👋 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/ Rex Tillerson reportedly called Trump a “fucking moron” and nearly resigned this summer. The comment came during a July meeting at the Pentagon with members of Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials. Mike Pence reportedly counseled Tillerson on how to ease tensions with Trump, with other top administration officials urging him to remain in the job until the end of the year. (NBC News)
2/ Today, Tillerson denied he considered resigning from his job, but did not address whether he called Trump a “moron.” Minutes before Tillerson’s remarks, Trump tweeted that NBC News was “fake news” and “more dishonest than even CNN. They are a disgrace to good reporting. No wonder their news ratings are way down!” Immediately after Tillerson spoke, Trump tweeted, again, that the NBC News “story has just been totally refuted” by Tillerson and that the news network “should issue an apology to AMERICA!” Later in the day Trump called it “a totally phony story” and said he has “total confidence” in Tillerson. (USA Today / CBS News / New York Times)
3/ The Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed the conclusions of American intelligence agencies that Putin directed a campaign of hacking and propaganda to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. Richard Burr, chairman of the committee, said they “trust the conclusions” of the Intelligence Community Assessment that Russia was behind the hacking of the John Podesta’s email account and had attempted to exploit public opinion with false information through fake social media accounts. The issue of collusion remains open.
Senators also acknowledged that they have been unable to get traction on the Steele dossier, which contains a series of claims about Trump and Russia. The memos’ author, Christopher Steele, has not agreed to meet with investigators or the senators. Robert Mueller’s special counsel has taken over FBI inquiries into the Steele dossier. (New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News)
4/ Facebook and Twitter agreed to testify publicly before the Senate intelligence committee as part of the congressional probe into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election. Facebook will also testify at the House Intelligence Committee hearing. Twitter and Facebook have already briefed both committees on their findings regarding Russian use of their platforms to influence the election. While invited, Google has not said if it will also appear at either hearing. (Recode / The Hill)
The House intelligence committee is focusing on Russian ads bought on Google, search engine manipulation, fake news, and the potential uses of YouTube. Google had initially said it found no evidence of targeted tactics like the thousands of election-related ads purchased on Facebook. (Bloomberg)
Almost all RT ads on Twitter designed to push negative coverage of Clinton, Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said. (The Hill)
5/ Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states Trump won by less than 1% of the vote. The ads promoted divisiveness and anti-Muslim messages. Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Michigan by about 10,700 votes out of nearly 4.8 million ballots cast. In Wisconsin, Trump won by only about 22,700 votes. (CNN)
- Russia targeted NATO soldiers’ smartphones in an effort to gain information about operations and troop strength in Poland and the Baltic states. The campaign targeted a contingent of 4,000 NATO troops deployed this year to protect the alliance’s European border with Russia. (Wall Street Journal)
6/ Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. avoided a criminal indictment in 2012 after Trump’s personal lawyer met with the Manhattan District Attorney. Marc Kasowitz donated $25,000 to District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.’s reelection campaign and three months later the case was dropped when the DA overruled his staff. The donation was returned, but less than six months later, Kasowitz made an even larger donation of more than $50,000 to Vance’s campaign. For two years, prosecutors had been building a criminal case against Ivanka and Trump Jr. for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo hotel, which included emails showing coordination about how to move forward giving false information to prospective buyers. (ProPublica / The New Yorker / WNYC)
7/ Kushner and Ivanka were both fined $200 for missing a deadline to submit financial disclosures required by government ethics rules as part of a months-long process of divesting Kushner’s stock and assets. It’s the second time that Kushner has been fined for late filing. In July, Kushner made his 39th change to his financial disclosure. (McClatchy DC)
- Paul Manafort’s son-in-law accused him of conspiring to mislead a federal bankruptcy court about four California real estate investments. Jeffrey Yohai alleged that Manafort and others had misled him and the court about the funding and ownership of the companies that have proposed to clear up the bankruptcy issues. (USA Today)
8/ A Texas judge ruled against Trump’s voter fraud commission, saying state officials would be violating state privacy laws if they hand over voters’ personal information to commission members. Kris Kobach’s voter fraud commission has asked state election officials to share specific voter information, including voters’ felony conviction history, voter history, and partial Social Security numbers, along with other personal details. (The Daily Beast)
9/ The EPA will propose repealing the Clean Power Plan, a central piece of Obama’s plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants, fight climate change, and meet emissions goals promised in the Paris Climate Agreement. Trump signed an executive order in March directing the EPA to start the legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan. The EPA will solicit input on “developing a rule similarly intended to reduce CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel electric utility generating units.” (Reuters)
10/ The DACA renewal deadline is Thursday. The Trump administration didn’t notify immigrants about it. Jeff Sessions announced on September 5th that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has provided renewable, two-year work permits to nearly 800,000 “dreamers,” would end on March 5, 2018. Citizenship and Immigration Services had sent out notices prior to the announcement reminding DACA recipients they had 180 days to reapply. USCIS, however, never sent out corrections notifying immigrants that if they followed the instructions in the letter, they would miss the new deadline. About 154,000 DACA recipients are eligible for one last two-year extension, but must file their their application by the end of the day Thursday. (Vox)
11/ Trump said the US will need to “wipe out” Puerto Rico’s debt in order to address the US territory’s financial crisis. Trump’s budget director, meanwhile, said not to take the suggestion literally. Mick Mulvaney tried to clarify Trump’s statement: “I think what you heard the president say is that Puerto Rico is going to have to figure out a way to solve its debt problem.” He added: “We are not going to bail them out. We are not going to pay off those debts. We are not going to bail out those bond holders.” (Politico / Bloomberg)
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