👋 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/ A federal judge ordered Customs and Border Patrol to let health experts into detention facilities holding migrant children in order to assess the children’s needs and ensure the facilities are “safe and sanitary.” The order includes all CBP facilities in the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee made the ruling despite requests from Attorney General William Barr and others that the court “set a schedule for briefing these issues that provides defendants with a full and fair opportunity to respond to the allegations that plaintiffs have lodged against them.” Last week, lawyers asked Judge Gee to hold the Trump administration in contempt and to order immediate improvements at the facilities. (CNN / The Hill)
- Roughly 9,500 current and former Border Patrol agents are part of a secret Facebook group that jokes about migrant deaths, discusses throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress, and posts illustration depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, among other things. The group was created in August 2016 and is called “I’m 10-15” – the Border Patrol code for “aliens in custody.” (ProPublica)
2/ Inspectors warned Homeland Security in May that conditions at an El Paso migrant detention facility were so bad that border agents were arming themselves against possible riots. According to a report by the Homeland Security Inspector General’s office, there were only four showers available for the 756 immigrants, more than half of the immigrants were being held outside, and there were five times as many people being held in cells beyond the maximum capacity allowed. One cell was so overcrowded that the men inside could not lie down to sleep, and temperatures in the cells were often higher than 80 degrees. “With limited access to showers and clean clothing,” the report said, “detainees were wearing soiled clothing for days or weeks.” Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, meanwhile, claimed that reports of poor conditions at the facility were “unsubstantiated.” (NBC News)
3/ A federal judge blocked Trump from using $2.5 billion in military funding to build a wall at the southern border. The permanent injunction halts border wall construction at different sites in New Mexico, California, Arizona and Texas. Trump declared a national emergency earlier this year in order to divert roughly $6 billion in Defense Department funds toward border wall construction, arguing that the use of the military funds was lawful under the scope of the national emergency, because the need for funding was “unforeseen.” (NPR / The Hill / Mother Jones)
4/ A new study correlates Trump’s rise in popularity during the 2016 campaign with social media activity by the Russian trolls and bots of the Internet Research Agency. While the study does not prove that Russian interference swung the election, researchers at the University of Tennessee found that for every 25,000 re-tweets by accounts connected to the IRA, Trump’s poll numbers jumped 1%. [Editor’s note: Correlation does not always mean causation.] (NBC News / Axios)
- A Trump campaign consultant anonymously runs multiple fake Russian-style disinformation presidential campaign websites. Patrick Mauldin, who makes videos and other digital content for Trump’s re-election campaign, calls the sites a political parody built and paid for “BY AN American citizen FOR American citizens.” Mauldin, who also runs a Republican political consulting firm, claimed that the sites are not the work of any campaign or political action committee. Mauldin has set up fake campaign websites for “Uncle Joe” Biden, “Millionaire Bernie” Sanders, “Elizabeth Warren for Chief,” and “Kamala Harris for Arresting the People.” (New York Times)
5/ Trump Jr. shared – then deleted – a tweet questioning if Kamala Harris was black enough to discuss the black American experience. Harris is the biracial daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother and during the Demcratic debate, Trump Jr. shared a tweet that falsely claimed that Harris was “not an American Black,” because “She comes from Jamaican Slave Owners.” Spokesman Andy Surabian said “that folks were misconstruing the intent of [Trump Jr.’s] tweet.” (New York Times)
6/ Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea. Trump spent 53 minutes privately talking with Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone. The two agreed to set up teams to “work out some details” and resume negotiations to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. (Washington Post / NBC News / Associated Press / New York Times)
7/ Iran exceeded the maximum amount of low enriched uranium allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran’s stockpile of about 660 pounds of low enriched uranium does not give the country enough material to produce a nuclear weapon. (New York Times / Axios)
8/ The House Ethics Committee is investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz for threatening to release embarrassing personal information about Michael Cohen on the eve of Cohen’s testimony to the House Oversight Committee. (Politico)
9/ Trump requested tanks as a prop for his planned “Salute to America” Fourth of July address to the nation. Trump also requested an F-35 stealth fighter and Marine Helicopter Squadron One in addition to the planned flyover by other military aircraft, including Air Force One. (Washington Post)
poll/ 47% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, while 51% disapprove. 26% said Trump’s tariffs have helped the economy, down from 40% in August 2018. (AP-NORC)
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