👋 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/ Robert Mueller charged an attorney with making a false statement to federal authorities as part of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors charged Alex Van Der Zwaan with lying to the FBI and Mueller’s office about conversations he had with Rick Gates, the former Trump campaign aide who is cooperating in the Mueller probe, about work done in Ukraine six years ago. Van Der Zwaan was charged by criminal information, which typically precedes a guilty plea because it can only be filed with a defendant’s permission and usually indicates the person is cooperating with investigators. (Bloomberg / New York Times / Washington Post)
2/ Trump endorsed Mitt Romney’s run for a U.S. Senate seat in Utah. Romney accepted Trump’s support but not endorsement in a carefully worded tweet 45-minutes later despite his frequent criticism of Trump and his policies. During the 2016 campaign, Romney tweeted that he would never have accepted Trump’s endorsement for his 2012 presidential bid had the former reality TV star publicly said the offensive things he did about the KKK, Muslims, Mexicans, and people with disabilities. (Reuters / Vox / ABC News)
Thank you Mr. President for the support. I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) February 20, 2018
3/ The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to California’s 10-day waiting period for firearms purchases, which is intended to prevent impulsive violence and suicides. The gun rights groups who challenged the waiting period argued that it violated their right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. (Reuters)
4/ Trump recommended that Jeff Sessions declare so-called bump stocks illegal. Bump stocks are a device that enable semi-automatic rifles capable of firing hundreds of rounds a minute. Trump’s directive does not address restrictions on the purchase of AR-15-style rifles, like the one used in the Florida school shooting last week that killed 17 people. The gunman who killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others in Las Vegas in October had at least 12 rifles fitted with bump stocks. (CNBC / Bloomberg)
5/ The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Trump’s decision to end transgender military service “was unexpected” and that he was “not consulted.” Less than 24 hours after Trump tweeted that “after consultation with my Generals and military experts” he was ending transgender service in the military, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the highest-ranking military general, emailed the generals of the Air Force, Army, Marines, National Guard, and Navy to say “I know yesterday’s announcement was unexpected” and that he would “state that I was not consulted” if asked at a scheduled Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on September 26th. (BuzzFeed News)
6/ More than twice as many women are running for Congress in 2018 compared to 2016. At latest count, 431 women were running for or were likely to run for the House nationwide — 339 Democrats and 92 Republicans. At this point in 2016, there were fewer than half that: 212. Likewise, 50 women are running for or likely to run for Senate, compared to 25 at this point in 2016. (NPR)
7/ The Trump administration proposed regulations that would allow health insurers to sell so-called “short-term” policies that could last up to 12 months. The plans don’t have to meet the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections, or offer a comprehensive benefit package. The proposal would reverse an Obama administration decision to limit the duration of short-term health plans to no more than 90 days in order to make them less attractive. (CNN / CNBC)
poll/ 62% of Americans blame Trump and Congress for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings. 77% say they think more effective mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the Parkland, FL shooting. (Washington Post-ABC News poll)
poll/ 66% of Americans support stricter gun laws. 50% of gun owners also support stricter gun laws. (Quinnipiac)
poll/ The Presidential Greatness Survey ranked Trump as the worst president ever. He came in first as the most polarizing president. (Washington Post)
Scott Pruitt’s EPA is facing legal challenges to his rollback of Obama-era environmental protections and laws. The court challenges and legal delays have slowed rule rollbacks on everything from preventing dentists from washing excess mercury down the drain to curbing methane gas emissions. (The Guardian)
Trump’s infrastructure plan no longer includes the requirement that energy companies use American-made steel to build their pipelines. (CNBC)
Pennsylvania’s new congressional district map will give Democrats a better chance of winning back the House this fall. Early estimates of the new map, drawn by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, suggest that the number of Trump seats available has dropped from around 13 down to 10 – which could bring the Democrats a few steps closer to securing a majority in the House. (Politico)
Fox News is launching a new subscription-based streaming service for Fox super fans. It’s called “Fox Nation.” The stand-alone subscription service will focus on right-leaning commentary and feature original shows and appearances by right-wing personalities, like Sean Hannity. Fox Nation is expected to launch by the end of the year. (New York Times)
A Texas couple is suing the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops alleging that weren’t allowed to foster a refugee child because they don’t “mirror the Holy Family.” (Dallas News)
A dating site for Trump supporters featured a man who was convicted for having sex with a minor on its homepage. In 1995, Barrett Riddleberger was convicted of videotaping himself having sex with a 15-year-old girl. He was 25. (Gizmodo / CBS News)
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