👋 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/ The White House argued that Trump has “broad discretion to regulate access to the White House for journalists” in response to a lawsuit by CNN over the suspension of Jim Acosta’s press pass. The lawsuit alleges that the ban violates CNN and Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights and they’re asking for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would restore his access right away. Almost every major news organizations has sided with CNN. (CNN)
Fox News supports CNN’s lawsuit against the Trump administration. “Secret Service passes for White House journalists should never be weaponized,” Fox News President Jay Wallace said in a statement. “While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.” (Axios / Politico)
First Amendment lawyers say courts have a history of defending access for journalists, and the White House’s shifting justifications for revoking Acosta’s press pass won’t help it in the coming legal fight. (Politico)
2/ The Justice Department defended the legality of Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, arguing that the appointment is consistent with the Constitution, federal statutes and past precedent in a 20-page memorandum opinion. The memo’s disclosure comes a day after Maryland asked a Federal District Court judge to issue an injunction and declare that Rod Rosenstein the acting attorney general. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)
The incoming ranking members of several House committees opened an investigation into Whitaker’s involvement in World Patent Marketing, which was charged last year by the Federal Trade Commission with promoting an “invention-promotion scam.” Whitaker was on the advisory board for World Patent Marketing. (Politico / House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform)
Whitaker walked away from a taxpayer-subsidized apartment-rehabilitation project in Iowa after years of cost overruns, delays and other problems. The city of Des Moines pulled an affordable housing loan that Whitaker’s company had been awarded, and another lender began foreclosure proceedings after Whitaker defaulted on a separate loan for nearly $700,000. (Associated Press)
Whitaker praised Trump in his first public speech as acting attorney general, telling an audience that “under President Trump their 401(k)s are doing pretty good right now.” (CNN)
3/ Sen. Lindsay Graham said he supports a bill to protect Robert Mueller’s investigation from any politically motivated firings. Graham also said that he would urge Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on the bill. “I would certainly vote for it,” Graham said. “I don’t see any movement to get rid of Mueller. But it probably would be good to have this legislation in place just for the future.” Chuck Grassley, meanwhile, said he supports the bill, but he won’t lobby McConnell to allow the measure to move forward. (Reuters)
4/ Jeff Flake threatened to vote against Trump’s judicial nominees if legislation to protect Mueller does not receive a Senate floor vote. Flake said he will not vote to confirm nominees on the Senate floor or advance them in the Senate Judiciary Committee after Chris Coons unsuccessfully attempted to force a Senate vote on the special counsel legislation. Mitch McConnell objected to the request for a vote from Flake. (CNN / Axios)
5/ Roger Stone claimed multiple times during the 2016 presidential race that he was in communication with Trump and his campaign. Stone and Trump spoke weekly, which is now being scrutinized by Robert Mueller. Stone repeatedly said during the campaign that he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through a “backchannel,” “intermediary” or “mutual acquaintance.” Mueller’s office is also exploring whether Stone tried to intimidate and discredit a witness who is contradicting his version of events about his contacts with WikiLeaks. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)
poll/ 37% of voters want to see Trump reelected, compared to 58% of voters who want someone new in the Oval Office come January 2021. Trump’s overall job rating stands at 43% approve and 49% disapprove. (Monmouth University Poll)
poll/ 53% of Americans said the midterm election results were a rejection of Republican policies. 62% said it would be good for the country to have Democrats in charge of the House. (CNN)
Rep. Elijah Cummings says one of his first priorities when Congress returns will be to investigate why the Trump administration decided to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. “There are certain things that mandate that we look at immediately. One of them is the census, because that’s right around the corner,” Cummings said. Last month, Cummings asked for an official probe into why the Commerce Department added the question to the census, which critics say could serve to depress responses to the census from immigrants, many of whom live in Democratic-leaning communities. (Reuters)
Lawyers suing Trump over his decision to end special protections shielding certain immigrants from deportation are seeking unaired footage from “The Apprentice” to allege the move was racially motivated. Lawyers for Civil Rights has issued subpoenas to MGM Holdings and Trump Productions for any footage in which Trump “uses racial and/or ethnic slurs.” (NBC News)
Trump criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May when she called Air Force One for not doing enough to contain Iran after the U.S reimposed sanctions. Trump questioned May’s approach to Brexit, and complained that U.S. trade deals with European nations were not fair. (Washington Post)
Betsy DeVos plans to overhaul how colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment. The new rules, set for release before Thanksgiving, will bolster the rights of the accused, including the ability to cross-examine their accusers. The rules will also reduce liability for universities, tighten the definition of sexual harassment, and allow schools to use a higher standard in evaluating claims of sexual harassment and assault. (Washington Post)
Florida Gov. Rick Scott will recuse himself from certifying his own election. Scott led Bill Nelson by fewer than 13,000 votes in unofficial results before the recount started. (CNN)
Without evidence, Trump accused people, who “have absolutely no right to vote,” of changing their clothes and returning to cast additional ballots in disguise. “Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again,” Trump explained while calling for more voter ID laws. Then, Trump suggested that “if you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID.” (Daily Caller)
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