👋 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/ Writing through an intermediary, Paul Manafort offered to give private briefings to a Russian billionaire during the 2016 campaign. Oleg Deripaska is an aluminum magnate and former business associate of Manafort’s with close ties to the Kremlin. It is unclear if Deripaska received or acted on the offer. (Washington Post)
Manafort also used his Trump campaign email account to communicate with Ukrainian political operative Konstantin Kilimnik, seeking payment for previous consulting work in Ukraine. Kilimnik is suspected to have ties to Russian intelligence operations. Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said it is “no secret” Manafort “was owed money by past clients.” (Politico)
The Department of Justice is seeking documents related to a New York law firm’s handling of a 2012 draft report commissioned by Manafort on Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s report was used by the president’s allies to justify the imprisonment of a Yanukovych rival. The document request may or may not be part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. (New York Times)
2/ Trump is reportedly leaning toward decertifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal reached in 2015. Doing so would force Congress to decide whether the United States will pull out of the agreement. Trump faces international pressure not to withdraw. (NBC News)
3/ Trump pledged to impose new sanctions on North Korea, but did not offer further details. In New York, he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In his United Nations address, Moon called for resolving the nuclear crisis in a “stable manner.” (Bloomberg)
4/ Nicaragua plans to join the Paris Agreement “soon,” leaving the United States and Syria as the only two countries outside the climate pact. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had previously refused to enter the agreement because it did not go far enough in combatting climate change and was “not very strict with the richest nations of the planet.” (Bloomberg / CleanTechnica)
5/ Trump appointed several campaign staffers with no agriculture or policy experience to Department of Agriculture posts. An analysis of documents also suggests some appointees lack the relevant credentials required for their governmental salary levels. In a statement, USDA defended the hires, writing that all “appointees have skills that are applicable to the roles they fill.” (Politico)
6/ In a speech to African leaders at the United Nations, Trump twice mispronounced Namibia as “Nambia” as he praised the country’s health care system. Before later White House clarification, it was unclear if Trump was referring to Namibia, Zambia, or Gambia. In the same speech, Trump said Africa has “tremendous business potential” and that he has “so many friends going to your countries, trying to get rich.” (CNN)
poll/ More than 70 percent of Americans support Trump’s recent deal with Democrats. Less than a quarter support his handling of race relations and the violence in Charlottesville. (NBC News/Wall Street Journal)
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