👋 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/ Jeff Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee he didn’t lie under oath, but he has “no clear recollection” of the proposed Trump-Putin meeting. Despite repeatedly answering “I do not recall” to questions about a March 2016 meeting where George Papadopoulos proposed that Trump meet with Putin, Sessions said he believes he rejected the suggested meeting. Later during testimony, Sessions was more direct: “At the meeting, I pushed back.” In January, Sessions testified that he had no communications with Russians during the 2016 campaign. It was later revealed that he met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least twice during the campaign. (Politico / Reuters / New York Times)
2/ Sessions: There is “not enough basis” for assigning a new special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton. Earlier, Sessions sent the House Judiciary Committee a letter informing them that the Justice Department was looking into whether a special counsel should be appointed to investigate the Clinton Foundation and a 2010 deal to sell a US uranium company to Russia. On November 3rd, Trump said he was “very unhappy,” “disappointed,” and “frustrated” with the Justice Department for not investigating Hillary Clinton. (Washington Post / New York Times / The Guardian)
3/ Senate Republicans added a provision to their tax bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. In order to be protected from a Democratic filibuster, the tax bill can’t add more than $1.5 trillion to federal deficit over a decade. The CBO said that repealing the mandate would free up more than $300 billion in funding over the next decade while also causing 13 million fewer people to have health insurance. Mitch McConnell said Republicans are “optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful.” (Washington Post / New York Times)
4/ The US embassy in Moscow hired a security firm owned by Putin’s former KGB counter-intelligence director to provide “local guard services” for the US mission in Russia. Moscow forced Washington to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia from more than 1,200 to 455 in response to sanctions adopted against Russia in August. To make up for the loss of security guards, Washington awarded a $2.8 million no-bid contract to Elite Security, which was founded in 1997 by Viktor Budanov and his son Dmitry. Budanov retired from espionage in 1992. (The Telegraph / New York Times)
5/ The FBI is investigating Russian embassy payments “to finance election campaign of 2016.” The Russian foreign ministry made more than 60 wire transfers that exceeded $380,000 in total to its embassies around the world, most of them bearing the memo line “to finance election campaign of 2016.” Nearly $30,000 was sent to the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. (BuzzFeed News)
6/ Trump tweeted about John Podesta’s hacked emails 15 minutes after WikiLeaks told Trump Jr. “we just released Podesta Emails Part 4.” While Trump Jr. didn’t respond to the message, he tweeted out a link WikiLeaks had provided him two days later. (The Hill / The Atlantic)
- Mike Pence denied knowing that Trump Jr. was in contact with WikiLeaks during the campaign. In October 2016, Pence was asked if the Trump campaign was “in cahoots” with WikiLeaks as it released droves of damaging information about Hillary Clinton. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Pence replied. (Politico)
7/ Democrats raised concerns about Trump’s ability to use nuclear weapons during a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee meeting. “We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with US national security interests,” Senator Chris Murphy said. The bipartisan panel doesn’t plan to seek legislative changes to rein in the Trump’s authority to use nuclear weapons, but rather ensure legal and strategic oversight measures are in place to prevent ill-advised use of nuclear weapons. (CNN)
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