👋 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/ Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release The Memo™ that accuses the Justice Department and FBI of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on Carter Page. The vote effectively declassifies the memo, which was written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. Trump now has five days to review the document and decide whether to prevent it from going public. Last week, Trump called for the release of The Memo™, despite his own Justice Department warning him that releasing the memo to the public would be “extraordinarily reckless.” Trump reportedly erupted in anger aboard Air Force One when he learned that a top Justice Department official advised against releasing the memo, warning Jeff Sessions and others that they need to excel at their jobs or go down as the worst in history. Democrats said the three-and-a half-page document is an effort to build a false narrative in order to undercut the ongoing Russia investigation, using inaccurately summarizes classified investigative materials that are designed to smear the FBI. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg)
- The Memo™ claims Rod Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate, which relied on research by Christopher Steele, the author behind the dossier containing claims about Trump’s ties to Russia. Republicans argue that the FBI and Justice Department didn’t adequately explain this when initially seeking a warrant for surveillance from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. (New York Times)
2/ Republicans won’t advance bills to protect Robert Mueller and future special counsels, despite a report that Trump tried to fire Mueller last June. Two bipartisan bills under consideration would empower a panel of federal judges to review the case for firing the special counsel and determine whether there was good cause to do so. “It’s pretty clear to me that everybody in the White House knows it would be the end of President Trump’s presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller,” Lindsey Graham said. (New York Times)
3/ FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is “stepping aside,” but will remain on the FBI payroll until he is eligible to retire with full benefits in mid-March. Trump has accused McCabe of political bias and has repeatedly pressured him to step down. McCabe’s retirement was widely expected, but the decision to immediately go on leave was sudden. (NBC News / New York Times)
4/ Trump demanded to know why James Comey was allowed to fly on an FBI plane after he had been fired in a phone call to then-acting director Andrew McCabe. McCabe hadn’t been asked to authorize the flight, but said he would have approved it anyway. Trump then suggested McCabe ask his wife how it feels to be a loser, referencing her failed 2015 campaign for state office in Virginia. In the past, Trump also asked McCabe how he voted in the 2016 election. (NBC News)
5/ The deadline to implement the Russia sanctions is today. In August Trump reluctantly signed the sanctions, which are designed to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 election, into law. The Treasury Department is required to produce a report on Putin-linked oligarchs and impose sanctions on entities doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. (Politico)
6/ Russia accused the US of meddling in its upcoming presidential election. Moscow called the timing of the US Treasury report on Russian sanctions “a direct and obvious attempt” to interfere with the upcoming vote. (CNN)
7/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that “poll after poll” says that nobody cares about the Trump-Russia investigation. She did not cite a specific poll. However, poll, after poll, after poll, after poll, after poll, after poll, after poll suggest Americans do care about the issue. (Washington Post)
8/ Lawmakers in both parties are calling on Trump to drop his demands to slash legal immigration and focus more narrowly on DREAMers and border security. Many lawmakers are worried that Trump’s positions on legal immigration will sink a bipartisan deal. The White House’s DACA plan proposes a path to citizenship for 1.8 million DREAMers in exchange for $25 billion for the border wall and cuts to family immigration visas. (Washington Post / CNN)
9/ Democrats are well-positioned to end one-party government in Washington in the November elections. A Bloomberg analysis of historical data, election maps and public polling points to Democratic gains in the midterms, when all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate are on the ballot. (Bloomberg)
“Since the end of World War II, the party in control of the White House has, on average, had a net loss of 26 House seats in midterm elections. Democrats can win control of the House with a net gain of 24 seats in November. They’d need to win two seats to gain a majority in the Senate.”
“Trump’s approval rating at this stage of his presidency, 36 percent, is lower than any of his predecessors going back to Harry Truman, according to Gallup polling data. The less popular the president, the more seats his party tends to lose.”
poll/ 63% of millennials think the country is on the wrong track. 63% of millennials also disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job. 46% strongly disapprove. (NBC News)
The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee will not seek reelection. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a 12-term congressman, is the eighth Republican committee chairman to forgo reelection in the House ahead of a midterm cycle. (Politico)
Melania Trump took 21 flights on Air Force jets at a cost of more than $675,000 in a three-month period before she moved to the White House in June 2017. (Wall Street Journal)
A Russian military jet came within five feet of a US Navy P-3 Orion surveillance plane while flying in international airspace over the Black Sea. (CNN)
The Russian lawyer from the Trump Tower meeting has been named in a Swiss court case involving bribery, corruption, and “unauthorized clandestine behavior.” (The Daily Beast)
Scott Pruitt was personally involved in erasing climate data from EPA website and directed staff to manipulate search results on the site, according to a Freedom of Information Act request. (Think Progress / Environmental Defense Fund)
Trump says he sometimes tweets from bed, because he is “very busy during the day, very long hours. I am busy.” He added: “I will sometimes just dictate out something really quickly and give it to one of my people to put it on.” (Reuters)
Hillary Clinton trolled Trump at the 2018 Grammys by reading an excerpt from Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” about Trump’s first year in the White House. (CNN)
Stuff Trump Said.
A few choice quotes from Trump’s interview with Piers Morgan. (The Guardian)
“I think I’m very popular in [Britain] … I get so much fan mail from people in your country.”
“I have tremendous respect for women … I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist … I think that would be, maybe, going too far. I’m for women, I’m for men, I’m for everyone.”
On climate change: “There is a warming and there is a cooling … I believe in crystal-clear beautiful water. I believe in just having good cleanliness and all.”
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