👋 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 Senate passed a $19.1 billion bipartisan disaster relief spending bill that does not include the $4.5 billion in funding for Trump’s border wall. After months of negotiation, the bill passed with a vote of 85-8 just a few hours after both sides reached an agreement. The bill provides roughly $900 million for Puerto Rico, and includes a provision that would require the Trump administration to release another $9 billion in aid, which had previously been withheld from the U.S. territory. The House will vote on the bill when it returns from recess and the bill will be sent to Trump’s desk. “I totally support it,” Trump said. (CNN / BuzzFeed News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / NBC News)
- A federal district judge heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by the House of Representatives against Trump’s national emergency declaration. The suit argues that Trump’s national emergency declaration to fund the construction of his border wall is unconstitutional and violates the separation of power between the branches of government. During the nearly three-hour hearing Judge Trevor McFadden appeared skeptical about involving the judiciary in a dispute between the administration and Democrats in the House. (CNN)
2/ Trump announced a $16 billion aid package for farmers hurt by his ongoing trade war with China. The bailout is the second deal aimed at limiting the losses of American farmers as a result of China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. Farmers will be able to apply for direct payments for crops that are impacted by the tariffs. The USDA will also buy surplus products like milk and meat to distribute to food banks around the U.S. and provide $14.5 billion in direct payments based on the estimated impact to each country. It will also spend $1.4 billion to purchase goods and another $100 million to develop other markets for U.S. goods. (Bloomberg / ABC News)
- China says trade talks with the U.S. won’t continue until the U.S. addresses its “wrong actions.” China’s Commerce Ministry didn’t mention any specific U.S. actions, but Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng said that “if the U.S. would like to keep on negotiating it should, with sincerity, adjust its wrong actions. Only then can talks continue.” (CNBC)
3/ A ten-year-old girl died in September 2018 while in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. She was the first of six migrant children that have died while detained by U.S. authorities. Rep. Joaquin Castro accused the Trump administration of concealing the girl’s death from the public. “I have not seen any indication that the Trump administration disclosed the death of this young girl to the public or even to Congress,” Castro said. “And if that’s the case, they covered up her death for eight months, even though we were actively asking the question about whether any child had died or been seriously injured.” (CBS News)
- Republicans on a House committee voted to strike Rep. Lauren Underwood’s comments from the record after she suggested the deaths of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border were intentional. “With five kids that have died,” Underwood said, “the evidence is really clear that this is intentional, it’s a policy choice being made on purpose by this administration and it’s cruel and inhumane.” (NBC News / The Hill)
4/ The Chairman and CEO of Federal Savings Bank was indicted for trying to give $16 million in home loans to Paul Manafort in exchange for a top position in the Trump administration. Stephen Calk allegedly approved millions of dollars in high-risk loans in the hopes that he would be appointed as Secretary of the Army or another high-level position of similar stature in Trump’s incoming cabinet. Manafort needed the loans to avoid foreclosure and, while the loans were pending, Calk gave him a list of positions he wanted. The list included two top spots at the U.S. Treasury, followed by Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Defense, as well as 19 high-level ambassadorships. (NBC News / New York Times)
5/ The Department of Justice indicted WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange on 17 additional counts of violating the Espionage Act by publishing classified diplomatic cables in 2010 that revealed war crimes committed by U.S. and NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange faces up to 175 years in prison if he is convicted of all the charges. The Espionage Act is typically reserved for government officials or employees who leak classified information, and has never been used to charge someone who merely publishes the information. (The Guardian / New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / Politico)
The Department of Defense is considering a request from the U.S. military to deploy an additional 5,000 troops to the Middle East as the White House continues to threaten Iran. It is unclear whether any specific request will eventually be presented to the White House, and the U.S. has not publicly shown any evidence or specific intelligence about what the supposed threat from Iran actually is. (Reuters)
The FBI has seen a significant rise in white supremacist domestic terrorism in recent months. No specific numbers were provided, but an FBI official said the cases generally include suspects involved in violence related to anti-government views, racial or religious bias, environmental extremism and abortion-related views. (CNN)
Distorted videos of Nancy Pelosi that are altered to make her sound drunk are circulating on social media. The video of Pelosi’s onstage speech Wednesday, when she said Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a “cover-up;” was edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. (Washington Post)
A federal appeals court in Washington said it will quickly review Trump’s request to block a congressional subpoena seeking financial records from his accounting firm. The brief ruling means the firm will not give Trump’s business records to the House while the case is still pending. (Washington Post)
Wells Fargo and TD Bank have already turned over documents to Congress related to their financial dealings with Trump. Wells Fargo gave the House Financial Services Committee a few thousand documents, and TD Bank turned over a handful of documents. No other information about the documents or what the committee has learned from them has been released. (NBC News)
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