👋 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: The Texas church shooting isn’t a guns issue, it’s a mental health issue. “Mental health is your problem here,” Trump said. “This isn’t a guns situation. This is a mental health problem at the highest level.” Devin Patrick Kelley, a young white male, was dressed in all-black “tactical-type gear” and wearing a ballistic vest when he opened fire on the church using a Ruger AR-556 semiautomatic rifle. He killed at least 26 people. Kelley passed a background check despite being discharged from the Air Force for “bad conduct” – assaulting his wife and their child. The discharge did not show up as a prohibited offense on his background check. (CNN / New York Times)
Ted Cruz accused gun control advocates of “politicizing” the Sutherland Springs shooting, pointing out that trucks can kill people, too. He was, of course, referencing the terror attack in New York City where a driver ran over pedestrians and cyclists with a truck. (The Daily Beast)
2/ Robert Mueller has enough evidence to charge Michael Flynn and his son as part of the Russia probe. Mueller’s team is looking at possible money laundering charges, lying to federal agents, and Flynn’s role in a plan to remove an opponent of the Turkish president from the US in exchange for millions of dollars. (NBC News / Reuters)
3/ A Russian lawyer said Trump Jr. offered to have an anti-Russian law re-examined if Trump won the election. “Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it,” Trump Jr. said of the Magnitsky Act, which the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was lobbying against. Trump Jr. met with Veselnitskaya lawyer in June 2016 at Trump Tower with Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner after being promised “information that would incriminate” Hillary Clinton. (Bloomberg)
4/ Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross retained investments in a shipping company tied to Putin’s inner circle. Ross and his private equity firm are the biggest shareholders in Navigator Holdings. Navigator’s largest client is the Russian energy firm Sibur, which is partly owned by a Russian oligarch and Putin’s son-in-law. The revelation comes after the so-called Paradise Papers were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The trove of more than 13 million documents reveal how some wealthy individuals have used offshore havens to avoid paying taxes. (New York Times / The Daily Beast / Washington Post)
Russian tech leader Yuri Milner invested $850,000 in a startup called Cadre that Jared Kushner co-founded in 2014. Kushner did not disclose his ownership in Cadre on his initial financial disclosure form when he became a White House adviser. In July, Kushner told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door meeting that he never “relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.” (New York Times)
At least nine Trump associates had contacts with Russians during the campaign or presidential transition and include Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, J.D. Gordon, Michael Flynn, and Jeff Sessions. Experts who’ve studied Russian tactics see a concerted and multifaceted Kremlin effort to infiltrate Trump’s campaign. (Washington Post)
5/ Paul Manafort’s attorney plans to challenge Robert Mueller’s authority. Kevin Downing will file pre-trial motions that question “the legal basis for and sufficiency of the charges, the suppression of evidence improperly obtained by search warrant, subpoena or otherwise.” Downing said he may try to prevent Mueller’s prosecutors from presenting some of their evidence during the criminal trial. (Politico)
6/ Trump told Japan that it can protect itself from North Korea by purchasing US military equipment to shoot down missiles. “The prime minister of Japan is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should,” Trump said. North Korea launched a missile over Japan in September. (New York Times)
- Trump asked Japan to build its cars in the US. Three out of four Japanese cars sold in the US last year were built in North America. “Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over,” Trump told Japanese automakers. “Is that possible to ask? That’s not rude. Is that rude? I don’t think so.” (CNN)
7/ The House Republican tax plan would cause taxes to go up for 28% of Americans by 2027, according to analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Families earning less than $10,000 a year would see a tax cut of about $10. Those making $48,000 to $86,000 would get an average tax cut of $700 next year, while taxpayers in the top 1% (those making more than $730,000) would receive an average cut of $37,000. Overall, 70% of people would get a tax cut next year averaging $2,000, but 12% would pay an average of $1,560 more. By 2027, those paying more would grow to 28% of all taxpayers, who would pay an average $1,980 more, while 57% would save $2,400. (Washington Post / Vox / USA Today/ Tax Policy Center)
8/ George Bush called Trump a “blowhard” who is only interested in feeding his own ego. (New York Times)
poll/ 65% of Americans say Trump has accomplished “not much” to “little or nothing” as president. 67% don’t trust him to act responsibly in handling the situation involving North Korea. (ABC News / Washington Post)
poll/ 44% of Americans are “very concerned” about the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Russians, up from 27% who said so in July. (CNN)
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