👋 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 said he’ll “be talking about gun laws as time goes by,” echoing what Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday that “there will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.” Steve Bannon warned that it “will be the end of everything” if Trump supports gun control legislation, and Roger Stone added that the “base would go insane and he knows it.” (Politico / Washington Post / Axios)
- Jimmy Kimmel Seizes On Las Vegas Shooting to Champion Gun Laws in Emotional Monologue. Jimmy Kimmel, who is from Las Vegas, called on President Trump and members of Congress to act in the wake of the shooting. (New York Times)
2/ Robert Mueller’s top legal counsel is researching limits on pre-emptive presidential pardons. Michael Dreeben has been researching past pardons to determine if any limits exist as Trump’s current and former advisers come under the special counsel’s scrutiny. Trump previously tweeted that “all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon.” Pardons of a president’s campaign workers, family members, and himself are largely uncharted legal territory. Mueller has a team of 16 seasoned prosecutors investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election as well as any potential collusion between Russian and members of Trump’s campaign. (Bloomberg)
3/ The Justice Department overruled memos that concluded presidents cannot appoint their relatives to the White House staff or presidential commissions, a Freedom of Information Act request revealed. The request to rule the earlier opinions erroneous or obsolete came from the incoming Trump administration in January, which cleared the way for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to take roles in the White House. Appointments of family members have been illegal under an anti-nepotism law passed in 1967. (Politico)
4/ Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump used a third private email address for government business. Hundreds of emails were sent from the couple’s White House email addresses to accounts on Kushner’s private domain that they shared with their personal staff. The emails contained nonpublic travel documents, internal White House schedules, and other official White House materials. It was previously reported that Kushner and Ivanka used personal email accounts to conduct some government business. The couple has since moved their personal email accounts to computers run by the Trump Organization. (Politico)
5/ The Senate Foreign Relations Committee wants to know if White House officials used private emails for diplomacy. Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the committee, asked Rex Tillerson and White House Counsel Don McGahn for information about whether Kushner or other officials communicated via private email or text with representatives of foreign governments, political parties, or international organizations. (ABC News)
6/ The CIA denied a request by the Senate Judiciary Committee to let them view information about Russian meddling that the intelligence committee was allowed to see. The material pertains to obstruction of justice matters that are in the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction. (Politico)
- HP Enterprise let Russia scrutinize cyberdefense system used by Pentagon. The Russian review of ArcSight’s source code, the closely guarded internal instructions of the software, was part of HPE’s effort to win the certification required to sell the product to Russia’s public sector. (Reuters)
7/ Russian operatives used Facebook’s retargeting tool to target specific ads and messages to voters who had visited misleading web sites and social media pages designed to mimicked those created by political activists. By using Facebook’s Custom Audiences, Russian-linked ad buyers were able to spend $100,000 on more than 3,000 ads that were seen by roughly 10 million users — approximately 44% of which were seen before the November 8th election. (Washington Post / CNN)
- Russian Ads Delivered to Congress. An estimated 10 million people in the US saw the ads. Of total ad impressions, 44% were before the US election on November 8, 2016. Roughly 25% of the ads were never shown to anyone. For 50% of the ads, less than $3 was spent; for 99% of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent. (Facebook)
8/ Trump visited Puerto Rico today, against urging from aides to put off the trip over concerns of protests about the slow relief effort. FEMA hasn’t authorized every disaster response tool it has at its disposal despite 5% of the electrical grid working, 17% of cellphone towers working, and less than half of residents with running water. (New York Times / Vox)
9/ Trump called for Puerto Rico to be “very proud” that more didn’t die in “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” adding that by needing hurricane relief funds, the devastated island has “thrown our budget a little out of whack.” He also praised the federal response, saying “what a great job we’ve done,” and that local officials in Puerto Rico “have to give us more help” in responding to the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. (Washington Post / Associated Press)
10/ Pence’s chief of staff called for wealthy donors to “purge” Republican lawmakers that don’t support Trump’s agenda. Nick Ayers urged donors to “form a coalition” to take on leadership and members who don’t back the president, saying “we can purge the handful of people who continue to work to defeat [Trump].” The White House and Pence’s office declined to comment. (Politico)
11/ Scott Pruitt has held almost daily meetings with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the sectors that he regulates. The EPA chief has held almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates. (New York Times)
- Trump’s pick for EPA safety chief believes children are less sensitive to chemical toxicity than adults. Michael Dourson faces a confirmation hearing this week. In a 2002 paper, paid for by the American Chemistry Council and the pesticide industry group CropLife America, Dourson suggested that most children are no more sensitive to chemical toxicity than adults and that in some cases, they are even less sensitive. This idea places him well outside the scientific mainstream and suggests how he might approach not just these pesticides but all chemicals affecting children. (The Intercept)
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