👋 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/ North Carolina’s congressional district maps were unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans and new maps may have to be drawn before the midterm elections, a panel of three federal judges ruled. The judges acknowledged that primary elections have already occurred but said they were reluctant to allow voting to take place in districts that have twice been found to violate constitutional standards. North Carolina legislators are likely to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. (Washington Post / CNN)
2/ Trump accused Google of being “RIGGED” against him because the “search results for ‘Trump News’” show mostly “BAD” coverage about him from the “Fake News Media.” Trump charged that Google was limiting “fair media” coverage about him and “suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good,” declaring it a “very serious situation” and promising that it “will be addressed!” Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, said the Trump administration is “taking a look” at whether Google should be regulated. (New York Times / Reuters / Axios / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
Google Responds: “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.” (CNBC)
Trump’s Twitter tirade followed a Lou Dobbs segment that aired Monday night, in which the Fox Business host discussed an article titled “96 Percent of Google Search Results for ‘Trump’ News Are from Liberal Media Outlets.” The article’s author admitted that the data was “not scientific.” (Axios / CNN)
3/ The USDA will pay $4.7 billion to farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs from China stemming from Trump’s trade war. The initial payment is part of some $12 billion in aid Trump promised to farmers in July. Starting Sept. 4, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency will provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean and wheat farmers. Soybean farmers will receive $3.7 billion, pork producers will get $290 million, and cotton farmers will receive $277 million. A separate program will be used to buy $1.2 billion in products unfairly targeted by “unjustified retaliation,” according to the USDA. (NPR / USA Today / ABC News / Wall Street Journal)
4/ Trump urged evangelical ministers to campaign for Republicans from the pulpit, warning them that they’re “one election away from losing everything” if Republicans don’t retain control of Congress. Trump threatened that Democrats “will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently. And violently. There’s violence.” Trump also repeated his debunked claim that he had gotten “rid of” a law prohibiting churches and charitable organizations from endorsing political candidates. The law remains on the books, after efforts to kill it in Congress last year failed. (New York Times / NBC News)
5/ Trump was involved in the decision to cancel a decade-long plan to move the FBI to a new consolidated headquarters in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs, a Government Services Administration inspector general report says. The current FBI headquarters sits across the street from the Trump International Hotel. Last year, the Trump administration announced it would not relocate the FBI to the suburbs and would redevelop the current site instead. The inspector general concluded that “GSA did not include all of the costs in its Revised FBI Headquarters Plan” and the rebuilding proposal selected by the FBI would cost more, rather than less, than the plan to move the FBI to the suburbs. The inspector general also noted that GSA employees were instructed “not to disclose any statements made by the president” as part of its review of the matter, citing executive privilege. (CBS News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Roll Call / Washington Post)
poll/ 64% of Americans believe Michael Cohen’s claim that Trump ordered him to make illegal payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to keep them quiet. 44% believe Congress should start impeachment proceedings. (Axios)
New York City’s Department of Buildings cited Kushner Companies for 42 violations and $210,000 in fines for submitting false permit information at 17 buildings in an attempt to remove rent-regulated tenants. The company claims that the violations were “paperwork errors” and will have the opportunity to contest the citations. Tenant activists also issued a report that suggests an investment group led by Michael Cohen falsified construction permits by claiming that three buildings in Manhattan were vacant or had no rent-controlled tenants, when in fact they did. (New York Times)
In June, Trump told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “I remember Pearl Harbor.” He then proceeded to condemn Japan’s economic policies, bringing up the U.S. trade deficit with the country. (Washington Post)
Paul Manafort’s defense team met with prosecutors before he was convicted last week to discuss a second set of charges against him, but they were unable to reach a deal. The discussions over the second set of charges stalled over issues raised by Robert Mueller, although the specific issues in question remain unclear. The point of the talks was to prevent a second, related trial for Manafort, which is scheduled for Sept. 17. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have been arguing over how to describe the second case to the jury, as well as which pieces of evidence can be presented during the trial. (Wall Street Journal)
Lanny Davis says he was an anonymous source for a CNN story published in July that claimed his client, Michael Cohen, privately said that Trump knew in advance about the infamous Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr. and Russians. The story said Cohen claimed to have personally witnessed Trump Jr. informing his father about the June 2016 meeting. Davis admitted that he served as an anonymous source for multiple news outlets seeking to confirm the story after CNN published it. Now, Davis says he is not certain that the claim is accurate and he regrets his role as anonymous source and his subsequent denial of his involvement in the reporting. Other news outlets that originally confirmed CNN’s reporting have since retracted their own stories, but CNN has not. “We stand by our story,” CNN said in a statement, “and are confident in our reporting of it.” (BuzzFeed News / The Intercept)
Trump privately revived the idea of firing Jeff Sessions earlier this month. Trump’s attorneys believe they have persuaded him — for now — not to fire Sessions while Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign is ongoing. (Washington Post)
Trump belatedly issued a proclamation of praise for Sen. John McCain and ordered the American flag to be flown at half-staff following bipartisan criticism and public pressure. Trump had ordered the flag back to full staff two days after McCain’s death, sparking outrage from both lawmakers and members of the public, including many in his own party. (New York Times / NBC News)
Republican Sen. James Inhofe said John McCain was “partially to blame” for the controversy over the lowering of the White House flag to honor of his death. Inhofe said McCain was to blame “because he is very outspoken” and “he disagreed with the President.” (CNN)
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