👋 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 told Robert Mueller that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks and that he was not told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., campaign officials, and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump added a caveat that his responses were to the best of his recollection. For comparison, Trump also does not “remember much” from the meeting with George Papadopoulos, where Papadopoulos offered to arrange a meeting with Putin. Trump, however, has previously claimed to have “one of the great memories of all time,” using it as justification for not using notes during his meeting with Kim Jong Un, and blaming Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow when he stumbled over the solider’s name during a condolence call. (CNN)
2/ Paul Manafort’s attorney repeatedly briefed Trump’s legal team about their discussions with Mueller after Manafort signed a cooperation agreement with the special counsel two months ago. The briefings made tensions worse between Manafort and the special counsel after prosecutors learned about them. While Manafort’s attorney’s discussions with Trump’s lawyers didn’t violate any laws, they did contribute to Manafort’s deteriorating relationship with Mueller. (New York Times)
- Trump claimed he has never discussed a pardon for Manafort, but it’s “not off the table.” In August, Trump said he “would consider” pardoning Manafort, because he “feels bad.” (New York Post / CNN)
3/ Senate Republicans blocked a vote on a bill to protect Mueller, despite a threat from Jeff Flake to withhold support for all of Trump’s judicial nominees unless Mitch McConnell allows for a vote on the protection bill. The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a bipartisan basis, 14-7, this spring, but McConnell has argued that it’s not necessary, because he doesn’t believe Trump wants to fire Mueller. (NBC News / CNN / Politico)
- Trump feels no urgency to nominate a new attorney general. Republicans have asked Trump move quickly to nominate a successor to Jeff Sessions. Trump, however, is content with Matthew Whitaker as acting head of the Justice Department, who currently oversees Mueller’s Russia investigation. Whitaker can stay in the job for 210 days from Sessions’ resignation or longer if a replacement is in the confirmation process. (Bloomberg)
4/ Trump – again – dismissed his own government’s report on the devastating impacts of climate change and global warming, saying he doesn’t see climate change as a man-made issue and that he doesn’t believe the scientific consensus. “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself,” Trump said, “we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers.” He continued: “You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record clean.” (Washington Post)
📌 The Re-up: Day 676. The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already “transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration’s environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.” The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is “no convincing alternative explanation” for the changing climate other than “human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases.” Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that “I don’t know that it’s man-made” and that the warming trend “could very well go back.” (New York Times / Associated Press/ Washington Post / CNN)
📌 The Re-up: Day 627. A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and “there is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)
The acting EPA chief credits Trump for a 2.5% decline in carbon emissions from 2016 to 2017. Trump took office in January 2017. Andrew Wheeler also noted “a 14% reduction in CO2 emissions in the United States since 2005,” which includes the Obama administration’s implementation of strict environmental policies, which the EPA and Trump administration have tried to reverse, change, or eliminate. Wheeler also said he has not finished reading the report. (CNN)
The Trump administration waived FBI fingerprint checks for caregivers and mental health workers in charge of thousands of teens at a migrant detention camp. None of the 2,100 staffers working at a tent city holding camp with more than 2,300 migrant teenagers have gone through the rigorous FBI fingerprint background check process. “Instead,” reads an HHS memo, the camp is “using checks conducted by a private contractor that has access to less comprehensive data, thereby heightening the risk that an individual with a criminal history could have direct access to children.” The federal government is also allowing the facility to forgo mental health care requirements that mandate at least one mental health clinician for every 12 children. Instead, the camp has one for every 100 kids. (Associated Press)
Trump blamed the Federal Reserve for the GM plant closures and layoffs, as well as the recent declines in the stock market. Trump said he is “not even a little bit happy” with Jerome “Jay” Powell, who Trump picked to head the central bank. “So far,” Trump said, “I’m not even a little bit happy with my selection of Jay. Not even a little bit. And I’m not blaming anybody, but I’m just telling you I think that the Fed is way off-base with what they’re doing.” He continued: “I’m doing deals, and I’m not being accommodated by the Fed. They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.” (Washington Post)
The Senate advanced a bipartisan bid to pull U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led forces in Yemen. The measure passed 63-37, signaling a rebuke to Trump and a reversal for the Senate, which rejected the same measure nine months ago. 19 senators switched their votes from the March vote following an “inadequate” briefing by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Pompeo repeated the Trump administration’s claim that there was no “direct reporting” connecting Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Kahshoggi’s murder. The Trump administration had been urging senators against withdrawing military support for the war in Yemen. (NBC News / Politico / New York Times)
Trump threatened to cancel his upcoming summit with Vladimir Putin over Russia’s recent maritime skirmish with Ukraine. Trump said he is waiting for a full report on the incident, during which Putin captured three Ukrainian ships and their crews in the Black Sea on Sunday, before making a final decision on whether he will cancel the planned summit in Argentina this week. The report “will be very determinative,” Trump said. “Maybe I won’t have the meeting. Maybe I won’t even have the meeting.” Russia said that it still expects the meeting to go ahead as planned. (Washington Post / Associated Press)
Contributions to the NRA went down by $55 million in 2017, according to the gun-rights group’s latest tax records. The NRA reported $98 million in contributions in 2017, down from almost $125 million in 2016. In addition to the drop in contributions, membership dues were also down by roughly $35 million. (Daily Beast)
Trump – again – threatened that he would “totally be willing” to shut down the government if he doesn’t get the $5 billion for his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Democratic leaders will only approve $1.6 billion for for border security measures. “I will tell you, politically speaking, that issue is a total winner,” Trump said, citing U.S. border agents firing tear gas on migrants protesting near the border as evidence of support for more security. Trump also said the $5 billion would only be for a physical barrier and that “the number is larger for border security.” (Politico / CNN)
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