👋 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 called any bipartisan committee plan to avoid a government shutdown a “waste of time” if it doesn’t include a border wall. In a barrage of tweets, Trump reiterated his demands for a wall and called the debate between fencing and a wall “political games,” and insisting that “A WALL is a WALL!” He repeated his threat to declare a national emergency and transfer billions of dollars in previously allocated funds to build the wall, saying that “if there’s no wall, it doesn’t work.” (CBS News / Bloomberg / Politico) / Washignton Post)
- Trump blamed his inability to secure the funding for his wall on Paul Ryan, saying that Ryan promised him “in the strongest of terms” that if he signed the omnibus bill last year, then Ryan and congressional Republicans would get him the money for his border wall. “And then he went lame duck,” Trump said, referring to Ryan’s decision to retire. (CNN / Daily Caller)
2/ Pelosi to Trump: “There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation.” Her comments came after Democrats detailed their border security proposal during a conference committee meeting that would provide no funds for a border wall, though it would add billions for technology and personnel. The border security measure totals nearly $22 billion for customs, border patrol, and immigration agents, includes increases in spending for scanners at ports of entry, humanitarian aid for detained migrants, and adds new aircraft to police the U.S.-Mexico border. The proposal would freeze the number of border patrol agents as well as block any future wall construction in wildlife refuges along the border. Pelosi called Trump’s suggestion of trading temporary protection for DACA recipients for a permanent border wall a “non-starter.” (NBC News)
3/ The White House is reportedly still working out the details for a potential national emergency declaration to secure Trump’s border wall if Congress doesn’t strike a deal before government funding runs out on Feb. 15th. A national emergency would enable Trump to take existing funds appropriated by Congress and use them for other purposes. The goal is to have a declaration ready to go if Trump decides to move on it, rather than scrambling to draw one up at the last minute. Trump has called the odds of a congressional deal “less than 50-50.” (Politico / The Guardian)
4/ Trump pinky-promised that he won’t intervene with the Justice Department’s decision-making process about whether to release Robert Mueller’s report on possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. “They’ll have to make their decision within the Justice Department,” Trump said, insisting that he hasn’t spoken with acting AG Matthew Whitaker about the inquiry. Trump cautioned, however, that he “could’ve gotten involved in this. I could’ve terminated everything. I could’ve ended everything.” (New York Times / Politico)
- Mueller signaled to Roger Stone’s defense lawyers that prosecutors could use Stone’s bank records and years of personal communication as evidence in the case against him. Legal analysts believe that Mueller’s listing of bank records as evidence suggests there will be additional charges against Stone. Mueller said his team seized “voluminous and complex” material from Stone last week, including “multiple hard drives containing several terabytes of information.” (The Guardian / NBC News / Bloomberg)
poll/ 62% of Americans believe that Trump knew that people like Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort or others tried to conceal information from federal investigators. 50% believe that Trump personally asked people around him to provide misleading information about his businesses or Russian interference. (Monmouth University)
Federal immigration officials at a Texas detention facility are force-feeding six immigrants using nasal feeding tubes. ICE says 11 detainees at an El Paso facility have been on a hunger strike, some for more than a month. Nearly 30 detainees from India and Cuba have also refused to eat. The men stopped eating to protest the constant verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards, as well as the lengthy lockups while waiting for their legal proceedings. The men who are being subjected to the nasal feeding tubes have been experiencing constant nose bleeds and are vomiting multiple times per day. (Associated Press / The Guardian)
The Senate rebuked Trump’s rationale for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, voting to declare that ISIS still poses a serious threat to the U.S. The 68-to-23 vote – backed by nearly every Senate Republican – is nonbinding and doesn’t prevent Trump from pursuing his plans, but it puts congressional Republicans on the record as being at odds with Trump’s Middle East policy. (New York Times / Washington Post)
A White House security specialist was suspended less than a week after it was reported that Jared Kushner’s top-secret security clearance was approved over career staff objections. Tricia Newbold was suspended without pay for failure to supervise, failure to follow instructions and defiance of authority. She had filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against supervisor Carl Kline three months ago for moving security files to a location that were too high and out of her reach. (NBC News)
Nikki Haley is charging $200,000 to give speeches. The former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. also requires the use of a private jet to get to her speaking engagements. (CNBC)
The Treasury Department pushed back against claims that Steve Mnuchin had a conflict of interest when he decided to lift sanctions against a Russian oligarch’s businesses. The letter claimed that Mnuchin didn’t sell his stake in RPDE (RatPac-Dune Entertainment) to Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born oligarch, and that there was “no business conversations whatsoever” between Mnuchin and Blavatnik related to the Treasury Department’s decision to lift the sanctions. (ABC News)
The Bureau of Land Management will move forward with the sale of oil and gas leases near Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other sacred Native American sites. BLM officials have faced criticism for pushing ahead with the drilling permit reviews and energy lease preparations despite the government shutdown. (Associated Press)
Mitch McConnell called a bill to make Election Day a federal holiday a “power grab” by Democrats that would “victimize” taxpayers by making it easier to vote. The bill would also prohibit the purging of voter rolls and would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to release their tax returns, require states to form independent redistricting commissions, and create a matching system for small-dollar donations to congressional candidates. [Editor’s note: 🙄](Washington Post)
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