👋 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/ The White House issued a statement criticizing white supremacists for the violence that led to one death in Charlottesville more than 36 hours after the protests began. It was meant to clarify Trump’s earlier remarks and condemn “all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred” and “of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.” The statement came in an email sent to reporters and attributed to an unnamed representative. Trump had previously said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” (New York Times / CNN)
- Trump Is Criticized for Not Calling Out White Supremacists. He was the only national political figure to spread blame for the “hatred, bigotry and violence” that resulted in the death of one person to “many sides.” (New York Times)
2/ The White House’s clarification stopped short of what Republicans have urged Trump to do: directly call out and condemn white supremacy. Three of Trump’s top advisers attempted to defend his vague statements: Ivanka Trump tweeted: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.” National security adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump was “very clear” in his statement and “called out anyone, anyone who is responsible for fomenting this kind of bigotry, hatred, racism and violence.” And, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Trump was “specific,” “very clear” and, “frankly, pretty unambiguous” in responding to the violence, adding “when someone marches with a Nazi flag, that’s unacceptable, and I think that’s what the president said yesterday.” (Washington Post)
1:2 There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) August 13, 2017
2:2 We must all come together as Americans -- and be one country UNITED. #Charlottesville— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) August 13, 2017
Pence spoke out more forcefully than Trump on Charlottesville, saying: “We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo Nazis or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.” (Washington Post)
Even Anthony Scaramucci criticized Trump’s unwillingness to single out white supremacy groups. “I wouldn’t have recommended that statement,” the former White House communications director said. “I think he needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacists and the nature of that.” (Washington Post)
3/ Contrasting Trump’s reluctance to criticize white supremacists, Jeff Sessions said the “evil attack” in Charlottesville is an act of domestic terrorism. “You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation toward the most serious charges that can be brought because this is unequivocally an unacceptable evil attack.” McMaster added: “Certainly I think we can confidently call it a form of terrorism.” (New York Times / NBC News)
4/ An African-American CEO quit Trump’s advisory council after Trump failed to condemn white supremacists. Kenneth Frazier, Merck’s CEO, is one of just a handful of black CEOs to run a Fortune 500 company. Frazier said: “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy.” Within minutes, Trump attacked him on Twitter, saying Frazier’s resignation will give him “more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” (CNN Money / New York Times / The Hill)
5/ Trump finally denounced white supremacists 48 hours after initially blaming the Charlottesville violence on “many sides,” which prompted nearly universal criticism. “Racism is evil,” Trump said. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” (New York Times / Politico)
6/ In May, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned Trump about the white supremacist movement and that it “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.” The report, titled “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence,” showed that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years. (Foreign Policy)
7/ Special Counsel Bob Mueller wants to interview Reince Priebus. Mueller has been talking with the West Wing about interviewing other current and former senior administration officials about specific meetings, who attended them and whether there are any notes, transcripts or documents about them. Mueller also wants to ask the officials about Trump’s decision to fire James Comey. (New York Times)
8/ A junior Trump campaign adviser repeatedly tried to setup a meeting with Putin. Starting in March 2016, George Papadopoulos sent at least a half-dozen emails to Trump campaign leadership to set up “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump.” He said that his Russian contacts welcomed the opportunity and that he was receiving “a lot of calls over the past month” about arranging a meeting. “Putin wants to host the Trump team when the time is right,” he wrote. Intelligence officials said the messages may have represented a Russian campaign to use lower-level aides to penetrate the 2016 campaign and see if the Trump campaign would be willing to cooperate. (Washington Post)
9/ North Korea’s successful ICBM tests have been linked to a Ukrainian factory with ties to Russia’s Cold War missile program. The engine design on North Korea’s latest missiles match those that once powered the Soviet Union’s missile fleet and are based on a technology too complex for North Korea to have switched to so quickly themselves, a classified report by American intelligence agencies says. The report suggests that North Korea purchased black market rocket engines that were probably from the Ukrainian factory. (New York Times)
10/ Trump believes Steve Bannon is behind the White House leaks targeting McMaster and has considered firing him. West Wing colleagues say Bannon has instigated leaks to members of the far right, like Mike Cernovich, accusing McMaster of having a drinking problem (Trump is teetotaler) and getting the right-wing Zionist Organization of America to accuse McMaster of being anti-Israel. Rupert Murdoch has repeatedly urged Trump to fire Bannon and Scaramucci has said Trump’s “toleration of [white nationalism] by Steve Bannon is inexcusable.” McMaster has refused to say he could work with Bannon. (New York Times / Axios / ABC / CNN)
Sheldon Adelson comes out in support of H.R. McMaster, disavowing a campaign against McMaster by a group Adelson funds, the Zionist Organization of America. (Axios)
A former Trump political adviser warned of consequences for McMaster and Matt Drudge if Steve Bannon is fired. Sam Nunberg said that “if Steve is fired by the White House and a bunch of generals take over the White House there will be hell to pay.” Nunberg is mad that the Drudge Report continues to link to negative stories about Bannon, saying “Matt should understand that people like me can blow him the fook up. F-o-o-k, Conor McGregor. Blow him the fook up [sic].” He added that there will be “serious fucking consequences if he continues this jihad against Steve Bannon” and that he would “blow” McMaster “the fook out [sic],” too. (The Daily Caller)
poll/ Trump’s job approval rating ticked down to 34% – the lowest of his presidency so far. (Gallup)
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