👋 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/ House Democrats approved a series of spending bills to reopen the federal government without Trump’s border wall money, but the legislative spending package is expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate where Mitch McConnell has vowed to not “waste its time” with proposals that Trump will veto. Congressional Republicans called the effort pointless political theater. (CNN / CNBC / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / USA Today)
2/ Trump is reportedly considering declaring a national emergency in order to use $4 billion in Department of Defense funds to build his wall. The move would sidestep Congress if he doesn’t get money for his border wall. During his press conference, Trump acknowledged that he was considering using national emergency powers to get the wall built “for the security of our country.” He likened it to “the military version of eminent domain,” which is not a real thing. [This story is developing…] (ABC News / Washington Post / NBC News)
3/ Trump threatened to keep the government partially shutdown for “months or even years” following what Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi described as a “lengthy” and “sometimes contentious” meeting at the White House. Trump, however, characterized it as a “very, very productive meeting,” during a Rose Garden press conference. “I think we’ve come a long way” as he defended the shutdown, adding: “I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing. I don’t call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do.” The shutdown, which entered its 14th day, has left about 800,000 workers without pay, limited several federal agencies, and slowed the court system. (New York Times / Washington Post)
4/ Hundreds of senior Trump administration officials are scheduled to receive a $10,000 raise tomorrow as some 800,000 federal employees are currently unpaid due to the partial government shutdown. (Washington Post / CNN)
5/ Shortly after being sworn in, freshman Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib told supporters: “We’re gonna go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker.” House Democratic leaders immediately tried to quell the impeachment talk, saying they should wait for Robert Mueller to file a report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Republicans, meanwhile, seized on the comments, saying it’s proof that Democrats are playing politics rather than pursuing oversight. Trump responded to Tlaib’s call for impeachment, saying: “You can’t impeach somebody who’s doing a great job.” (Politico / The Guardian / CNN / CNBC / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
- Robert Mueller’s federal grand jury has been extended by six months. (CNN)
House Democrats unveiled an ethics reform package that would put new checks on the White House and require Trump to release his tax returns. The legislation is unlikely to be approved by the GOP-held Senate. (Politico / Vox)
A watchdog group accused Ivanka Trump of violating a conflict of interest law by participating in the implementation of “opportunity zones,” a program that gives tax breaks for investing in economically distressed communities. (CNN)
U.S. employers added 312,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate went up to 3.9 percent, and the average hourly pay rose by 3.2 percent from a year ago and 0.4 percent since the previous month. The slight uptick in the unemployment rate is seen as an increase in job seekers, a positive signal. (Associated Press / CNBC)
Trump blamed the recent stock market sell-off on the fact that the Democrats took control of the House. In October, Trump blamed Democrats for market turbulence. He has also blamed the Federal Reserve or a “glitch” for recent troubles with the stock market, while claiming credit when stocks are up. (CNBC)
A bipartisan pair of Senate lawmakers proposed legislation forcing the Trump administration to take a stronger stance against China. The proposed measure would establish an Office of Critical Technologies & Security at the White House to coordinate efforts and develop strategies to combat state-sponsored technology theft. (Politico)
House Democrats filed a motion to intervene in a federal court case in Texas that poses a threat to the Affordable Care Act. A Texas judge ruled last month that the ACA is unconstitutional without the individual mandate, which Congress effectively eliminated by reducing the penalty to $0, which started this year. Since the Trump administration is not defending the ACA, a coalition of Democratic states is appealing the judge’s ruling. The move to intervene is largely symbolic, however, and critics say lawmakers would be better off simply passing new legislation to address the issues in the lawsuit. (CNN)
The American man held on espionage charges in Moscow also has British, Canadian and Irish citizenship. Russia arrested Paul Whelan on Dec. 28th, and charged him with espionage. [Editor’s note: Not in itself very newsworthy, but I wanted to pin this in the event Whelan turns out to be a player.] (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
A federal appeals court sided with the Trump administration on a policy of restricting military service by transgender people. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned a decision by a federal judge in Washington D.C. that blocked the policy, saying it probably violates the constitutional rights of transgender recruits and service members. (The Guardian / HuffPost)
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