👋 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 dismissed a report that Chinese and Russian spies were eavesdropping on his cellphone conversations, calling the report “boring” and “soooo wrong!” Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his calls from his personal iPhone are not secure and that Chinese and Russian spies are listening, but Trump refuses to give up his iPhone. U.S. officials said they have been concerned for months that Trump discusses sensitive information on an unsecured cellphone with informal advisers, including Sean Hannity of Fox News. “I only use Government Phones,” Trump tweeted in response to the reports, “and have only one seldom used government cell phone.” (New York Times / NBC News)
📌 Chinese and Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on Trump’s cellphone calls, despite aides repeatedly warning him that his personal iPhone is not secure. (Day 643)
China suggested that Trump exchange his iPhone for a cellphone made by Chinese manufacturer Huawei, “if they are really concerned about security issues.” (Talking Points Memo)
Trump’s tweet claiming that he only uses his government phones was sent from an iPhone. Trump has two iPhones: one for Twitter and other basic web apps, and one for making phone calls. (Yahoo News)
2/ At least 10 pipe bombs have been sent to high-profile Democrats and critics of Trump: George Soros, Obama, Biden, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, John Brennan, Maxine Waters, and Robert De Niro. All of the 10 packages that have been discovered had the return address for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida. None of the packages exploded. (Reuters / Washington Post / New York Times)
Two suspicious packages addressed to Joe Biden were intercepted at post offices in Delaware. Law enforcement officials are trying to track down the package, which has been deemed suspicious because one of them was misaddressed and shipped to the return address, just like some of the other packages. (CNN / The Hill)
Two suspicious packages were intercepted on their way to Maxine Waters. (Reuters)
Another suspicious package was sent to a restaurant owned by Robert De Niro. The device arrived at the Tribeca Grill in Manhattan early Thursday morning. (BBC)
The explosive device sent to CNN’s offices in New York included an ISIS flag meme that has been circulating in right-wing online circles since 2014. The image features a black flag with the Arabic symbols replaced by the silhouettes of three women and an inscription in the middle that reads, “Get ‘Er Done,” which is comedian Larry the Cable Guy’s catchphrase. (NBC News)
3/ Trump blamed the “Mainstream Media” and “Fake News” for the “anger” in the U.S. a day after CNN and Democrats were the targets of explosive devices. “A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News,” Trump tweeted. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!” (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)
Lou Dobbs: suspicious packages mailed to Democrats and CNN are “fake news.” He called them “fake bombs” in a tweet, which he later deleted. (CNN)
Newt Gingrich: The media has “earned” the label “the enemy of the people.” (Axios)
4/ Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor claimed that Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was now “premeditated.” Saudi officials have shifted the official story of his disappearance, saying that Khashoggi left the consulate alive, that he might have been the target of “rogue” agents, and that he had been killed accidentally in fistfight. (New York Times / Washington Post)
- The Saudi intelligence chief blamed for the murder of Khashoggi met with Michael Flynn and members of the transition team shortly before Trump’s inauguration. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri and the team discussed a strategy for eroding and ending the current Iranian regime. The January meetings have also come under scrutiny by Robert Mueller’s office as part of his probe. (Daily Beast)
5/ Text messages show that Roger Stone tried to get a presidential pardon for Julian Assange. In January, Stone texted Randy Credico that he is “working with others to get JA a blanket pardon. It’s very real and very possible. Don’t fuck it up.” Stone claims that Credico was his back channel to WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, a claim Credico denies. (Mother Jones)
- Mueller’s team is investigating whether Jerome Corsi knew stolen emails would be leaked and passed information about them to Roger Stone. Mueller has obtained communications suggesting that Corsi might have had advance knowledge that the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman had been stolen and handed to WikiLeaks. (NBC News)
Trump is preparing to order at least 800 Army troops to the southern border to help border patrol authorities stop a caravan of migrants from Central America moving through Mexico toward the U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is expected to sign deployment orders as soon as today. (CNN / NBC News / New York Times)
Chuck Grassley referred Michael Avenatti and his client Julie Swetnick to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, alleging that they made “materially false” statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Brett Kavanaugh. (CNBC / Politico / Axios / Washington Post)
Trump plans to propose changes to how Medicare pays for certain drugs. The move is meant to address the issue of “foreign freeloaders,” who he says drive up the cost of healthcare in the U.S. (Politico)
A former GOP congressional candidate in Wisconsin was arrested for “trying to buy radioactive material with the intent to kill someone.” Jeremy Ryan, who ran against Paul Ryan in 2014, was arrested for allegedly attempting to buy a “lethal dose of a radioactive substance” online between March and October 2018 and is facing up to life in prison if convicted. (Daily Beast / WKOW)
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