👋 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/ Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition last December. Flynn is the fourth Trump associate to be charged in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. (New York Times)
2/ Flynn promised “full cooperation” with Mueller’s investigation and is prepared to testify that Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians. The FBI said Flynn communicated with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the US, after being asked by a senior Trump transition official to find out where foreign governments stood on an upcoming UN Security Council resolution about Israel. The FBI did not name the officials. (ABC News / CNN)
3/ Jared Kushner was the “very senior” Trump official who directed Michael Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador and several other foreign governments. Abbe Lowell, Kusher’s attorney, declined to comment. (Washington Post / CNN)
- Former Deputy National Security Adviser KT McFarland is one of the unnamed senior official referred to in the court papers filed in the Michael Flynn case. She was involved in a discussion with Flynn about what he would say to Russian government officials in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia last year. (Associated Press)
4/ Trump lobbied several Senate Republicans over the summer “to wrap up” the Russia investigation. The chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, said Trump made a request “something along the lines of ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible.’” Trump also approached Senator Roy Blunt, who sits on the committee, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with requests to end the investigations. Trump has now asked at least seven officials in both houses of Congress and the Department of Justice to end the multiple investigations. The White House said Trump “at no point has attempted to apply undue influence on committee members.” (New York Times / Newsweek)
5/ Senate Republicans said they have the votes needed to pass their tax bill. Holdouts Steve Daines, Ron Johnson, Jeff Flake, and Susan Collins all said they will support the bill. “We have the votes,” Mitch McConnell told reporters after meeting with his caucus. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times)
- Bob Corker will oppose the GOP tax plan, making him the only Republican senator expected to vote no. “This is yet another tough vote. I am disappointed. I wanted to get to yes. But at the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations,” Corker said in a statement. (The Hill)
6/ The Treasury’s inspector general is investigating whether Steve Mnuchin hid an analysis of the Republican tax bill — or if the Treasury Department even did one. Mnuchin has said economic growth from the bill’s large tax cuts would offset lost revenue and indicated his department would produce an analysis proving it. No report has been released. (Los Angeles Times / Bloomberg)
7/ Republicans intend to cut spending on Social Security and Medicare after tax reform. Paul Ryan said he wants Republicans to focus on reducing spending on government programs and, last month, Trump said welfare reform will “take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes.” Marco Rubio said this week that “You also have to bring spending under control,” adding that “the driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries.” During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed that there would be “no cuts” to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. (Washington Post)
8/ Trump said a government shutdown could be good for him politically if Congress doesn’t pass a short-term spending bill by the December 8th deadline. Trump wants to blame Democrats and use the shutdown to get money for his border wall. (Washington Post)
9/ Rex Tillerson called reports that the White House wants him to resign “laughable.” Trump called the reports that he is planning to fire Tillerson “fake news” and that “I call the final shots.” (New York Times)
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