👋 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/ House Republicans unveiled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reduces the number of tax brackets from seven to five, maintains the top tax rate at 39.6%, raises the standard deduction from $6,350 to $12,000 for individuals and from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples. The bill reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, repeals the state and local income tax deductions, limits the property tax deduction to $10,000, and expands the child tax credit from $1,000 to $1,600. The treatment of pre-tax contributions to 401(k) and IRA would be preserved. Homeowners can keep their mortgage interest deduction, but the bill caps the deduction for new mortgages at $500,000, while also repealing the estate tax in 2024. The bill is estimated to cost $1.487 trillion over a decade, but lawmakers must keep the cost of the bill to $1.5 trillion if they want to pass it along party lines and avoid a filibuster by Democrats. (NBC News / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
- Trump wanted to call the tax plan the “Cut, Cut, Cut Act.” Paul Ryan initially asked the White House for input because of the Trump’s knack for branding. Ryan and Kevin Brady, the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, pushed back. (ABC News)
2/ Sam Clovis has withdrawn his nomination for the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist role after coming under criticism for his lack of science credentials (he’s not a scientist) and for his role supervising George Papadopoulos. In a letter to Trump, Clovis wrote that he does “not want to be a distraction or a negative influence.” Clovis is a self-described skeptic of climate change. (Politico / Bloomberg)
3/ The White House learned that Sam Clovis testified before the grand jury from media reports. Last week Clovis testified before the investigating grand jury and was questioned by Robert Mueller’s team about his role on Trump’s campaign. Emails between Clovis and George Papadopoulos, whom he supervised, show Clovis encouraging Papadopoulos to engage with his Russian contacts. (ABC News)
4/ Senate Democrats asked Jeff Sessions to clarify his confirmation hearing remarks regarding attempts by the campaign to coordinate a meeting between Trump and Putin. Both the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees asked Sessions to formally clarify his remarks after it was reported that Trump declined to rule out the idea proposed by George Papadopoulos. Sessions weighed in and rejected the proposal to use Papadopoulos’ “Russian contacts” to arrange a meeting. During his confirmation testimony, Sessions testified that he was “not aware” of anyone from the Trump campaign communicating with the Russians. (CNN / NBC News)
Carter Page met with the House Intelligence Committee in private looking into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Page originally wanted to be questioned by the panel in public. The committee agreed to release a transcript three days after the interview. (Bloomberg)
Paul Manafort wired millions of dollars into the US through a company linked to one of Russia’s most notorious criminals. The Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants Limited received millions of dollars from a businessman and Ukrainian parliamentarian named Ivan Fursin, who is closely linked to Semion Mogilevich, who is frequently described as “the most dangerous mobster in the world.” (The Daily Beast)
5/ Jared Kushner turned over documents from the campaign and the transition to Robert Mueller in recent weeks. The documents are similar to the ones Kushner gave to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Mueller has been asking witnesses about Kushner’s role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey. (CNN)
6/ The Justice Department has identified at least six Russian government officials involved in the DNC hack that resulted in thousands of emails being released by WikiLeaks last year. Prosecutors have assembled evidence to charge the Russian officials and could bring a case next year. U.S. intelligence agencies have attributed the hack to Russian intelligence services. (Wall Street Journal)
7/ The hackers who targeted Hillary Clinton’s campaign had international targets corresponding with Russian interests. A digital “hit list” shows a multi-year operation that tried to break into the inboxes of 4,700 Gmail accounts worldwide and targeted the emails of Ukrainian officers, Russian opposition leaders, U.S. defense contractors, and more. The list was found by the cybersecurity firm Secureworks after the “Fancy Bear” hacking group forgot to set an active Bitly account to private. One of the experts who reviewed the list described the data as “a master list of individuals whom Russia would like to spy on, embarrass, discredit or silence.” (Associated Press)
8/ Robert Mercer, whose money helped elect Trump, will step down as as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies in an effort to distance himself from Trump. Mercer will also sell his stake in Breitbart to his daughters “for personal reasons.” In a letter to investors, Mercer also that he was severing ties with Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart writer who had cultivated white nationalists and used them to generate ideas on the site. Mercer was also a large financial backer of Cambridge Analytica, a voter-data firm that worked for Trump’s campaign. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News / Bloomberg)
9/ Rick Perry suggested that expanding the use of fossil fuels could help prevent sexual assault. “From the standpoint of sexual assault,” Perry said. “When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will on those types of acts.” The energy secretary also said that while he thinks climate change is real, “I still think the science is out on” whether humans are the cause of it. (The Hill / Axios)
Full Perry quote on fossil fuels/sexual assault pic.twitter.com/KH6pyApIYU— Timothy Cama (@Timothy_Cama) November 2, 2017
- U.S. government researchers say that it is “extremely likely” that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming, the Climate Science Special Report finds. The conclusions contradict statements by Trump and his Cabinet members, who have openly questioned the role humans play in changing the climate. (NPR)
10/ Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile both say the 2016 Democratic primary was “rigged.” In an excerpt promoting her upcoming book, Brazile accused Hillary Clinton’s campaign of “unethical” conduct that “compromised the party’s integrity” through a joint fundraising agreement with the DNC that allegedly gave Clinton control of the “party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised” before she officially won the nomination. Bernie Sanders’ campaign also signed its own joint fundraising agreement with the DNC in 2015. Warren agrees that the 2016 Democratic primary was “rigged.” (CNN / Washington Post)
poll/ 49% of Americans think Trump likely committed a crime. 58% approve of how special counsel Robert Mueller is handling the investigation. (ABC News)
A look ahead:
Trump and Jeff Sessions denied knowing if anybody from the campaign was in contact with the Russians. Records suggest otherwise. (New York Times)
Carter Page testified that he told Jeff Sessions about his trip to Russia. (CNN)
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