👋 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/ Two weeks before his inauguration, Trump was briefed that Putin had personally ordered the cyberattacks to influence the 2016 election. The intelligence briefing included texts and emails from Russian military officers, as well as evidence from a source close to Putin, who had described how the Kremlin executed the hacking and disinformation campaign. After flip-flopping on whether he believed Putin’s denial that Russia interfered in the election, Trump indirectly blamed Putin for meddling, “because he’s in charge of the country.” (New York Times)
- A Senate Republican blocked passage of a non-binding, bipartisan resolution backing the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn called the resolution “purely a symbolic act,” sinking the effort to pass the resolution by unanimous consent. (The Hill / CNN)
2/ Trump now “disagrees” with Putin’s “incredible offer” to allow Moscow to interrogate 11 Americans in exchange for access to the 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted for their role in trying to sabotage the 2016 election, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Yesterday, the White House said Trump was entertaining Putin’s proposal to swap officials for questioning, calling it “an interesting idea,” which prompted a backlash from both Republicans and Democrats. It took Trump three days to come this conclusion. (Washington Post / New York Times / Reuters)
- The Senate unanimously approved a non-binding, bipartisan resolution warning Trump not to honor Putin’s request to let the Russian government question American diplomats and other officials. (Axios / The Hill)
3/ Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. claimed Trump and Putin had reached several “important verbal agreements” on issues in the Middle East and nuclear proliferation. Senior U.S. military leaders, however, have little to no information about what the two leaders discussed or agreed to. (Washington Post / The Guardian)
4/ Trump invited Putin to visit the White House this fall for a second summit despite his advisers struggling to ascertain what Trump and Putin agreed to. Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that he is already looking “forward to our second meeting so we can start implementing some of the many things discussed.” Sarah Huckabee Sanders then tweeted that Trump had asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin, adding, the “discussions are already underway.” (New York Times / Bloomberg / Associated Press)
In Helsinki, @POTUS agreed to ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs. President Trump asked @Ambjohnbolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway.— Kayleigh McEnany 45 Archived (@PressSec45) July 19, 2018
5/ Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee blocked an attempt to subpoena the interpreter who sat in on Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Putin. Chairman Devin Nunes ruled that Adam Schiff’s motion was out of order. (Politico / ABC News / The Hill)
6/ FBI Director Christopher Wray: Russia is the “most aggressive actor” in election interference and is “very active” at “sowing discord and divisiveness in this country.” Wray added: “My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.” (CNN / NBC News / The Hill)
Sean Spicer contradicted Trump’s claim that the Robert Mueller investigation is a witch hunt, saying that “I see no evidence that it is” and that “I think it’s very important to be clear that Russia meddled in our election and there’s no evidence of collusion.” (NBC News)
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claimed she hasn’t “seen evidence” that Russia tried to swing the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. DHS later clarified her comments, saying she “agrees with” the U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Russia tampered with the election. (HuffPost)
7/ New York State is investigating whether the Trump Foundation violated state tax laws. The investigation by the Department of Taxation and Finance will focus on some of the same issues as the New York attorney general’s lawsuit: campaign finance violations, self-dealing, and illegal coordination with the Trump campaign. If the investigation finds possible criminal activity, it could refer the findings to the state attorney general or to a district attorney. Trump’s tax returns could possibly be revealed as part of a criminal investigation. (New York Times / Reuters)
poll/ 79% of Republicans approve of the way Trump handled his press conference with Putin while 7% of Democrats of approve. Overall, 40% of Americans approve of Trump’s performance. (Axios)
poll/ 70% of Americans believe the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections. And 61% are very or somewhat concerned about Russia interfering in the 2018 elections. (CBS News)
Robert Mueller released an itemized list of more than 500 pieces of evidence prosecutors are considering using against Paul Manafort, who has been charged with a number of financial crimes, including bank fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors are using the items to demonstrate expensive purchases Manafort made with money he attempted to hide from U.S. authorities after working for pro-Russia political parties in Ukraine. (Politico / The Hill)
The Interior Department’s internal watchdog is investigating whether Ryan Zinke violated conflict of interest laws for his role in a real estate deal with Halliburton chairman David Lesar. (Reuters / Politico)
The Trump administration plans to strip the Endangered Species Act of provisions that extend protections to species in decline regardless of whether they are listed as endangered or threatened. (Washington Post)
The White House withdrew the nomination of Ryan Bounds to serve on the 9th Circuit appeals court after Republicans realized they didn’t have the votes needed. As an undergraduate at Stanford, Bounds ridiculed multiculturalism and groups concerned with racial issues. (Politico / Washington Post)
Trump criticized the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates, saying he was “not thrilled” by the rate hikes, which he argues will put the U.S. at a “disadvantage” and implied that the moves could hurt his efforts to increase economic growth. (CNBC / New York Times)
Devin Nunes spent nearly $15,000 in political donations on Boston Celtics tickets, winery tours, and trips to Las Vegas. All charges were listed as fundraising expenses. (McClatchy DC)
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