👋 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 Russian disinformation and influence campaign during the 2016 presidential election was more far-reaching than originally understood, according to the findings of two independent groups of researchers tasked by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee. The report found that “active and ongoing interference operations remain on several platforms,” including one campaign to support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and influence opinions on the Syrian Civil War. The Internet Research Agency created social media accounts under fake names and spread its messages across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and Google+, and other platforms. As attention was focused on Facebook and Twitter in 2017, the Russians shifted much of their activity to Instagram. The Internet Research Agency is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Putin’s. Prigozhin and a dozen Internet Research Agency employees were indicted last February as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation. In particular, the campaigns urged the African-American community “to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead,” while messaging to conservative and right-wing voters “patriotic and anti-immigrant slogans” designed to “elicit outrage […] about liberal appeasement of ‘others’ at the expense of U.S. citizens, and [to] encourage them to vote for Trump.” The report concludes: “What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / Bloomberg)
- Rep. Adam Schiff wants to subpoena Trump’s records with Deutsche Bank because he believes they could expose “a form of compromise” with Russia. Deutsche Bank has a long relationship with Trump, as well as Russia. “Well,” Schiff said, “the concern about Deutsche Bank is that they have a history of laundering Russian money. And this, apparently, was the one bank that was willing to do business with the Trump Organization.” He added: “If this is a form of compromise, it needs to be exposed.” Schiff is the likely incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. (NBC News)
2/ Rudy Giuliani suggested that Mueller’s investigation is “done” and all that’s left is to investigate are “parking tickets and jaywalking.” However, when asked if Roger Stone ever gave Trump a “heads-up” about the WikiLeaks publication of emails concerning Hillary Clinton and the DNC, Giuliani responded: “No, he didn’t, no.” After a moment of silence, Giuliani softened his response: “I don’t believe so. But again, if Roger Stone gave anybody a heads-up about WikiLeaks’ leaks, that’s not a crime. It would be like giving him a heads-up that the Times is going to print something. One the — the crime, this is why this thing is so weird, strange. The crime is conspiracy to hack; collusion is not a crime; it doesn’t exist.” (ABC News)
- A guide to the 17 known Trump-Russia investigations. Two years after Trump won the presidency, nearly every organization he has led in the past decade is under investigation and there are known cooperators in almost every single one of the open cases, from Michael Cohen to National Enquirer chief David Pecker to former Paul Manafort aides Sam Patten and Rick Gates. (WIRED / Washington Post / Axios)
3/ Two former business associates of Michael Flynn were arrested and charged with conspiring to “covertly and unlawfully” influence U.S. politicians on behalf of Turkey. Bijan Rafiekian, who also goes by the name Bijan Kian, was the vice-chairman of the Flynn Intel Group and worked with Flynn to have cleric Fethullah Gülen extradited from the U.S. to Turkey. Ekim Alptekin was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent and making false statements to the FBI. Mueller referred the Turkey case to prosecutors in Northern Virginia earlier this year. (The Guardian / Associated Press / New York Times / Washington Post)
👀 Shutdown watch: Trump doesn’t plan to support a one- or two-week funding extension to avert a partial government shutdown over the holidays. Trump continues to demand $5 billion to build his border wall. Democrats, meanwhile, insist on spending no more than $1.37 billion on border fencing. Last week Trump said he would be “proud” to shut the government if it will force them to give in to his demands. The House is out of session until Wednesday and a shutdown will occur if nothing is passed by the end of Friday. (Bloomberg)
poll/ 62% of Americans say Trump isn’t telling the truth about the Russia investigation. 43% approve of the job Trump is doing as president compared with 54% who disapprove. (NBC News)
A federal judge in Texas struck down the entire Affordable Care Act on the grounds that “the individual mandate is unconstitutional” and the rest of the law cannot stand without it in a case brought by 20 Republican state attorneys general. Legal experts say the ruling won’t immediately affect Americans’ health coverage, and a group of states led by California is already vowing to appeal. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / ABC News)
The Justice Department asked a federal appeals court to throw out a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the anti-corruption provisions in the U.S. Constitution after the trial judge ruled the case could proceed. The lawsuit accuses Trump of illegally benefiting from his family’s business and seeks to define the meaning of emoluments. (Reuters / New York Times)
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke submitted his resignation and will depart the Trump administration at the end of the year. Zinke is currently facing multiple ethics investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest. (CNN / Bloomberg / Washington Post)
Ben Carson’s top deputy at HUD resigned. Pam Patenaude ran operations at the agency. (NBC News)
Trump named Mick Mulvaney as acting White House chief of staff, ending a public week-long search for his third chief of staff in two years. Mulvaney is currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget. (Washington Post)
Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Mulvaney called Trump “a terrible human being.” In the video, Mulvaney says he’s supporting Trump “as enthusiastically as I can given the fact I think he’s a terrible human being.” (The Guardian)
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