👋 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/ Trump’s top economic adviser “can’t guarantee” taxes won’t go up for the middle class. Gary Cohn said Trump’s tax plan is “purely aimed at middle-class families,” but “it depends which state you live in.” He added that the rich will not benefit under the plan. Trump wanted to propose a 15% corporate rate rather than the 20% announced, which is down from the current 35%. (ABC News / Axios)
2/ Jared Kushner didn’t disclose the existence of his personal email account to the Senate intelligence committee when he testified in July, which he used from January through August. The chair and vice chair of the committee wrote his attorney, Abbe Lowell, instructing Kushner to double-check that he has turned over all relevant documents to the committee, including those from his personal email account, “as well as all other email accounts, messaging apps, or similar communications channels you may have used, or that may contain information relevant to our inquiry.” (CNN)
3/ Trump waived the shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico, which were limiting access to food, medicine, clothing, and supplies for hurricane relief. The move comes after criticism that the White House had been slow to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. The waiver will be in effect for 10 days and will cover all products being shipped to the island. The State Department evacuated 225 people from the Caribbean island of Dominica, who signed promissory notes agreeing to reimburse the State Department for travel costs. (CNN / Washington Post / The Hill)
The State Department is not requiring anyone evacuated from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to sign promissory notes reimbursing the government for travel costs.
4/ Twitter briefed members of the Senate and House intelligence committees about fake news spread by Russian accounts and what steps the company took to stop it. Twitter told Congress that about 200 accounts are tied to some of the same Russian-linked sources that purchased ads on Facebook. The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee criticized Twitter for failing to aggressively investigate the Russian misuse of its platform beyond the accounts linked to fraudulent profiles already identified by Facebook. Mark Warner said the company’s presentation “showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions and again begs many more questions than they offered.” He added: “Their response was frankly inadequate on every level.” (Recode / New York Times)
An Oxford University study shows there was a higher concentration of misinformation, polarizing political and conspiratorial news shared on Twitter from Russian, WikiLeaks, and junk news sources in the swing states Trump won than in uncontested states. (Oxford Internet Institute)
A Russian hacker who previously worked for Putin’s United Russia party was arrested in Barcelona on a US warrant. Prosecutors charged Peter Levashov with operating a network of tens of thousands of infected computers used by cyber criminals. (Reuters)
5/ The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Facebook, Google, and Twitter to testify on Russian meddling at a public hearing on November 1st. The House Intelligence Committee also wants to hold a public hearing next month with representatives from several unnamed technology companies (hint, hint) in an effort to “better understand how Russia used online tools and platforms to sow discord in and influence our election.” (Reuters / New York Times / Politico)
6/ A Russian-backed group impersonated a real American Muslim organization on Facebook and Instagram to spread misinformation. The United Muslims of America pushed memes that claimed Hillary Clinton admitted the US “created, funded and armed” al-Qaeda and ISIS, claimed that John McCain was ISIS’ true founder, and alleged Osama bin Laden was a “CIA agent.” (The Daily Beast)
7/ Tom Price will repay taxpayers for his private jet travel, saying “I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars.” He added: “The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.” Price has taken at least 26 charter flights costing more than $400,000 since May to conduct official business. Price, however, will only reimburse taxpayers for just under $52,000. Meanwhile, EPA chief Scott Pruitt has taken at least four noncommercial and military flights since mid-February, costing taxpayers more than $58,000. House Democrats introduced legislation to prevent Trump administration officials from using private jets with taxpayers funds. (Politico / Washington Post / The Hill)
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