👋 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/ The FBI warned Trump in 2016 that Russia would try to infiltrate his campaign. Both Trump and Hillary Clinton received counterintelligence briefings by senior FBI officials, which advised them to alert the FBI to any “suspicious overtures to their campaigns.” Trump was “briefed and warned” at the session about potential espionage threats from Russia. (NBC News)
2/ Robert Mueller obtained “many tens of thousands” of Trump transition emails, including the emails of Jared Kushner and 11 others. The emails came from the General Services Administration, which hosted the transition email system, and include exchanges about potential appointments, gossip about senators, vulnerabilities of Trump nominees, PR strategies, and policy planning. (Axios)
3/ A lawyer from Trump’s transition team accused Robert Mueller of unlawfully obtaining the emails in a seven-page letter sent to the House and Senate oversight committees. Kory Langhofer argued that the General Services Administration “unlawfully produced” emails which were subject to attorney-client privilege. Peter Carr, a spokesman from Mueller’s office, said: “When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.” (Politico / Axios)
4/ Trump said he is not considering firing Robert Mueller, but that “my people” are “very upset” with how Mueller obtained his transition team’s emails and the situation is “not looking good.” Congresswoman Jackie Speier, meanwhile, said “rumors” on Capitol Hill suggest Trump plans to fire Mueller on December 22nd, after Congress leaves Washington for the winter recess. (Washington Post / CNN / KQED)
- The cooperation between Trump’s lawyers and Robert Mueller is fracturing. As the investigation has reached deeper into Trump’s inner circle, Trump’s lawyers and supporters have increased their attacks on Mueller. (New York Times)
5/ Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are trying to wrap up their Russia probe by the end of the year. Democrats have requested as many as 30 additional interviews with new witnesses, but none have been scheduled beyond the end of this month. Some witnesses are scheduled to be interviewed in New York this week, leaving Democrats to choose between attending those depositions or voting on the tax bill coming before the House. (New York Times / NBC News)
6/ Trump has been telling people close to him that he expects Robert Mueller to clear him soon. His allies, meanwhile, are worried he’s not taking the threat of the probe seriously enough. (CNN)
7/ Trump unveiled his “America First” foreign policy, presenting both Russia and China as “revisionist powers” who “want to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests.” Trump’s strategy has four organizing principles: protect the American homeland, protect American prosperity, preserve peace through strength, and advance US influence. Trump attacked past administrations on immigration, the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, trade pacts, and more. (Washington Post / CNN)
8/ The Trump administration ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop using “diversity,” “fetus,” “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “science-based,” and “evidence-based” in their 2018 budget documents. “Certain words” in the CDC’s budget drafts have been sent back to the agency for correction. (Washington Post)
9/ Chuck Schumer will force a Senate vote to reinstate the FCC’s net neutrality rules. Congress can overturn an agency by invoking the Congressional Review Act with a simple majority vote, without the possibility of a filibuster. The Republican majority will be 51-49 after Alabama Democrat Doug Jones is sworn in. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she opposes the net neutrality repeal. (Ars Technica)
poll/ 50% of voters prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 39% want Republicans in charge. Democrats hold a 48-point lead in congressional preference among voters under 35 years old (69% to 21%) and a 20-point lead among female voters (54% to 34%). (NBC News)
At least four senators are urging Al Franken to reconsider his resignation, saying the calls for his resignation were a rush to judgment. Franken plans to formally resign in early January. (Politico)
Bob Corker hasn’t read the GOP tax bill, but denied changing his vote in exchange for a provision slipped into the bill that could personally enrich him. (International Business Times)
Witch Hunt at the EPA: Multiple employees have come under scrutiny after speaking out about the agency. Within a matter of days, requests were submitted for copies of their emails that mentioned either Scott Pruitt or Trump, or any communication with Democrats in Congress that might have been critical of the agency. (New York Times)
Puerto Rico ordered a recount of the number of people who have died because of Hurricane Maria. The official death count is 64. A New York Times review suggests that 1,052 more people died than usual in the 42 days after Maria hit. (New York Times)
A federal appeals judge abruptly retired today after 15 women accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior. (Washington Post)
Trump’s judicial nominee withdrew himself from consideration after a video went viral of him failing to answer basic questions about the law during his confirmation hearing. (HuffPost)
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are being sued over omissions on their public financial disclosure forms. The two failed to identify the assets owned by 30 investment funds they have stakes in. (Politico)
Putin called Trump to thank him for CIA intelligence that allegedly stopped a planned bombing in St. Petersburg. A readout of the conversation said that Trump appreciated the call and “stressed the importance of intelligence cooperation to defeat terrorists wherever they may be.” (NBC News)
At least six people were killed after an Amtrak train derailed from a bridge onto Interstate 5 near Olympia, Washington. 77 people were sent to hospitals after 13 cars of the 14-car train jumped the tracks. Trump tweeted that train accident “shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly.” (Seattle Times)
🔮 Looking ahead.
- Congressional Republicans will try to pass both their tax reform bill and a budget plan by Friday in order to avoid a government shutdown. “GOP leaders hope to hold tax votes early in the week before moving to the budget bill. They need Democrats’ help to pass the budget measure through the Senate, and thus far they have made little progress bringing them aboard amid disagreements over spending levels, protection from deportation for certain undocumented immigrants and a federal health insurance program for low-income children.” (Washington Post)
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