👋 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 accused Russia of helping North Korea evade sanctions and claimed that Pyongyang is getting “closer every day” to being able to deliver a long-range missile to the United States. Russian tankers were caught supplying fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months. North Korea requires imported fuel to keep its intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear program functioning. “Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump said. (Reuters)
2/ The Pentagon wants to allow nuclear retaliation in response to cyberattacks against the United States. The latest draft of the U.S. nuclear strategy, which was sent to Trump’s desk for approval, is the first to expand the list of justifications for “first use” nuclear strikes. It includes attempts to destroy national infrastructure via cyberattack. (New York Times / HuffPost)
3/ Steve Bannon cited executive privilege and refused to answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee yesterday. House investigators in both parties were outraged by his refusal, leading the committee to subpoena Bannon on the spot, vowing to force him to answer their questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Politico)
- What Steve Bannon told Congress yesterday. Bannon admitted that he’d had conversations with Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and legal spokesman Mark Corallo about Don Junior’s infamous meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016. (Axios)
4/ Bannon didn’t respond to House Intelligence Committee questions because the White House directed him not to. During Bannon’s testimony, his attorney relayed questions in real time to the White House asking if his client could answer the questions. Bannon was instructed not to discuss his work on the transition or in the White House. White House officials believed they had an agreement with the committee to limit questions to the presidential campaign. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, called the “gag order” an “audacious” move by the White House. (Associated Press / CNN / CNBC)
5/ Bannon struck a deal with Robert Mueller to be interviewed by prosecutors instead of testifying before the grand jury. A source close to Bannon said he will cooperate with the special counsel and that “Mueller will hear everything Bannon has to say.” (The Daily Beast / CNN)
6/ The chance of a government shutdown increased as Trump aligned himself with the conservative House Freedom Caucus on immigration, criticizing a proposed bipartisan deal as “horrible” on border security and “very, very weak” on legal immigration reform. Democrats are threatening to vote against any spending bill that doesn’t include a DACA fix. Republicans, meanwhile, need 60 votes to pass a spending bill in order to keep the federal government funded past the Friday deadline. Trump is confident that Americans will blame Democrats for a shutdown, despite Republicans controlling the House, Senate, and the White House. (Reuters / NBC News)
7/ Robert Mueller’s probe would continue in the event of a government shutdown. Employees in the special counsel’s office are exempt from furlough and would continue their work, despite a potential lack of appropriations. The government is set to shut down Friday night if lawmakers are unable to agree on a spending bill. (CNN)
8/ The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to review an order to restart DACA. A federal judge ordered that previous beneficiaries of DACA must be allowed to renew their status in the program, but the government is not required to accept new applications. The Justice Department also appealed a related decision, which imposed a nationwide stop on the Trump administration’s decision to end the program until the case can be heard. (New York Times)
Robert Mueller’s team is investigating newly uncovered financial transactions from Russian diplomatic accounts and people or businesses inside the United States. Among them are transactions by former ambassador Sergey Kislyak 10 days after the 2016 presidential election and a blocked $150,000 cash withdrawal five days after the inauguration. (BuzzFeed News)
Trump’s alleged affair with a porn star and the reported $130,000 in hush money scandal, explained. (Vox)
Three-quarters of the National Parks Service advisory panel resigned in frustration. Nine out of 12 members abruptly quit, citing frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or hold a single meeting last year. All of the members who resigned had terms that were set to expire in May. (Washington Post)
Wisconsin Democrats flipped a state senate seat in a special election. The district voted for Trump and Mitt Romney in the past two presidential elections. (The Hill)
Jeff Flake delivered a speech from the Senate floor comparing Trump’s anti-press rhetoric to former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin that Trump inspires modern-day authoritarians. Trump promised to announce his “Fake News Awards” today. (Los Angeles Times / Reuters)
John Kelly told Democratic lawmakers that the U.S. will never construct a physical wall along the entire stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border and that some of Trump’s campaign promises on immigration were “uninformed.” (Washington Post)
Border patrol agents routinely vandalize containers of water and supplies left in the Arizona desert for migrants in an attempt to deter and punish people who illegally cross from Mexico. (The Guardian)
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