👋 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 called the Las Vegas shooting “an act of pure evil.” At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 injured. Police said the gunman was found dead in his Mandalay Bay Hotel room. Trump praised the “miraculous” speed with which local law enforcement responded to the shooting, ordered flags flown at half-staff, and said he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday. Gunmaker stocks, meanwhile, are up nearly 4% after one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history. (New York Times / Washington Post / MarketWatch)
- Full Transcript and Video: Trump Speaks After Las Vegas Shooting. (New York Times)
2/ The House could vote on legislation this week that would roll back restrictions on gun silencers. The silencer measure is part of the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, a bill that was delayed in June after House GOP Whip Steve Scalise and two Capitol Hill police officers were shot during a congressional baseball practice. The House is also expected to vote this fall on separate legislation, the Hearing Protection Act, which would allow people to carry their legally concealed weapons across state lines into jurisdictions that restrict weapons concealment. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement Act, H.R.3668. (Congress.gov)
Hearing Protection Act, H.R.367 (Congress.gov)
3/ Trump’s associates had two more previously undisclosed contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign. The documents were turned over to congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was invited to a conference in Russia that would be attended by Putin; in the other case, Cohen received a second proposal for a Trump-branded Moscow project during the campaign. Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, low-level foreign policy advisers and, now, Cohen were all contacted by Russians with interests in business and politics in the weeks before or after Trump accepted the nomination. (Washington Post)
4/ Paul Manafort attempted to leverage his role on Trump’s campaign team to curry favor with a Russian oligarch close to Putin during the campaign. Emails turned over to investigators show how the former campaign chair tried to please Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska, one of Russia’s richest men. Manafort was ousted from the Trump campaign after Manafort’s name was listed in a secret ledger of cash payments from a pro-Russian party in Ukraine that detailed his failed venture with Deripaska. At the time, Manafort was in debt to shell companies connected to pro-Russian interests in Ukraine for some $16 million. (The Atlantic)
5/ Rex Tillerson said the US is in direct communication with North Korea about its nuclear program even after Trump tweeted in August that “talking is not the answer!” and vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea. “We are probing, so stay tuned,” the Secretary of State said. “We can talk to them, we do talk to them directly, through our own channels,” adding that the US has “a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang.” (Bloomberg / New York Times)
6/ Trump called Tillerson’s effort to communicate with North Korea a waste of time, undercutting his Secretary of State and seemingly ruling out a diplomatic resolution to the confrontation with Pyongyang. “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump tweeted, adding, “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post)
7/ Trump urged senior staff to portray him as a “crazy guy,” while discussing whether the US would withdraw from the South Korean trade deal. “That’s not how you negotiate,” Trump told trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer. “You don’t tell them they’ve got 30 days. You tell them, ‘This guy’s so crazy he could pull out any minute,’” adding “You tell them if they don’t give the concessions now, this crazy guy will pull out of the deal.” The White House did not dispute the account. Meanwhile, North Korean officials have been trying to arrange talks with Republican analysts in Washington in an attempt to make sense of Trump and his confusing messages to Kim Jong Un’s regime. (Axios)
8/ Congress let funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program expire, which provides low-cost health insurance to 9 million children. The CHIP program is a partnership between the federal government and states that insures American children from low and moderate-income families. States still have some CHIP money available, but several are expected to drain their funding by the end of the year. Trump, meanwhile, proclaimed today is Child Health Day and committed to “protecting and promoting the health and well-being of our Nation’s young people.” (ABC News / Washington Post)
9/ The National Security Agency warned senior White House officials against using personal cellphones and email, which could make them vulnerable to espionage by Russia, China, Iran, and others. The briefing came shortly after Trump was sworn into office on January 20, and before some top aides began using their personal email and phones to conduct official 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)
10/ Since John Kelly took over the West Wing in July, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s role have shrunk. The couple has focused on the issues in their portfolios and making more of an effort to “stay in their lane.” Until Kelly’s arrival, Ivanka Trump and Kushner always had the last word with Trump, especially when it came to personnel matters. Kushner has complained to friends that he can no longer float in and out of the Oval Office. White House Counsel Don McGahn, meanwhile, considered resigning this summer after growing frustrated by the lack of protocols surrounding meetings between Trump and Kushner, which he said could be construed by investigators as an effort to coordinate their stories. Trump has been privately surveying people close to him about whether Kushner and Ivanka Trump are creating too much noise and how they can withstand the personal attacks. (Politico / Wall Street Journal / Axios)
11/ Facebook is turning over more than 3,000 Russian-linked advertisements to congressional investigators. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee will receive copies of the ads. The Senate Intelligence Committee also wants Facebook, Google, and Twitter to testify before a Congressional panel on November 1 regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. None of the companies have confirmed they will attend. The House Intelligence Committee will hold a public hearing in October, and would like the three companies to attend as well. (New York Times / ABC News / The Hill)
12/ Trump accused the San Juan mayor of “poor leadership” and suggested that the island’s residents are not doing enough to help themselves. “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help,” Trump tweeted from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey on Saturday, continuing: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.” On Sunday, Trump dedicated a golf trophy to the people of Puerto Rico. (CNN / Associated Press)
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