👋 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/ Jared Kushner told a closed-door Senate Intelligence Committee “Let me be very clear: I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.” Kushner said he was unaware that the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer was about providing the Trump campaign with damaging information about Hillary Clinton. He added: “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses and I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information.” Kushner was not under oath for the Senate meeting. He will speak to the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow. (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press)
- Jared Kushner’s statement on Russia to congressional committees. (CNN)
2/ Kushner’s statement included details of a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador from April 2016. Kushner met Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC in April 2016 – the same event where Jeff Sessions met with the Kislyak, but didn’t remember. Kushner blamed the omission on his security clearance forms as a mistake made by his assistant. (Wall Street Journal / Politico)
3/ Trump pressured Republican senators to get on board and “do the right thing” and repeal Obamacare, saying: “Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling America that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare.” Earlier, he threatened Republicans that the “repercussions will be far greater” than they expect and that Republicans are doing “very little to protect their President.” Mitch McConnell wants to move ahead with a procedural vote tomorrow to take up the health care bill. If he can find 50 votes, the Senate would begin debate on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. (New York Times / Reuters / Politico / The Hill)
- The Trump administration scrapped Obamacare signup assistance in 18 cities. People will now have 45 days to shop for 2018 coverage, starting Nov. 1 and ending Dec. 15. They previously had twice that much time. (CNBC)
4/ A Texas Republican congressman blamed “some female senators from the Northeast” for the health care bill’s issues. Blake Farenthold said it’s “absolutely repugnant” that Susan Collins, Shelley Moore, and Lisa Murkowski have failed to show the courage to dismantle the health care law. “If it was a guy from south Texas,” Farenthold said. “I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.” Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. (NBC News / BBC)
5/ Trump wants to know why “beleaguered” Jeff Sessions isn’t investigating Clinton. On Saturday, Trump tweeted that “so many people” were asking why Sessions was not looking into Clinton and her deleted emails despite Trump telling the Justice Department they should not investigate Clinton after he won the election. Last week, Trump said he never would have nominated Sessions if he knew he intended to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. (CNN / New York Times)
6/ Trump floated the possibility of bringing in Rudolph Giuliani to head the Justice Department after sandbagging Sessions in recent days. Giuliani was an early Trump supporter, raising questions about his independence, and making it hard to find 50 Republicans senators to confirm him. (Axios)
7/ After Trump’s rebuke of Sessions, Rex Tillerson could resign from his role. Tillerson has expressed growing frustration with the Trump administration and sees Trump’s public attacks on Sessions as unprofessional. Tillerson has told friends outside of Washington that he’s determined to stay on the job at least through the end of the year. (CNN)
8/ Scaramucci: Trump is unconvinced that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election. The new communications director said Trump doesn’t accept the intelligence community’s conclusion that the Russian government attempted to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Trump. Trump tweeted: “As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!” (CNN)
9/ Kellyanne Conway says Russia is “not a big story” and that Trump “doesn’t think he’s lying” about voter fraud and wiretapping. Conway claimed that the media doesn’t offer “complete coverage” of the Trump administration and that it’s “incredibly unfair and systematically against this president.” Trump has claimed that millions have voted illegally and accused Obama of wiretapping him — despite having no proof of it happening. Conway said Trump “doesn’t think he’s lying about those issues.” (CNN / Salon)
10/ Trump’s pick to lead the DOJ’s criminal division disclosed that he once represented a Putin-tied Russian bank while working for a US law firm. Brian Benczkowski is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a confirmation hearing tomorrow. Alfa Bank is one of Russia’s largest financial institutions, whose owners have ties to Putin. Benczkowski previously worked in the Justice Department during the Bush era. (New York Times)
11/ Scaramucci outs Trump as his anonymous source while disputing the conclusion that Russian meddled in the election. “Somebody said to me yesterday — I won’t tell you who — that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those emails, you would have never seen it, you would have never had any evidence of them,” Scaramucci said. After meeting with Putin in Germany, Trump said that “somebody did say” that if Putin did order the hacking, “you wouldn’t have found out about it.” Trump didn’t say who that “somebody” was but called the idea “a very interesting point.” (The Hill / New York Times / Reuters)
12/ To slow White House leaks Scaramucci plans to fire everybody. “If you’re going to keep leaking, I’m going to fire everybody.” He called leaking information “un-American,” “unprofessional and harmful.” (CBS News)
13/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders should use the hair and makeup person from Friday’s briefing, Scaramucci says on live TV. “I want to do everything I can to make her better at that podium… Like every athlete that’s training for the Olympics, every day we got to make ourselves incrementally better,” Scaramucci said. “The only thing I ask Sarah, Sarah if you’re watching, I loved the hair and makeup person that we had on Friday. So I’d like to continue to use the hair and makeup person,” Scaramucci added. (The Daily Beast / Washington Post)
this guy, who hasn't started working at the White House, will be fired before Labor Day https://t.co/hrzPiHBTKN— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) July 23, 2017
For the record, I was referring to my hair and make up and the fact that I like the make up artist. I need all the help I can get! #humor— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) July 23, 2017
poll/ Trump averaged a 50% or higher job approval rating in 17 states from January to June. And now, let the wild rumpus start: West Virginia (60% approval), North Dakota (59%), South Dakota (57%), Montana (56%), Wyoming (56%), Alabama (55%), Oklahoma (54%), Kansas (53%), Kentucky (53%), Arkansas (53%), and Idaho (53%). (Gallup)
poll/ Americans are split – 42%-42% – over whether Trump should be removed from office. 46% say Trump won’t complete his first term, while 27% are confident that he’ll serve all four years of his term. A third said they would be upset if Trump was impeached, while an equal third said they would be upset if he’s not. (USA Today)
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