👋 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 European Union opened a case at the World Trade Organization in response to Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs. The EU is also expected to announce retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. on products such as Levi’s jeans, bourbon whiskey, cranberries, and peanut butter. “The European Union is not at war with anyone,” said the EU high representative on foreign policy. “We don’t want to be; for us this is out of the question … The European Union is a peace project, including on trade.” (The Guardian)
- Trump’s tariffs on US allies will shrink the savings Americans gained from tax cuts. “Combined with additional tariffs on Chinese imports and retaliatory steps taken by U.S. allies, economists across the political spectrum agree these levies will have a negative impact.” (CNBC)
2/ Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to attend a meeting with Trump to discuss the renegotiation of NAFTA because Mike Pence told him the meeting would only happen if Trudeau agreed to include a five-year sunset clause into the deal. Trudeau said it was a “totally unacceptable” precondition. “I had to highlight there was no possibility of any Canadian prime minister signing a NAFTA deal that included a five-year sunset clause and obviously the visit didn’t happen,” Trudeau said. (Tampa Bay Times)
3/ American employers added 223,000 jobs in May, bringing the national unemployment rate to an 18-year low of 3.8 percent. Average hourly pay rose by 2.7 percent compared to last year, but pay rates remain below typical levels when the unemployment rate is this low. Some economists are concerned that Trump’s aggressive actions on international trade could disrupt the recent economic progress, but most employers have not suspended hiring yet. (Associated Press / CNN Money)
4/ Trump broke with decades of protocol by publicly commenting on the jobs report data 69 minutes before they were released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Treasury yields shot up just seconds after Trump tweeted that he was “looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning.” Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to George W. Bush, said Trump’s tweet was “certainly a no-no. The advance info is sacrosanct – not to be shared.” Labor Department rules state that executive branch employees are barred from publicly commenting on jobs reports until “at least one hour” after its official release. (Washington Post / Politico / ABC News)
- Trump’s wildly inappropriate (and possibly corrupt) jobs report tweet, explained. (Vox)
5/ The Pentagon says 499 civilians were killed and 169 were injured in U.S. military operations during Trump’s first year in office. The report also says that “more than 450 reports of civilian casualties from 2017 remained to be assessed,” which suggests those numbers may be low. The report includes both air strikes and ground combat operations. There were also 11,585 more drone strikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan last year than there were in 2016. (CNN)
6/ Jared Kushner’s close friend Andrew Gerson has come under scrutiny from Robert Mueller’s team. Mueller is interested in Gerson’s supposed knowledge of meetings in January 2017 between Trump associates and foreign officials in the Seychelles. Gerson was in the Seychelles around the same time that Erik Prince secretly met with Russian and UAE officials, including Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, also known as MBZ. Gerson met with MBZ and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who organized the meeting with Erik Prince. (NBC News / Daily Beast)
7/ Trump announced that the June 12 nuclear summit with North Korea is now back on, less than a week after he canceled it via letter to Kim Jong Un. “We’re over that,” Trump told reporters, “totally over that, and now we’re going to deal and we’re really going to start a process.” (New York Times / CNN / ABC News)
8/ Trump made 3,251 false or misleading statements during his first 497 days in office — an average of more than 6.5 false or misleading claims per day. During his first 100 days, Trump made an average of 4.9 claims a day. His average for May 2018 was about eight per day, including a record 35 false or misleading claims in a single day at his rally in Nashville on May 29. (Washington Post)
Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. recently interviewed James Comey as part of a probe into whether Andrew McCabe broke the law by lying to federal agents. The decision to interview Comey suggests prosecutors are seriously considering whether to charge McCabe with a crime. The Inspector General accused McCabe of lying to investigators on four occasions about authorizing a disclosure to the media. McCabe was under oath for three of those instances. (Washington Post)
Scott Pruitt spent $1,560 on twelve custom fountain pens from a D.C. jewelry store called The Tiny Jewel Box. The exchange reveals that Pruitt’s top aides were the ones signing off on such lavish purchases, contradicting Pruitt’s previous claims. (Washington Post)
A federal study found signs of sophisticated cellphone surveillance devices operating near the White House and other sensitive locations in the D.C. area last year. Authorities aren’t sure who the culprit is or where it came from, but the breach is virtually unstoppable. (Washington Post)
The price tag for the Mueller investigation so far is about $16.7 million, while the security and travel costs for Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago have cost $17 million. (Washington Post)
Trump called for Samantha Bee to lose her job over her comments about Ivanka Trump. Trump claimed there was a “total double standard” when it comes to the reaction to Bee’s comments versus the reaction to Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet. “Why aren’t they firing no talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language used on her low ratings show?” Trump tweeted. “A total double standard but that’s O.K., we are Winning, and will be doing so for a long time to come!” (ABC News / CNN / Washington Post)
After receiving a full pardon from Trump for violating campaign finance laws, Dinesh D’Souza said his pardon is proof that Trump wants him to have “a bigger voice than ever” in the conservative movement. D’Souza on Fox and Friends: “The president said, ’Dinesh, you have been a great voice for freedom. And he said that ‘I got to tell you man-to-man, you’ve been screwed.’” (The Hill)
An independent candidate for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District named Nathan Larson admitted he’s a pedophile. Larson ran multiple online forums for pedophiles and misogynists, including incels. Larson has also bragged online about raping his ex-wife and wanting to have sex with their 3-year-old daughter. (HuffPost)
At least eight white nationalists are running in 2018 for federal and state offices across the country. Many of them are running openly on messages of hate, including one who is preaching Holocaust denial and wants to make Chicago’s neighborhoods 90 percent white. (NBC San Diego)
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