👋 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/ Tom Price resigned as Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary after racking up at least $400,000 in private charter flights. Yesterday, in an effort to satisfy Trump, Price offered to reimburse the government $51,887. Price’s resignation came hours after Trump told reporters he considered Price a “fine man” but that he “didn’t like the optics” and would make a decision about his future by the end of the day. Additionally, Politico reported that Price had used a military aircraft to travel to Africa, Europe, and to Asia earlier this year at a cost of more than $500,000 to taxpayers. The overseas trips bring the total cost of Price’s travels to more than $1 million since May. (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)
- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides have taken several flights on private or military aircraft, including a $12,000 charter plane to take him to events in his hometown in Montana and private flights between two Caribbean islands. (Politico / Washington Post)
2/ The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says the Republican tax plan would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest Americans and businesses. The report found that the average tax bill for all income groups would decline by $1,600 (2.1%) in 2018. Those earning incomes above $730,000 who would see their after-tax incomes rise by an average of 8.5%, or about $129,000, while those earning an average of $66,960 would see their after-tax income rise by 1.2% or about $660. (New York Times)
3/ Trump could personally save about $1.1 billion in taxes under his proposed plan. The analysis is based on Trump’s 2005 federal tax return and his estimated $2.86 billion net worth. In theory, Trump could save about $1.1 billion from repealing the estate tax, $31 million from repealing the alternative minimum tax, about $16 million from changes to certain types of business income, and about $500k from reducing the highest tax rate from 39.6% to 35%. (New York Times)
4/ Trump’s top economic adviser suggested that a family of four earning $100,000 can expect to save $1,000 a year in taxes – enough to “renovate their kitchen. They can buy a new car. They can take a family vacation. They can increase their lifestyle.” Yesterday, Gary Cohn said he “can’t guarantee” taxes won’t go up for the middle class” and “the wealthy are not getting a tax cut” under Trump’s tax plan. Cohn is worth an estimated $266 million. (HuffPost)
Uh, Gary Cohn (who is worth several hundred million dollars) thinks it costs $1000 to buy a new car (or renovate your kitchen) pic.twitter.com/6IwRDgGSCN— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) September 28, 2017
5/ Senate Republicans released their budget blueprint, paving the way for tax reform without Democratic support. The 89-page plan sets up the use of budget reconciliation to advance the legislation with 50 votes in the Senate, rather than the usual 60-vote supermajority. Under the proposal, Republicans can add up to $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, giving lawmakers the ability to lower tax rates for businesses and individuals. Republicans believe they will offset the lost revenue with increased economic growth prompted by the tax cuts. Trump described the blueprint as a “giant, beautiful, massive, the biggest ever in our country, tax cut.” (Politico / ABC News / Washington Post)
6/ The Treasury Department removed a paper from its website that contradicted Steven Mnuchin’s argument that workers would benefit the most from a corporate income tax cut. The analysis found that workers pay 18% of the corporate tax while owners pay 82%. A Mnuchin spokeswoman said that other “studies show that 70% of the tax burden falls on American workers” and that a “lower corporate rate, as proposed in the [GOP tax] framework, will generate the incentives needed to increase productivity and wages, as well as create jobs.” (Wall Street Journal)
7/ The acting Homeland Security Secretary called Puerto Rico’s recovery “really a good news story.” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz shot back: “Dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a ‘people are dying’ story. It’s a life-or-death story.” Early this week, Trump placed some blame on Puerto Rico for its situation, tweeting that the US territory had “broken infrastructure & massive debt.” Today, he tweeted that “big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!” (CNN / Politico / The Hill)
8/ The Justice Department wants Facebook to turn over information about people who “liked” an anti-Trump Facebook page. The department obtained search warrants requiring The DisruptJ20 Facebook page – now Resist This – and two others to hand over “nonpublic lists of people who planned to attend political organizing events and even the names of people who simply liked, followed, reacted to, commented on or otherwise engaged with the content on the Facebook page.” Information from the three accounts could provide the personal details of thousands of activists who expressed interest in anti-Trump rallies. The DOJ originally requested that 1.3 million IP addresses from disruptj20.org be turned over, which a DC judge ruled that the web hosting company was obligated to turn over. (NBC News)
- A social media campaign calling itself “Blacktivist” and linked to the Russian government used both Facebook and Twitter in an attempt to amplify racial tensions during the election. The Twitter account has been handed over to Congress with the Facebook account expected to be handed over in the coming days. (CNN)
9/ Russia warned the US not to take action against their government-funded media outlets RT and Sputnik: “every step against a Russian media outlet will be met with a corresponding response.” Earlier this month, the Department of Justice notified the company supplying services for RT America that it is obligated to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act due to the work it does for RT. Federal investigators are also looking into whether RT and Sputnik were part of Russia’s influence campaign in the 2016 election. (CNN)
- The Senate confirmed Jon Huntsman to be the US ambassador to Russia. Huntsman testified earlier this month before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there is “no question” that Moscow meddled in the election. Huntsman previously served as ambassador to China and Singapore. (Politico)
10/ The White House launched an internal probe of private email use after it was reported that Jared Kushner and several senior White House officials used private email accounts to conduct government business. At least five current and former White House officials have used private email, including Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus. (Politico)
11/ The State Department ordered nonessential diplomats and families out of Cuba after several sonic attacks. At least 21 US diplomats and family members have been affected, causing an array of issues from hearing loss to dizziness to concussions. (CNN / New York Times)
12/ Republicans launched a group to fight Democratic-drawn political maps in court using data and legal efforts to “serve as a central resource to coordinate and collaborate” on redistricting for party organizations and members. Democrats setup a similar group earlier this year. Both the National Republican Redistricting Trust and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee are focused on influencing congressional and state legislative boundaries after the next census. (Politico)
poll/ 49% say NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem are doing the wrong thing to express their political opinion, while 43% say it’s the right thing. (CNN)
poll/ 83% of voters support a path for illegal immigrants to become legal residents, up nine points since last year. 14% say “deport as many as possible,” down from a high of 30 percent in July 2015. (Fox News)
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