would resign from Congress to pursue other opportunities. His congressional job ends Friday and will start his role at Fox on July 1. (The Daily Beast / The Hill)
poll/ 16% of American voters support the Republican health care plan, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll. 58% disapprove. (Quinnipiac University)
poll/ 12% of Americans support the Senate Republican health care plan, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds. 53% say Congress should either leave Obamacare alone or fix its problems while keeping the framework intact. (USA Today)
In a word, not good.
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