👋 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/ Trump signed an executive order authorizing sanctions against foreign countries, companies, and individuals interfering with U.S. elections, as determined by U.S. intelligence agencies. The order tasks a range of agencies—including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the NSA, and the Department of Homeland Security—with evaluating potential cases of election meddling and requires any federal agency aware of interference to submit this information to the Director of National Intelligence. (Reuters / CNBC / The Hill)
- Three-quarters of the secret money spent in recent elections came from just 15 groups. An analysis by the campaign-finance reform group Issue One found that many of these same 15 groups remain big players in the 2018 midterm elections, although the sources of their money remain mostly hidden from the public. (USA Today)
2/ The Department of Homeland Security diverted nearly $10 million from FEMA to help ICE pay for detention and removal operations. A newly released budget document shows DHS transferred the funds—at the beginning of hurricane season—from FEMA’s operations and support budget to ICE accounts to pay for detention camps and other expenses. FEMA said the money was not meant for disaster relief. A spokesperson for DHS called reporting on the budget document “a sorry attempt to push a false agenda.” (New York Times / Axios / Maddow Blog / ABC News)
3/ Trump called San Juan’s mayor “totally incompetent” in response to her critique of Trump, who had recently boasted of federal responses to the hurricanes that ravaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico last year. Carmen Yulín Cruz had taken issue with him calling the response to Hurricane Maria “an unsung success.” Trump also called Puerto Rico “an inaccessible island with very poor electricity.” (ABC News)
4/ Federal investigators are looking into a series of suspicious financial transactions involving people who attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. The transfers reveal how Aras Agalarov, a Russian billionaire with strong ties to Trump and Putin, used overseas accounts to distribute money through a web of banks to himself, his son, and at least two people who attended the meeting. Investigators are focusing on two bursts of activity: one occurring shortly before the Trump Tower meeting and one immediately after the 2016 election. (BuzzFeed News / The Hill)
5/ Scott Pruitt is in talks to consult for a Kentucky coal-mining tycoon, months after resigning as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt met with Alliance Resource Partners CEO Joseph W. Craft at least seven times in the first 14 months of his tenure as EPA chief. Under an ethics pledge, Pruitt is barred from directly lobbying the EPA for five years—but not from working as a private consultant who advises on matters related to the EPA or works to change regulatory policy at the state level. (New York Times)
Manafort is in talks with Mueller’s office about a possible plea deal just days before his second trial begins. The negotiations are not guaranteed to result in a deal. Meanwhile, prosecutors submitted a list of evidence they want to present at trial, including memos showing the depth of Manfort’s relationships with his Ukrainian employers. (Washington Post / CNN)
The Trump administration is making it harder for Christian refugees to enter the United States. Despite Trump’s promise to help vulnerable Christians around the world, many groups remain in legal limbo. The number of Christian refugees allowed to enter the United States has dropped by more than 40 percent over the last year. (NBC News)
A GOP Congressman from New Jersey suggested being raised in an orphanage would be a better option than growing up with LGBTQ parents. Rep. Chris Smith made the remarks in May when addressing a group of students at a high school. (Asbury Park Press)
Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine announced he will vote against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation. “After this intensive process,” King said, “I have determined that I cannot support this nomination.” (Politico)
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