👋 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/ Mitch McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Trump can salvage his administration. The two have not spoken to each other in weeks and in offhand remarks, McConnell questioned whether Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond. (New York Times)
2/ Trump put forward his strategy for resolving the nearly 16-year-old conflict in Afghanistan last night. He insisted he would “not talk about numbers of troops” needed or telegraph military moves, but hinted that he supports the Pentagon’s proposal to add nearly 4,000 troops to the roughly 8,400 Americans there now. Trump also said the US will shift away from a time-based approach to a results-based approach, declining to specify the benchmarks for success or a timetable for withdrawal. He added, however, that there would be no “blank check” for Afghanistan and that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda.” He described his plan as “principled realism.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press)
3/ Trump’s national security team spent months talking him out of abruptly ending the war in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t a debate,” said a senior White House aide. “It was an attempt to convince the president.” Trump’s acceptance was less a change of heart than a willingness to be persuaded as long as he could be seen as a strong and decisive leader, even if it broke with his “America First” campaign rhetoric. “We are not nation-building again,” Trump said in his speech. “We are killing terrorists.” National security adviser H.R. McMaster used black-and-white photos from 1972 of Afghan women in miniskirts in an effort to convince Trump that Western norms had existed there before and could return. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)
4/ Trump’s aides are pushing him to protect young children brought to the country illegally despite his campaign promise to deport so-called Dreamers. White House officials want to use the issue as a bargaining chip for a larger immigration deal that offers Dreamers protection in exchange for legislation that pays for a border wall and more detention facilities, curbs legal immigration and implements E-verify, an online system that allows businesses to check immigration status, and more. (McClatchy DC)
5/ The Treasury Department sanctioned China and Russia for assisting North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Six individuals and 10 companies were added to the sanctions list in order to increase economic leverage on North Korea and reduce the flow of money to its weapons development. (Bloomberg / CNBC)
6/ Pro-Trump rallies in 36 states have been canceled. The America First Rallies were scheduled for September 9th, but “out of an abundance of caution” due “to the recent violence in America and in Europe” the rallies will be held as online demonstrations because “citizens cannot peacefully express their opinion without risk of physical harm from terror groups domestic and international.” (Newsweek)
7/ Paul Ryan said Trump “messed up” his response to Charlottesville when he failed to denounce white supremacy and defended them as “fine people.” Ryan said that by blaming “both sides” for last week’s violence, Trump “made comments that are much more morally ambiguous, much more confusing” than he should have. He stopped short of calling on Trump to apologize for his Charlottesville response. (Politico / New York Times)
8/ Pence: the US should be building more monuments, not tearing them down. “I’m someone who believes in more monuments, not less monuments,” Pence told Fox News. “What we ought to do is remember our history,” arguing that America’s monuments should tell the country’s full history. “We ought to be celebrating the men and women who have helped our nation move towards a more perfect union and tell the whole story of America.” (The Hill)
9/ Mitch McConnell said there was “zero chance” Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by late September in order to prevent an unprecedented default. He offered no information about how he hoped to persuade lawmakers to back such a measure. House conservatives have demanded significant spending cuts in return for lifting the debt ceiling. In addition, McConnell will need support from Democrats to increase the debt ceiling, who have not said what kind of bill they would support. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
10/ German police seized 5,000 Trump-shaped ecstasy tablets, worth tens of thousands of euros. (CNN)
11/ An email prankster fooled top editors at Breitbart into believing he was Steve Bannon. The editors pledged to fake Bannon that they would do the “dirty work” against White House aides, including having Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump ousted “by end of year.” (CNN)
12/ The Senate intelligence committee wants Congress to declare WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” which would force spy agencies to release information about Russian threats to the US and open Julian Assange and his pro-transparency organization to new surveillance. The bill passed the committee late last month on a 14-1 vote. (The Daily Beast)
13/ In 214 days, Trump has made 1057 false and misleading claims. Trump averages nearly five false claims a day and more than 30 of his misleading statements have been repeated three or more times. (Washington Post)
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