👋 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/ John McCain condemned Trump’s “America First” policy as “half-baked, spurious nationalism” and charged that Trump would “rather find scapegoats than solve problems.” McCain’s remarks came as he was honored with the Liberty Medal by the National Constitution Center. While he didn’t refer to Trump or his administration by name, McCain added that it’s unpatriotic to “abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe” and to “refuse the obligations of international leadership.” (CNN / Washington Post)
2/ Trump warned McCain “to be careful because at some point I fight back,” adding that “I’m being very, very nice but at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty.” McCain’s response: “I have faced tougher adversaries.” (Associated Press)
3/ Trump falsely claimed that Obama didn’t call the families of troops killed in the line of duty. “If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump said in response to a question about why he had not publicly acknowledged the four Green Berets killed in an ambush in Niger two weeks ago. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”
Obama’s former aides were quick to respond: Eric Holder tweeted that Trump needs to “Stop the damn lying - you’re the President.” And Benjamin Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser, called Trump’s claim an “outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards.” Trump offered no evidence to back up his claim. (New York Times / Reuters)
Stop the damn lying - you’re the President. I went to Dover AFB with 44 and saw him comfort the families of both the fallen military & DEA. pic.twitter.com/HhE4KbTBkJ— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) October 17, 2017
This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards. Also: Obama never attacked a Gold Star family. https://t.co/JgzTUIzWIa— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) October 16, 2017
4/ Trump told reporters to ask John Kelly if Obama called him after his son died in Afghanistan. “As far as other presidents,” Trump said, “I don’t know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don’t know what Obama’s policy was.” He added that “I really speak for myself. I am not speaking for other people. I don’t know what (George W.) Bush did. I don’t know what Obama did.” Kelly’s son died after he stepped on a landmine in 2010. (CNN)
- A senior White House official said John Kelly “did not receive a call” from Obama after his son was killed in Afghanistan. Kelly and his wife, however, attended a 2011 White House event for Gold Star families, and sat at Michelle Obama’s table. (Axios)
5/ Senators have agreed “in principle” to a bipartisan deal to fund subsidies for health insurers and stabilize insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act. Trump had threatened to cut off the payments which lower out-of-pocket costs for low-income consumers. The deal will fund subsidies for two years, providing short-term certainty to insurers. (New York Times / ABC News)
6/ Putin’s “chef” is believed to have financed the Russian “troll factory” that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Yevgeny Prigozhin is a Russian oligarch and the main backer of the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency. A declassified assessment by US intelligence concluded in January that the “likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls located in Saint Petersburg is a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence.” It did not name Prigozhin directly. Prigozhin was at one point, allegedly, Putin’s “personal chef,” in addition to having catering contracts with Russia’s armed forces. He also once served caviar and truffles to George W. Bush during a summit in St. Petersburg. (CNN)
7/ Sean Spicer met with Robert Mueller’s team on Monday for an interview that lasted most of the day. Spicer was asked about the firing of former FBI director James Comey, his statements regarding the firing, and Trump’s meetings with Russians officials, including Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office. (Politico)
8/ The Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Carter Page as part of its investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election. Page previously said he would not cooperate and would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to answer questions. (NBC News)
9/ The Senate Intelligence Committee has requested documents and testimony from Michael Flynn’s son. They have not received a response yet. Michael G. Flynn was involved in the day-to-day operations of Flynn Intel Group and served as his father’s chief of staff. The committee could issue a subpoena if he doesn’t comply, but he would likely assert his right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. The younger Flynn is also the subject of Robert Mueller’s criminal and counterintelligence investigation. (NBC News)
- The content ad network Outbrain is investigating whether Russian ads or other forms of election tampering took place on its service during the 2016 election. Outbrain reaches more than 550 million visitors per month via content recommendation modules on websites of publishers such as CNN, People, and ESPN. Outbrain is “currently conducting a thorough investigation specific to election tampering and continue[s] to monitor our index,” the company said in a statement. (BuzzFeed News)
10/ A federal judge in Hawaii has blocked Trump’s third attempt to implement his travel ban, which was set to go into effect Wednesday. The order was found to discriminate on the basis of nationality. Judges said the two earlier attempts were motivated by bias against Muslims. (Bloomberg / Axios)
11/ Trump’s nominee for drug czar has withdrawn his name from consideration after it was reported the lawmaker guided legislation in Congress that made it harder for the DEA to act against giant drug companies. “Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar,” Trump tweeted. “Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!” (CBS News / Washington Post)
12/ The EPA issued new guidelines that claim higher radiation levels “usually” pose “no harmful health effects.” The change is part of the EPA’s “guidance” on messaging and communications in the event of a nuclear power plant meltdown or dirty bomb attack, and sets a level of acceptable radiation ten times the drinking water standard for radiation recommended under Obama. A 2007 version of the same document said that no level of radiation is safe and concluded that “the current body of scientific knowledge tells us this.” (Bloomberg)
13/ Scott Pruitt directed the EPA to stop settling lawsuits with environmental groups behind closed doors, saying the groups have had too much influence on regulation. Pruitt sued the agency he now runs more than a dozen times while he was the attorney general of Oklahoma. The practice of “sue and settle” is used by green groups to push the EPA to speed up regulation on issues such as air and water pollution, as well as climate change. (Reuters)
14/ A group of 18 Democratic attorneys general are suing Betsy DeVos over the Education Department’s refusal to enforce regulation meant to protect students from predatory career college programs. DeVos froze an Obama-era rule called “gainful employment.” The rule would have cut off federal financial aid funding from for-profit colleges that leave students with low incomes and massive debt. (BuzzFeed News / The Hill)
poll/ 46% of American believe things in the country are going well, down from 53% in August. Trump’s approval stands at 37% with 57% who disapprove – almost identical to his approval rating in late September. (CNN)
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