👋 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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The State of the Fucking Union.
Here’s what you need to know for Trump’s inaugural State of the Union address:
Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. E.S.T.
What Wall Street is watching for. (USA Today)
A dozen Democrats plan to skip Trump’s State of the Union address. “The President is unworthy of the podium, the position and the power,” Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen said. (Roll Call)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and four other Supreme Court Justices won’t attend Trump’s address. Notorious RBG will instead host a fireside chat with students and faculty at the Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island. (NBC News)
1/ The FBI is investigating a second Trump-Russia dossier. This one, written by former journalist Cody Shearer, was provided to the FBI by Christopher Steele in October 2016. Steele warned that he could not vouch for the accuracy of the memo, but provided a copy because it corroborated what he had separately heard from his own sources. The FBI is still assessing details in the “Shearer memo,” which suggests investigators have taken some aspect of it seriously. Both documents allege that Trump was compromised during a 2013 trip to Moscow that involved prostitutes urinating on a bed where the Obamas once stayed. (The Guardian)
2/ Paul Ryan called for a “cleanse” of the FBI as he defended the way that Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes handled a vote to declassify The Memo™ of alleged surveillance abuses by federal law enforcement agencies. Ryan, however, warned against trying to use it to discredit Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “Let it all out, get it all out there,” Ryan said. “Cleanse the organization.” (Fox News / Washington Post)
3/ Mitch McConnell sees no need to protect Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “My understanding is there’s no effort under way to undermine or remove the special counsel,” McConnell said. “Therefore I don’t see any need to bring up legislation to protect someone who appears to need no protection.” Trump has discussed both possibilities. (Bloomberg)
4/ Trump is considering having Jeff Sessions prosecute Robert Mueller and his team in order to discredit the investigation and the FBI without officially firing them. As one Trump advisor said: “Here’s how it would work: ‘We’re sorry, Mr. Mueller, you won’t be able to run the federal grand jury today because he has to go testify to another federal grand jury.’” (NBC News / CNBC)
5/ Senate Democrats have been discussing whether to tie a bill protecting Robert Mueller’s investigation to the must-pass government funding bill. Current funding expires on February 8th. Chuck Schumer said he would “very much like to” merge the two efforts, which has strong support from the rest of the caucus. (The Daily Beast)
6/ Trump will not impose new sanctions on Russia because the threat is already “serving as a deterrent,” a State Department official said. A bipartisan bill overwhelmingly passed in July imposes penalties on companies doing “significant” business with Russian defense and intelligence entities. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: “We estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions.” (Politico / Washington Post)
7/ The US Treasury published a list of Russian oligarchs and senior officials at the Kremlin as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The report includes 114 senior political figures with close ties to Putin and 96 oligarchs with a net worth of $1 billion or more. The list is designed to shame individuals and put them on notice that they could be the subject of future sanctions. (CNN)
8/ The Congress-mandated sanctions report was lifted from the Forbes “200 richest businessmen in Russia 2017” list, a Treasury Department spokesperson confirmed. Almost all 96 oligarchs listed in the government-issued report appear in the Forbes’ ranking. (BuzzFeed News)
9/ CIA Director Mike Pompeo has “every expectation” that Russia will attempt to influence this year’s midterm elections. Pompeo said he still sees Russia primarily as an adversary and he hasn’t “seen a significant decrease in their activity.” (BBC)
10/ Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s decision to step aside was likely the result of a forthcoming inspector general report focused on why FBI leadership took three weeks to act on Hillary Clinton-related emails found in the latter stages of the 2016 election campaign. The internal investigation is asking if McCabe tried to avoid taking action until after the November 8, 2016 election. In a message sent to all bureau employees, FBI Director Chris Wray said “It would be inappropriate for me to comment on specific aspects of the IG’s review right now,” but that McCabe had submitted his intention to retire following a meeting in which the inspector general’s investigation was discussed. (Washington Post / NBC News)
poll/ Trump’s 2017 job approval rating averaged 38% throughout the U.S., ranging from a high of 61% in West Virginia to a low of 26% in Vermont. Trump averaged 50% or higher approval in 12 states in total. By comparison, Obama had an approval rate of 50% or greater in 41 states in his first year in office. (Gallup)
Julian Assange thought he sent a direct message to Sean Hannity on Twitter offering news about Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Instead it was just a fake Sean Hannity account. (The Daily Beast)
Betsy DeVos wants to put student loan money onto prepaid debit cards. The move would allow the Education Department to monitor, and potentially control, how and when students spend excess federal student loan and grant money. (BuzzFeed News)
A procedural vote to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy failed in the Senate, which voted 51-46 against advancing the bill. (Politico)
FEMA will end food and water aid for Puerto Rico. A third of Puerto Ricans are still without power, but “the reality is that we just need to look around. Supermarkets are open, and things are going back to normal.” (NPR)
The person responsible for sending a false missile alert to people in Hawaii was fired despite investigators determining that the worker believed the U.S. was under attack when he sent the alert. The worker sent the alert after mishearing a recorded message that was part of an unscheduled drill. (HuffPost)
The CEO of the Democratic National Committee is stepping down after less than a year on the job. Jess O’Connell didn’t offer a specific reason for her departure, but DNC officials say her decision was a personal one. (NBC News)
For $35, you can have your name displayed on the Trump campaign website during the State of the Union broadcast. (Washington Post)
Melania Trump was “blindsided” and “furious” with Trump after reports of his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels surfaced. She canceled a trip to Davos, visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and flew to Mar-a-Lago to relax at the spa. Melania will attend tonight’s State of the Union address. (New York Times)
Trump also cheats at golf, according to LPGA legend Suzann Pettersen. “He cheats like hell,” the 15-time LPGA Tour winner said. “So I don’t quite know how he is in business. They say that if you cheat at golf, you cheat at business.” (Golf)
In 2016, Scott Pruitt said Trump would take “unapologetic steps to use executive power to confront Congress in a way that is truly unconstitutional.” (Axios)
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