👋 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/ Following Trump’s United Nations speech, North Korea threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific. Kim Jong Un in a statement called Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” who would “pay dearly” for his words, and that North Korea would enact the “highest level of hardline countermeasure in history.” The North Korean foreign minister clarified this phrase, suggesting it could refer to an H-bomb. (Financial Times / New York Times)
- Trump signed an executive order authorizing sanctions on companies and individuals who conduct business with North Korea. The move comes after China’s central bank “told their other banks … to immediately stop doing business” with the country. (NBC News)
2/ After Paul Manafort left the Trump campaign in 2016, the United States placed him under surveillance as part of its early investigation into Russian election interference. The monitoring did not include listening to real-time phone conversations. It is currently unclear when the surveillance was suspended. (Wall Street Journal)
3/ Facebook agreed to turn over to Congress details of ads sold to Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 election. The decision represents a reversal of the company’s previous position. Facebook has already provided the ads and information to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. On Twitter, Trump dismissed potential nefarious Russian use of the social media platform as a “hoax.” (CNN / Washington Post)
- Russia denied having leveraged Facebook to sway the election. Speaking to reporters, a Kremlin spokesman said Russia does “not know … how to place an advert on Facebook. We have never done this, and the Russian side has never been involved in it.” (Reuters)
4/ Trump’s travel ban is set to expire on Sunday, and he is expected to broaden the order. Early reports suggest a new order may include additional countries and not specify an end date. On September 15, Trump tweeted the ban ought to be “far larger, tougher and more specific.” (Reuters / Bloomberg)
5/ Mueller requested phone records related to the statement coordinated aboard Air Force One about the Trump Tower meeting organized by Donald Trump Jr. Mueller also seeks documents related to a May 3 press briefing in which Sean Spicer claimed Trump had full confidence in James Comey. (Comey was fired on May 9.) (Politico)
6/ Trump will roll back existing limits on drone strikes outside conventional battlefields. The move encompasses commando raids, as well. National security advisors are also proposing dismantling a rule that limits kill missions to top militants, instead relaxing the constraint to cover foot soldiers. (New York Times)
7/ In defiance of Trump’s United Nations speech, Iran announced it will continue to strengthen its ballistic missile capabilities. Speaking at a military parade, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran will increase its “military power as a deterrent” and that it “will not seek permission from anyone to defend” itself. (Reuters)
8/ HHS Secretary Tom Price has chartered at least 24 private flights since early May for a total estimated cost of $300,000. While officials have suggested Price only flies private when commercial air travel is not feasible, an analysis of flight data suggests commercial flights that accommodated Price’s schedule were often available. (Politico / Washington Post)
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