👋 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/ FBI agent Peter Strzok rejected accusations that he let his personal political views bias his actions in the Hillary Clinton email and Russia investigations during a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee hearing. Strzok labeled the Republican attacks against him “another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.” Republicans threatened Strzok with contempt after the committee devolved into partisan, chaotic arguments about what questions he could answer about the ongoing Russia investigation. Strzok has come under scrutiny after the Justice Department’s inspector general discovered text messages critical of Trump that he exchanged during the 2016 campaign with Lisa Page, a senior FBI lawyer he was having an affair with. Republicans and Trump charge that Strzok’s text messages undermine the integrity of Robert Mueller’s investigation. Strzok was immediately removed from Mueller’s probe when the text messages came to light. Page declined to comply with a subpoena from Republican lawmakers to appear for an interview on July 11. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / CNBC)
- READ: Peter Strzok’s statement before Congress. (Politico)
2/ Trump threatened NATO allies with “grave consequences” if they don’t boost their military spending by January, warning alliance members that otherwise the U.S. could “go our own way.” Trump arrived late, hijacked a meeting in progress, and delivered what one official called a “prolonged rant.” He then praised the alliance as a “fine-tuned machine.” (Politico)
3/ Trump reaffirmed his support for NATO, calling his threat to withdraw from the alliance “unnecessary” after he pressured members to increase their defense budgets “like they never have before.” He offered no specifics, and some leaders rejected his claim. Trump called himself a “very stable genius” and said he deserved “total credit” for pushing allies to increase their military spending by more than previously agreed to while also warning members that the U.S. “would go it alone” if countries did not meet the 2% target by January. In 2014, NATO members committed to each spend 2% of GDP on defense by 2024. French president Emmanuel Macron said that “Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / NBC News)
4/ NATO allies dispute Trump’s claim that they pledged to “substantially” raise their defense budgets, saying they simply reaffirmed their commitment to a 2014 deal to reach the 2% of GDP target by 2024. (BBC)
5/ The Trump administration reunited 57 of the 103 children under age 5 who were “eligible” to be reunited with their families. The remaining 46 children were “ineligible” for reunification because their parents failed background checks or had criminal records, or because of logistical issues, like having already been deported. (New York Times / Politico)
6/ Thousands of asylum seekers will be turned away before they have an opportunity to plead their case in court under a new Trump administration policy. The new guidance instructs officers to reject asylum claims based on fears of gang and domestic violence. Officers will also consider whether an asylum seeker crossed the border illegally and take that into consideration when weighing their claim. The new guidance also applies to refugees. (CNN)
7/ Brett Kavanaugh racked up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt from buying baseball tickets over the last decade. At times, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee reported liabilities may have even exceeded the value of his cash and investment accounts. Kavanaugh’s debts reached between $60,000 and $200,000 in 2016, but the loans were either paid off or fell below the reporting requirements by the following year. (Washington Post)
- Kavanaugh on abortion: In a recent speech, he described Roe v. Wade as part of the “tide of freewheeling judicial creation of unenumerated rights.” (Daily Beast)
Bill Shine’s wife mocked victims of sexual harassment in the military and pushed conspiracy theories about vaccines on her radio show between 2008 and 2009. Darla Shine, the wife of Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications, declared herself a “sexist” and said women serving with men in the military should expect to be sexually harassed. Her husband was ousted from Fox News for mishandling reports of sexual harassment at the network. (CNN / Mediaite / HuffPost)
Trump’s top economic adviser will be named the White House’s legislative affairs director. Shahira Knight will replace Marc Short when he steps down later this month to join a D.C. consulting firm and teach at UVA. (Politico)
Stormy Daniels was arrested during a performance at an Ohio strip club and charged with three misdemeanor sex offenses for touching three undercover police officers. The charges were later dismissed. Daniels’ attorney called the charges a politically motivated setup. (CNN)
Robert Mueller asked a federal court in Virginia for 100 blank subpoenas in the case against Paul Manafort. The subpoenas would require the recipients to testify in federal court on July 25 – the day Manafort’s trial is set to begin. Mueller asked for 150 blank subpoenas about a month ago. (The Hill)
Trump called recognizing Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea “an interesting question.” Congress, however, has legislated that it is U.S. policy “to never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Government of the Russian Federation.” Trump will meet with Putin on July 16. (Bloomberg)
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