👋 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/ The Senate Intelligence Committee recommended that states buy voting machines that produce paper ballots and that they secure voter databases ahead of November’s midterm elections. Senators, concerned about Russian meddling in the midterms, called on Congress to “urgently” make funds available for states to update their voting systems, institute vote audits, and hire staff focused on cybersecurity. (New York Times)
2/ Senators criticized the Trump administration for not doing enough to prepare for the 2018 midterms. “I hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue,” Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said. Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before the committee, saying the 2018 midterms and future elections are “clearly potential targets for Russian hacking attempts.” (CNN)
3/ Trump ignored specific warnings from his national security advisers not to congratulate Putin on his recent election win. Instead, Trump called Putin and opened by congratulating him. A section in Trump’s briefing materials was titled “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” in all-capital letters. (Washington Post)
4/ Trump and John Kelly are reportedly furious over the leak that Trump congratulated Putin despite warnings from multiple national security advisers and briefing materials that said “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.” It’s still unclear if Trump read the guidance that was given to him by his advisers, but Trump defended his congratulatory call, tweeting that “Getting along with Russia… is a good thing,” and that his “energy and chemistry” with Putin will be constructive. He capped off his second tweet with an all-caps: “PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!” (CNN / Axios)
- A senior White House official who is not authorized to discuss the leak publicly commented that “leaking [president’s briefing papers] is a fireable offense and likely illegal.” A person in close contact with national security officials said John Kelly is “on a warpath” and “there’s going to be a scalp over this.” (Los Angeles Times)
5/ The former director of the CIA suggested that Russia may have compromising information on Trump “that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.” John Brennan, the CIA director under Obama, said the fact that Trump “had this fawning attitude toward Mr. Putin, has not said anything negative about him, I think continues to say to me that he does have something to fear and something very serious to fear.” Brennan was the CIA director in 2016 when the dossier surfaced that claimed the Russians had compromising information on Trump. (CNN / New York Times)
poll/ 40% of voters view the NRA negatively, compared with 37% who view the organization positively. the first time since before 2000 that more people in the poll have viewed the NRA in a negative light than in a positive light. (NBC News)
poll/ 70% of millennial women now identify as Democrats, up from 54% in 2002. 23% of millennial women identify as Republicans, down from 36% in 2002. (Pew Research Center)
poll/ 67% of voters say Trump is not a good role model for children. 55% don’t think Trump has a good sense of decency. (Quinnipiac)
The Austin bombing suspect blew himself up as a SWAT team tried to apprehend him on the side of a highway. Mark Anthony Conditt is believed to have been responsible for at least six bombs that killed at least two people and wounded five. Police were closing in on Conditt’s vehicle on Interstate 35 when “the suspect detonated a bomb inside the vehicle, knocking one of our SWAT officers back,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said. (NBC News / New York Times)
Mark Zuckerberg on Cambridge Analytica: “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.” Zuckerberg said Facebook will investigate all apps with access to Facebook data, limit access to data to prevent other kinds of abuse, and release a tool to help users understand who has access to their data. (Bloomberg / CNBC)
Andrew McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Jeff Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russians. McCabe authorized the investigation nearly a year before he was fired by Sessions for a “lack of candor.” (ABC News)
Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold is considering stepping down from Congress before the end of his term, which would allow him to dodge an Ethics Committee investigation into allegations of inappropriate office behavior. (Politico)
A Holocaust denier won the Illinois Republican primary in the state’s Third Congressional District. The Illinois Republican Party tried to distance itself from Arthur Jones, blanketing the district with campaign fliers and robocalls urging voters to “stop Illinois Nazis.” (New York Times)
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spent more than $163,000 on first-class flights, military aircraft, and charter flights in his first year in office. The agency has said the expensive flights were necessary because of the high number of security threats Pruitt has received. (Politico)
The Republican National Committee spent at least $271,000 at Trump’s private businesses in February. The expenditures represent 86% of the RNC’s February spending. (Washington Post)
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