👋 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/ Jared Kushner’s security clearance was downgraded from “Interim Top Secret” to “Interim Secret.” The Interim Top Secret clearance, which Kushner has been operating under for about a year, allowed him to attend classified briefings and read the President’s Daily Brief, among other things. (Politico / Reuters / Axios)
2/ At least four countries privately discussed ways they could manipulate Jared Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial issues, and lack of foreign policy experience. Officials in the White House were concerned that Kushner was “naive and being tricked” in conversations with foreign officials. (Washington Post)
3/ Robert Mueller moved to dismiss 22 tax and bank fraud charges against Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official. Gates pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to federal investigators. As part of his plea, Gates agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s probe regarding “any and all matters” deemed relevant to his investigation. (Washington Post / Axios / CNBC)
4/ Trump tapped Brad Parscale to manage his 2020 presidential re-election campaign. Parscale was the digital director for Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump filed a letter of intent to run for re-election with the FEC on January 20th, 2017 – the day he took office. (CNBC / Reuters)
5/ Hope Hicks refused to answer questions under instructions from the White House during a closed-door House Intelligence Committee session today on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. “We got Bannoned,” a member of the House intelligence committee said, in reference Steve Bannon’s earlier refusal to answer committee questions. The White House communications director is one of Trump’s closest confidants and advisers. She was originally expected to appear before the committee in January, but her interview was cancelled due to concerns about the scope of questioning and conflicts over the White House’s assertions of executive privilege. (Bloomberg / CNN / Washington Post)
6/ A Department of Housing and Urban Development officer was demoted and replaced after she refused to illegally fund a redecoration of Ben Carson’s office. Helen Foster said she was told “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair” after she reminded her superiors that $5,000 was the legal limit for improvements to Ben Carson’s suite in Washington. (The Guardian)
7/ The Supreme Court ruled that immigrants facing deportation are not entitled to periodic bond hearings. The 5-3 decision reversed a Ninth Circuit ruling that immigrant detainees and asylum seekers can’t be detained indefinitely and must be given a bond hearing every six months and that detention beyond the initial six-month period is permitted only if the government proved that further detention is justified. (NPR / Washington Post)
8/ Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can strike down new rules with a simple majority vote. The bill currently has 50 supporters in the Senate, putting it one vote shy of the 51 needed to ensure passage. Even if the measure passes the Senate, it faces an uphill battle in the House where it needs 218 votes. There are 150 Democrats supporting the resolution and no Republicans. (The Verge / The Hill / Politico)
9/ Russian operatives “compromised” election systems in seven states prior to 2016 election, from hacking state websites to penetrating voter registration databases, according to a top-secret intelligence reported requested by Obama during his last weeks in office. Three senior intelligence officials said the intelligence community believed the states were Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin. Several of those states were notified that foreign entities were probing their systems, but none were told the Russian government was behind it. (NBC News)
10/ The NSA director told lawmakers that he has not received orders from Trump to stop Russian hacking targeting U.S. elections. US Cyber Command chief Adm. Mike Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “I haven’t been granted any additional authorities,” adding, “I need a policy decision that indicates there is specific direction to [disrupt Russian election hacking]. The president ultimately would make this decision in accordance with a recommendation from the secretary of Defense.” (The Hill / CNN)
poll/ 58% of Americans don’t think Trump is taking the Russia investigation seriously enough, and 60% say they are not confident Trump is doing enough to prevent foreign countries from influencing future American elections. Meanwhile, 55% believe Trump attempted to interfere with the Russia investigation, up from 51% in January. (CNN)
The EPA is dissolving a program that funds studies on the effects of pollution and chemical exposure on adults and children. The National Center for Environmental Research will no longer exist following plans to combine three EPA offices. (The Hill / Common Dreams)
Bob Corker will not run for reelection after all. The Tennessee Republican reconsidered running for re-election after some senators and state party officials urged him to stay in the Senate. (CNBC / Politico)
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci called for John Kelly to resign, citing low White House morale. (Axios)
The Justice Department is investigating allegations from the House Republican memo that a FISA court was misled by prosecutors and FBI agents when applying for warrants to surveil a Trump campaign adviser with ties to Moscow. (Politico)
Melania Trump parted ways with her senior adviser and friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, after news surfaced that Wolkoff’s firm had received $26 million to plan Trump’s inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017. Wolkoff was terminated last week because the Trumps were unhappy with the news reports about the contract. (New York Times)
The lieutenant governor in Georgia threatened to kill a tax cut for Delta after the airline eliminated its discount for NRA members. In a tweet, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle added: “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.” (USA Today / New York Times)
Obama: “We didn’t have a scandal that embarrassed us. I know that seems like a low bar.” (Reason)
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