👋 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 tweeted that he fired Michael Flynn because he lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition last December. “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies,” Trump tweeted. (New York Times)
2/ Legal experts said Trump’s tweet is a public admission that he knew Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI, which is possible motivation to obstruct justice. In January, White House counsel Donald McGahn told Trump he believed then-national security adviser Flynn had misled the FBI and lied to Pence, and should be fired. Trump ultimately fired Flynn on February 13th. A day later, Trump asked if then-FBI Director James Comey could see “his way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” according to notes Comey kept. Trump then fired Comey in May. (Politico / CNN / Washington Post)
Emails dispute White House claims that Michael Flynn acted independently in his discussions with Russia during the presidential transition and then lied to his colleagues about the interactions. (New York Times)
A conservative operative offered the Trump campaign a “Kremlin Connect” by using an NRA convention to make “first contact.” Russia, Paul Erickson wrote, was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” (New York Times)
3/ Trump’s lawyer said he wrote the tweet about firing Flynn. John Dowd said he gave the “sloppy” tweet draft to Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino. The White House has insisted that Trump’s tweets should be taken as official statements. (ABC News)
4/ John Dowd claimed Trump “cannot obstruct justice,” because he’s responsible for the enforcement of the laws created by Congress and “has every right to express his view of any case.” Dowd added: “The tweet did not admit obstruction. That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion.” In 1999, Senator Jeff Sessions argued that Bill Clinton obstructed justice and should be impeached amid the investigation into his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. (Axios) / Politico)
5/ The Senate Judiciary Committee is building an obstruction of justice case, according to Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s top Democrat. “I see it in the hyper-frenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets,” Feinstein said. “And I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of Director [James] Comey, and it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to ‘lift the cloud’ of the Russia investigation. That’s obstruction of justice.” (NBC News)
6/ Robert Mueller removed his top FBI agent this summer for sending anti-Trump text messages. During the presidential campaign, Peter Strzok and another member of Mueller’s team had exchanged texts disparaging Trump and supporting Hillary Clinton. At the time, Strzok was investigating Clinton’s use of a private email server. Strzok left the Russia investigation in August. (New York Times / Washington Post)
7/ Trump tweeted that the FBI’s reputation is “in tatters” and its standing was now the “worst in history.” The tweet: “After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.” The head of FBI Agents Association said any suggestion that agents aren’t dedicated to their jobs, “unwavering integrity and professionalism” is “simply false.” (New York Times / The Hill)
- Republicans are drafting a contempt of Congress resolution against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray, claiming they’re stonewalling the House Intelligence Committee in producing material related to the Russia-Trump probe and other matters. (Bloomberg)
8/ The Russia investigation is “wearing” on the White House and “everyone thinks they’re being recorded.” Michael Flynn’s plea is the closest that Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling and collusion has come to the Oval Office. Flynn’s plea deal includes an agreement that he could avoid a potential lengthy jail term in part by “participating in covert law enforcement activities.” (CNN / Politico)
9/ Senate Republicans passed a $1.5 trillion tax bill – the most sweeping tax rewrite in decades – early Saturday in a 51 to 49 vote. The nearly 500-page bill, which included several pages of handwritten changes, will lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, temporarily cut tax rates for families and individuals until 2025, and repeals the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act. The Senate and the House now have to reconcile the differences in their two bills through a conference committee. Mitch McConnell called it “a great day for the country.” (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times)
10/ Trump endorsed Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama accused of inappropriate sexual relations with underage girls. Trump called Moore a “fighter,” and wrapped up the call by saying, “go get ’em, Roy!” (CNN / New York Times)
11/ The US Supreme Court allowed the latest version of Trump’s travel ban to take effect while legal challenges go forward. Trump will now be able to prevent people from six mostly Muslim countries from entering the US. It’s the first time the Supreme Court has let Trump’s travel ban take full effect. (Bloomberg / CNN)
- Catch up quick: Everything you need to know about Trump’s travel ban.
Trump finds loopholes in John Kelly’s regime. (Wall Street Journal)
Despite agreeing not to engage in any new foreign deals, the Trump Organization plans to build a Trump-branded luxury resort development in Indonesia. (McClatchy DC)
Trump wants the 83-year-old Orrin Hatch to run for reelection in an effort to block Mitt Romney from the Senate. (Politico)
Trump reduced Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and shrunk Grand Staircase-Escalante by 46%. The land could potentially be leased for energy exploration, opened up to cars, and more. No president has tried to modify monuments established under the 1906 Antiquities Act in more than half a century. (Washington Post / New York Times)
Jared Kushner failed to disclose he was the co-director of a foundation that illegally funded an Israeli settlement while pushing Michael Flynn to sway a United Nations Security Council vote condemning the settlements. (Newsweek)
Billy Bush reminded Trump that it was his voice on the “Access Hollywood” tape where he said he like to “Grab ’em by the pussy.” (New York Times)
poll/ 71% of Alabama Republicans say the allegations against Roy Moore are false. (CBS News)
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