👋 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 signed the bill to impose sanctions on Russia and limit his authority to lift them. He expressed concerns that the measure included “a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions,” leaving room for interpretation of how the law is enforced. Trump said he believed the bill to be “seriously flawed,” but signed it anyway. The bill also imposes sanctions on Iran and North Korea. (New York Times / CNN / Bloomberg)
2/ Trump endorsed a Senate bill aimed at slashing immigration levels over a decade and shift the system’s emphasis away from family ties and toward skills. GOP Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue introduced a modified version of their bill, which would cut immigration by half, tighten rules for temporary workers, restrict family-based visas, and cap the refugee program at 50,000 per year. More than 1 million green cards are currently granted per year. The bill faces long odds, as Republicans will have difficulty getting the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster.
“This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” Trump said. “This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.” (Washington Post / CNN / Politico / New York Times)
3/ The Trump Justice Department will sue universities that it deems to have discriminated against white students through their affirmative action admissions policies. The new civil rights division doesn’t explicitly identify who is at risk of discrimination, but says it’ll investigate “intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions” that give an edge to disadvantaged groups over applicants with comparable or higher test scores. The project follows recent conservative Justice Department policy changes on voting rights, gay rights, and police reform. (New York Times)
4/ Trump’s nominee for Agriculture once accused progressives of “enslaving” minorities, called black leaders “race traders,” and labeled Obama a “Maoist” with “communist” roots. Sam Clovis wrote the blog posts in between 2011 and 2012. He’s since deleted the blog and is serving as the senior White House adviser to the USDA. Clovis’ nomination for the chief scientist job at the Department of Agriculture requires Senate confirmation. (CNN)
5/ The House Judiciary Committee has prioritized investigating Hillary Clinton over Russian meddling, Trump’s decision to fire James Comey, and the public attacks on Jeff Sessions. The panel asked Jeff Sessions to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the “troubling, unanswered questions” about Clinton and officials appointed by Obama, after Democrats tried to force a resolution demanding more information on Sessions’s role in Comey’s firing. The House Judiciary Committee would have jurisdiction over any impeachment proceeding. (Bloomberg)
6/ The lawyer in the Fox “fake news” suit wants Trump and Spicer to testify. Rod Wheeler’s lawsuit claims that Fox fabricated quotes implicating DNC staffer Seth Rich in the WikiLeaks scandal. “We’re going to litigate this case as we would any other,” and that means “we’ll want to depose anyone who has information,” including the president, Wheeler’s attorney. (Yahoo News)
7/ Rex Tillerson tells North Korea: “We are not your enemy.” He added that the US does “not seek a regime change, we do not seek a collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th Parallel.” Yesterday, Lindsey Graham said “there is a military option to destroy North Korea’s (missile) program and North Korea itself… (Trump) told me that to my face.” (Washington Post / BBC)
8/ Tillerson won’t spend nearly $80 million allocated for fighting terrorist propaganda and Russian disinformation, despite pleas from State Department officials. $60 million will expire on September 30th if it’s not transferred to the State Department by then. The money is potentially unwelcome because attempts to counter Russian influence would anger Moscow. (Politico)
9/ Senate Republicans are planning to pass their tax plan with just GOP votes. Mitch McConnell will use budget reconciliation in order to sideline Democrats and protect Republicans from a filibuster. McConnell needs just 50 votes to pass his tax reform bill. (Politico)
10/ Trump is considering Rick Perry for Homeland Security secretary. The Energy Secretary would replace John Kelly, who is now Trump’s chief of staff. Perry’s views on immigration don’t align with Trump’s. During Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign, he accused his Republican opponents of not having a “heart” about letting undocumented children of immigrants pay in-state tuition for college. (Bloomberg)
11/ Trump: “That White House is a real dump,” he told members at his Bedminster golf club. He then teed off. (Golf)
12/ Before running for president, Trump threatened to sue “Sharknado 3: Hell No!” for not casting him as president. While Trump wanted to do the film, he was also considering a run for president at the time. After weeks of silence from the Trump camp, producers pulled the part, prompting Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen to threaten action: “He basically said, ‘How dare you? Donald wanted to do this. We’re going to sue you! We’re going to shut the entire show down!’” (Hollywood Reporter)
poll/ 56.3% disapprove of Trump’s job performance. 38.9% approve. (RealClearPolitics)
poll/ 56.9% disapprove of Trump’s job performance. 37.6% approve. (FiveThirtyEight)
poll/ 58.6% disapprove of Trump’s job performance. 38.7% approve. (HuffPost)
poll/ 60% disapprove of Trump’s job performance. 36% approve. (Gallup)
poll/ 61% disapprove of Trump’s job performance. 33% approve. 71% say Trump is not levelheaded. (Quinnipiac)
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