👋 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 challenged Jeff Sessions to investigate the Obama administration for not doing enough to stop Russian interference in the 2016 election. “If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation?” Trump tweeted. “Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!” Trump has singled out his own attorney general several times for not doing enough to protect him from the Russia probe. In July, Trump tweeted that Sessions “has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes.” A few hours later, Trump called Sessions “beleaguered.” (CNN / New York Times)
2/ Jared Kushner is pushing back against attempts to revoke his access to highly classified information, setting up an internal struggle with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Last week, Kelly issued a five-page memo outlining that the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top secret information if their background investigation has been pending since before last June. Kushner’s security clearance has been pending for more than 13 months. The White House, meanwhile, insists that Kushner can continue in his role as a senior adviser even without a security clearance. (New York Times / CNN / Reuters)
3/ Mueller is investigating whether Paul Manafort promised a Chicago banker a job in the Trump White House in return for $16 million in home loans. Manafort received three separate loans in December 2016 and January 2017 from Federal Savings Bank for homes in New York City and the Hamptons. (NBC News)
4/ Mueller filed new charges against former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. The sealed, single-page document does not shed light on the charges, but the new charges signal that Mueller may have filed a superseding indictment that replaces the one from October last year. (The Guardian / Politico)
5/ Alex van der Zwaan pleads guilty in Robert Mueller’s probe. The son-in-law of a Russia-based billionaire admitted to lying to investigators about his communications with Rick Gates, the former Trump campaign aide. Van der Zwaan also admitted that he deleted records of emails that prosecutors had requested. It’s the fourth guilty plea Mueller has secured, but van der Zwaan is the first not to enter into a cooperation agreement with the special counsel’s office. (New York Times / Bloomberg)
- Mueller’s decision to charge van der Zwaan puts additional pressure on Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, both of whom worked with van der Zwaan on a report supporting the legitimacy of the criminal prosecution of a former Ukrainian prime minister. Prosecutors have also accused Manafort and Gates of laundering millions of dollars and concealing their lobbying efforts in Ukraine. (Bloomberg)
6/ Trump endorsed arming “adept” teachers or former military officers to prevent or shorten school shootings. He pledged to cover “every aspect” of school safety and he intends to be “very strong on background checks,” putting a “very strong emphasis” on mental health. (CNBC)
- A superintendent in a Texas school district is threatening to suspend students for three days if they join the nationwide protests over the shooting at a Florida high school last week. (Houston Chronicle)
poll/ 51% of voters say they have not noticed an increase in their paychecks under the new tax law. 25% say they have. (Politico)
poll/ 67% of voters think Trump should publicly release his tax returns. 52% of voters think Trump has not released his tax returns because he has something to hide. (Quinnipiac)
poll/ Trump’s approval rating stands at 37%, down slightly from 40% approval earlier this month. (CNN)
Democrats flipped a Kentucky state legislature seat in a district that Trump won by 49 points in 2016. Linda Belcher won the special election in Kentucky’s House District 49 by a 68-32 margin. Trump carried the district by a 72-23 margin in 2016, which also went 66-33 for Mitt Romney in 2012. (Vox)
Pence was set for a secret meeting with North Korea while at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. The meeting never happened, according to Pence’s office, because the North Koreas pulled out of the scheduled meeting. (Washington Post)
A senior Department of Health and Human Services official was placed on administrative leave for promoting stories filled with baseless claims and conspiracy theories on social media. The agency is investigating Jon Cordova’s postings. (CNN)
The White House has given David Shulkin permission to purge “subversion” at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Shulkin says. The cabinet head said that those who have defied his authority “won’t be working in my operation” and “those who crossed the line in the past are going to have to be accountable for those decisions.” The move comes after a recent inspector general report found that Shulkin pressured the VA’s third-most-senior official to alter an email to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government in order to have the VA pay for his wife’s airfare. The IG investigation also found that Shulkin had improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets from a friend. Shulkin’s foes have been using the report in their push to oust the Veterans Affairs secretary. (Politico)
Former Trump political adviser Sam Nunberg will be interviewed by Robert Mueller’s investigators Thursday. Mueller’s office has informed him that he’s not a target of the probe and won’t be prosecuted unless he’s found to have lied to investigators (Bloomberg)
The Republican National Committee is paying Trump’s former bodyguard $15,000 a month for “security consulting.” Keith Schiller’s private security firm is being paid out of the RNC’s convention fund, – not its campaign fund – for consulting on the site selection process for the 2020 Republican National Convention. (CNBC)
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