👋 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1/ Less than two weeks before Hurricane Harvey, Trump rescinded Obama’s coastal flood protections, which required federal, state, and local agencies to take steps to protect infrastructure from flooding caused by climate change. The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard aimed to “reduce the risk and cost of future flood disasters” and “help ensure federal projects last as long as intended.” (HuffPost)
2/ House Republicans want to cut almost $1 billion from FEMA’s disaster relief fund, which only has $2.3 billion remaining in its budget. Trump, meanwhile, is promising billions to help Texas rebuild from Harvey-caused flooding. The $876 million cut pays for roughly half the cost of Trump’s down payment on the border wall. (Associated Press)
3/ Contrary to reports, Mattis did not “freeze” the transgender ban. USA Today reported that the defense secretary would delay the implementation of Trump’s directive and “allow” transgender troops to continue serving in the military while the Pentagon studied the issue. Instead, Mattis is doing what Trump directed him to do in his memo, which ordered the secretary of defense and the secretary of homeland security, to “determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military.” Mattis has until February 21st to submit a plan for implementing the new policy. (Salon / Vox)
4/ The Kremlin confirmed that Trump’s personal lawyer reached out during the 2016 presidential campaign requesting assistance on a stalled Trump Tower real estate project in Moscow. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said they received Michael Cohen’s email, but the Kremlin didn’t reply. Peskov said that he had seen the email but that it was not given to Putin. (Associated Press / Washington Post)
5/ The Senate Intelligence Committee wants Michael Cohen to testify as part of its investigation into Russia’s meddling. Cohen has been in the spotlight this week following new revelations about his outreach to Russian officials for help with a proposal for a Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort are also likely to appear for closed-door interviews. Trump Jr. agreed to testify privately before the Senate judiciary committee in the “next few weeks.” (Politico)
6/ Trump called the Senate judiciary committee chairman to pledge policy support for the biofuel ethanol industry, a key issue for Chuck Grassley. The Iowa senator is investigating Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer. (The Guardian)
7/ Trump tweets that “talking is not the answer” when it comes to North Korea. “The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years,” Trump tweeted. “Talking is not the answer!” (CNN)
8/ Mattis contradicted Trump: We’re “never out of diplomatic solutions” on North Korea. Mattis echoed Rex Tillerson’s statement that the US would continue its “peaceful pressure” campaign on Pyongyang, saying “We continue to work together, and the minister and I share responsibility to provide for the protection of our nation our populations and our interests, which is what we are here to discuss today.” (The Hill)
9/ The White House will end an Obama-era policy aimed at addressing pay disparities. The data collection requirement would have required business owners to document how much they pay workers based on their gender, race, and ethnicity. Ivanka Trump, supporting the policy, issued a statement saying: “Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results.” (Wall Street Journal)
10/ A focus group of Pittsburgh-area voters called Trump “outrageous,” “dishonest,” “disappointing,” “narcissistic,” “an abject disappointment,” “unique,” “not ready to be president,” “off the scale,” “crazy,” “unbelievable,” and “contemptible.” Five of the group’s 12 members voted for Trump. (NBC News / Politico)
poll/ 20% of Americans under 30 approve of Trump. Obama’s lowest approval rating for people between ages 18-29 was 42%. (Axios)
poll/ 61% of voters oppose shutting down the government in order to fund Trump’s border wall. 28% support a government shutdown for that purpose. (The Hill)
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