👋 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/ Steve Bannon received a cease and desist letter from Trump’s lawyer accusing him of breaching his confidentiality agreement by making “disparaging” and “outright defamatory statements” about Trump and his family. The letter comes after excerpts from Michael Wolff’s book were made public, with Bannon calling the Trump Tower meeting with Russians “treasonous,” “unpatriotic,” and “bad shit.” During the campaign, Trump had staffers sign a non-disclosure agreement which required all staff to refrain from making any disparaging comments about Trump, his family, or the campaign. (ABC News)
2/ Trump’s lawyer also demanded that Michael Wolff and his publisher immediately “cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination” of the forthcoming book. Trump’s lawyers are pursuing possible charges, including libel, in connection with the book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which is scheduled to be released Friday – four days earlier than planned. (Washington Post / ABC News)
3/ Michael Wolff has tapes to back up the quotes in his book, including conversations with Steve Bannon and former White House deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh. On Twitter, Wolff thanked Trump for making his book the current best seller on Amazon. (Axios)
Here we go. You can buy it (and read it) tomorrow. Thank you, Mr. President.— Michael Wolff (@MichaelWolffNYC) January 4, 2018
- Senior White House officials are debating whether Katie Walsh should be fired from America First after she was quoted as reportedly saying that dealing with Trump is “like trying to figure out what a child wants.” Walsh, a former White House adviser, has disputed the comment. (Axios)
4/ Breitbart board members are debating whether to fire Steve Bannon. Earlier in the day, Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that Breitbart News should consider removing its executive chairman. But that’s not all, Bannon’s billionaire benefactors, Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, formally cut financial ties with Bannon today. (Wall Street Journal / Politico)
"Should Breitbart part ways with Steve Bannon?"— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) January 4, 2018
Sarah Sanders: "I certainly think that it's something they should look at and consider"
Within five minutes Sarah Sanders says Trump believes in the First Amendment but that he also thinks Wolff's book shouldn't be published— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) January 4, 2018
5/ The White House banned staff from using personal cell phones in the West Wing. Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited security concerns for the ban. Staff will now be required to use their government-issued devices in the West Wing, which don’t accommodate texting. The White House weighed a similar move in early November, after leaks to the media from within the administration angered Trump. (Bloomberg / NBC News)
6/ Trump dissolved his voter fraud commission. He blamed states for refusing to comply with the panel’s requests for voter information, including birth dates and partial Social Security numbers. The commission was set up in May to investigate Trump’s unfounded claims that massive voter fraud had cost him the popular vote. (CNN)
7/ Jeff Sessions will allow federal prosecutors to more aggressively enforce marijuana laws. Sessions is expected to rescind an Obama-era policy of discouraging federal prosecutors from bringing charges of marijuana-related crimes or from interfering with marijuana sales in states that have legalized sales of the drug. In February, Sessions said that while states “can pass the laws they choose,” he said it remains “a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States.” (Associated Press / New York Times / Politico)
8/ The Trump administration plans to allow offshore oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the proposal would make about 90% of the U.S. outer continental shelf available for offshore leasing. (CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times)
Freedom Caucus leaders called for Jeff Sessions to step down, citing recent leaks from the Justice Department and FBI. (The Hill)
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray met with Paul Ryan about the House Russia investigation. The meeting was related to a document request by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes this summer. (Politico)
Dianne Feinstein asked Dan Scavino and Brad Parscale to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Scavino is the White House social media director and Parscale oversaw the Trump campaign’s digital operation. (Mother Jones)
More than a dozen members of Congress met with a Yale University psychiatry professor last month to discuss Trump’s mental state and recent behavior. (Politico)
Virginia determined the outcome of a tied House of Delegates race by random drawing after two delegates each received at 11,608 votes – a Republican won. Republicans will hold a 51-49 majority in Virginia’s state house. (Vox)
The US will suspend nearly all security aid to Pakistan as frustration mounts with the country’s efforts to fight terror groups. (New York Times)
The Trump administration proposed rules for health plans that bypass some Affordable Care Act protections. The alternative health care plans would be reclassified so they no longer would have to include a set of 10 essential health benefits that the ACA requires. (Washington Post)
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