👋 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: “I don’t blame China” for taking “advantage” of the US with its “very one-sided and unfair” trade deal. Trump instead blamed past US administrations “for having allowed it to get so far out of kilter.” The comments were made during a joint appearance with President Xi in Beijing. Trump added: “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for benefit of their citizens? I give China great credit.” (Washington Post / The Hill / Axios)
“I don’t blame China. After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit. But, in actuality, I do blame past administrations for allowing this out-of-control trade deficit to take place and to grow. We have to fix this because it just doesn’t work for our great American companies, and it doesn’t work for our great American workers.” –Trump
2/ Affordable Care Act signups are outpacing last year’s enrollment with more than 600,000 people selecting a plan through HealthCare.gov in the first four days since enrollment opened. In the first 12 days of last year’s open enrollment, 1,008,218 people selected plans. Enrollment this year lasts 45 days – half as long as in the past – and for most states enrollment will end on December 15th. Several states are allowing residents to sign up for ACA plans into January. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
3/ John Kelly pressured the acting Homeland Security secretary, Elaine Duke, to expel tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants after she granted them a six-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Kelly and Tom Bossert, White House homeland security adviser, both called Duke, telling her that her decision “prevents our wider strategic goal” on immigration. Underlying the call was Kelly’s concern that his handpicked nominee for DHS secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, would face potentially uncomfortable questions about TPS during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday. (Washington Post)
About 57,000 Hondurans are living in the US under Temporary Protected Status, which Congress created to refrain from deporting foreign nationals to countries too unstable to receive them following natural disasters, civil unrest, or health crisis.
4/ Robert Mueller interviewed Stephen Miller. The White House senior policy adviser is the highest-level aide still working at the White House known to have talked to investigators. Miller was at the March 2016 meeting where George Papadopoulos said that he could arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. (CNN)
- Papadopoulos represented the Trump campaign in a working capacity with foreign officials up until the inauguration. He’s been dismissed as a “low-level volunteer” and just a “coffee boy” by Trump and campaign officials. (CNN)
5/ Michael Flynn is worried about his son’s legal exposure as Robert Mueller continues to investigate Russian meddling and the business dealings of key campaign advisers to Trump. Flynn Jr. served as his father’s chief of staff and top aide, and was actively involved in his father’s consulting and lobbying work at their firm, Flynn Intel Group. In December 2015, the Flynns traveled to Moscow, where the elder Flynn dined with Putin at a gala for the RT television network, which US intelligence views as a Russian propaganda outlet. (CNN)
6/ The House Intelligence Committee will interview the Russian-American lobbyist who was at the Trump Tower meeting with Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort. Rinat Akhmetshin will meet with House investigators next week. The panel last week interviewed Ike Kaveladze, a Russian who attended the meeting on behalf of Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov, the oligarch who initiated the session. (CNN)
7/ The Justice Department is seeking a plea deal with Paul Manafort’s son-in-law. The investigation into Jeffrey Yohai by the FBI and the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles is separate from the Robert Mueller investigation. However, in the Mueller’s indictment of Manafort alleges that Yohai and his father-in-law worked together on real estate deals in Los Angeles and New York, some of which involved loan fraud. (Wall Street Journal)
8/ Trump’s bodyguard testified that Russians offered to “send five women” to Trump’s hotel room in Moscow. “We don’t do that type of stuff,” Keith Schiller said. The comments came as Schiller disputed the allegations made in the dossier that describes Trump as having an encounter with prostitutes at the hotel during the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant. Schiller testified that Trump went to bed alone and that he stood outside the room for a time before going to bed. He could not say for sure what happened during the remainder of the night. (NBC News)
9/ The Education Department has shed about 8% of its staff since December and hopes to offer buyouts to an additional 255 employees. The budget proposal Betsy DeVos plans to submit would cut $9.2 billion from the department’s budget, eliminating teacher training and college-prep programs while investing in charter schools and potentially offering vouchers for private schools. Congress would likely restore many of the cuts, but DeVos can cut staff and her proposal would cut 154 positions from the department — including 46 from the Office for Civil Rights. (Washington Post)
10/ The Senate unveiled an outline of its tax reform bill that differs significantly from the House and the White House. The Senate tax package would delay cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% until 2019 – a departure from Trump’s expectation for immediate tax cuts. The Senate bill would keep seven tax brackets, while the House bill would collapse them down to four. The Senate bill would also double the estate tax exemption and keep it, while the House bill would double the exemption but repeal it in 2025. The Senate bill wouldn’t change the mortgage interest deduction, while the House would cap it at $500,000, and not allow the deduction for second homes. Both the House and Senate plan to pass their bills this month and then sort out differences in an effort to get a final bill to Trump by the end of the year. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)
11/ A former Treasury secretary charged that current Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin is making “irresponsible” economic assessments of the administration’s tax plan and acting as a “sycophant” to Trump. Lawrence Summers, who was Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary, has been criticizing Mnuchin in podcasts, blog posts, and op-eds and on Twitter for suggesting that the tax plan currently being debated by Congress would not add to the federal deficit. “I’m not aware of so irresponsible an estimate coming from a Treasury secretary in the last 50 years,” he said. (New York Times)
12/ Trump’s voter fraud commission was sued by one of the panel’s own members. Matt Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the 11-member board, filed a suit claiming that he’s being denied access to the commission’s records and has been effectively frozen out of its activities. (Politico)
13/ Mitch McConnell called on the Republican nominee in Alabama to withdraw from the Senate race if the reports that he pursued teenage girls in his 30’s are true. Several women told the Washington Post that Roy Moore initiated sexual contact with them when as teenagers, including one who said she was 14 and he was 32. “If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” McConnell said. Moore, meanwhile, told supporters: “I refuse to stand down.” (Washington Post / Politico / The Hill)
poll/ 45% of voters who are familiar with the GOP tax plan support the proposal, down from 48% last week. (Politico)
poll/ A generic 2020 Democratic presidential candidate leads Trump by 10 points. 8% of the people who voted for Trump said they would instead vote for the unidentified Democrat candidate in 2020. (The Hill)
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