👋 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 Supreme Court ruled that criminal defendants may be prosecuted for the same offenses in both federal and state court without running afoul of the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause. The ruling could impact Trump’s pardon power – which extends only to federal crimes – by leaving people he pardons subject to state prosecutions. Paul Manafort, for example, is facing charges in New York similar to the federal charges for which he has been tried. A presidential pardon could free Manafort from federal prison, but it would not protect him from being prosecuted in New York. (New York Times / NBC News / CNN / USA Today)
2/ U.S. Cyber Command hacked and deployed malware inside Russia’s power grid that could be used for surveillance or attack – without Trump’s knowledge. Pentagon and intelligence officials reportedly did not brief Trump due to concerns that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials. The actions were taken under a new set of legal authorities granted to U.S. Cyber Command by Congress last year, which allows the routine use of “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace without requiring presidential approval in order to “deter, safeguard or defend against attacks or malicious cyberactivities against the United States.” Officials at the National Security Council declined to comment about how deep into the Russian grid the U.S. had accessed, but said they had no national security concerns about the details of reporting about the targeting of the Russian grid. (New York Times)
- 📌 Day 571: Trump signed defense legislation named after John McCain but didn’t mention the Senator’s name during the ceremony. Trump praised the U.S. military and took credit for the $716 billion defense bill, which represents a $16 billion increase in authorized funding for the Pentagon over the current year. The bill is formally named the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2019.” (Bloomberg / Washington Post)
3/ Trump accused The New York Times of committing a “virtual act of treason” for reporting that the U.S. had increased its cyberattacks on Russia, which were meant to deter future cyber activity by Moscow. In a separate tweet, Trump claimed that the story was “NOT TRUE!” and characterized the journalists as “true cowards.” The New York Times responded to Trump’s tweet, calling the accusation “dangerous” and noting that the paper reached out to the administration for comment on the story, but Trump’s own officials said they had “no concerns” about the story. (Associated Press / NBC News / The Hill)
- The Kremlin warned of a possible cyberwar with the U.S. for hacking into Russia’s electric power grid. (New York Times)
4/ Trump’s re-election campaign fired several pollsters after leaked internal polling showed he trailed Joe Biden in 11 battleground states. Trump denied the existence of any negative polling last week, calling them “fake polls” and claiming “we are winning in every single state that we’ve polled.” The campaign fired Brett Lloyd, Mike Baselice and Adam Geller. Lloyd is the head of the Polling Company, a firm started by Kellyanne Conway in 1995. (CNN / Politico / New York Times / NBC News / Bloomberg / ABC News)
poll/ 27% of Americans say there’s enough evidence to begin impeachment hearings now — up 10 points from last month. 24% think Congress should continue investigating to see if there’s enough evidence to hold impeachment hearings in the future, while 48% believe that Congress should not hold impeachment hearings and that Trump should finish out his term as president. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
poll/ 50% of Americans believe the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia — up six points over the last three months — compared to 44% who do not believe there was coordination. (Fox News)
poll/ 50% of Americans say enforcement of immigration laws has “gone too far.” 24% say actions haven’t gone far enough. (Bloomberg)
Trump suggested his supporters might “demand that I stay longer” than two terms as president. “At the end of 6 years,” Trump tweeted, “after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!” The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution limits the presidency to two terms. In April, Trump told a crowd that he might remain in office “at least for 10 or 14 years.” And, last year Trump joked about doing away with term limits entirely, praising Xi Jinping for doing so in China. (Washington Post / The Independent)
The Supreme Court ruled that the legislative districts in Virginia that it previously said were racially gerrymandered have to remain in their redrawn form. The Republican-led Virginia House of Delegates attempted to challenge a lower court opinion that struck several district maps as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The justices found that House Republicans did not have legal standing to challenge the decision. (NPR / Washington Post / CNN / The Hill)
Congressional leaders from both parties will meet this week in an attempt to reach a deal to avoid tens of billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts this fall. Neither side says they are close to reaching an agreement at the moment, and Republicans have acknowledged that they’re even having trouble finding a common position with the White House. At stake is $125 billion in automatic, mandatory spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic spending unless a deal is reached to increase those limits. (Politico)
The State Department will cut off all foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador until the countries take “concrete actions to reduce the number of illegal migrants coming to the U.S. border.” (Axios)
Iran will surpass the uranium-stockpile limit set by its nuclear deal in the next 10 days, unless it received assurances that Europe will combat economic sanctions imposed by Trump. The U.S. withdrew from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. (Associated Press / New York Times)
Trump directed all agencies to cut their advisory boards by “at least” one third. Agencies have until Sept. 30 to “evaluate the need” for each of their current advisory committees and reduce them by one-third. (The Hill)
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