👋 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/ Migrant children at an overcrowded detention facility in Arizona reported being sexually assaulted and retaliated against by agents for protesting, according to dozens of first-hand accounts collected by government case managers. An officer put his hands inside the bra of a 15-year-old from Honduras, pulled down her underwear and groped her as part of a “routine” pat down in front of other immigrants and officers. Guards removed sleeping mats from the cells of children who complained about the taste of the water and food. The reports also describes unsanitary and overcrowded conditions similar to detention facilities in Texas. (NBC News)
2/ Immigration and Customs Enforcement started using three new for-profit immigration detention centers, despite instructions from Congress to reduce the number of people in detention. The agency is now detaining migrants at a Mississippi prison operated by CoreCivic, a jail run by LaSalle Corrections, and the South Louisiana ICE Processing Center, run by GEO Group in Basile. A spokesman for ICE confirmed that all three facilities started housing immigrant detainees at the end of last month. (Mother Jones)
3/ A federal appeals court dismissed an emoluments lawsuit against Trump. The judges rejected the premise of the case that the Trump International Hotel – blocks from the White House – had violated the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses of the Constitution by accepting money from state and foreign governments at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington. While Trump stepped back from day-to-day management of the businesses, he still maintains ownership. “Even if government officials were patronizing the hotel to curry the president’s favor,” the court said, “there is no reason to conclude that they would cease doing so were the president enjoined from receiving income from the hotel. After all, the hotel would still be publicly associated with the president, would still bear his name, and would still financially benefit members of his family.” All three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican presidents. (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNBC)
📌 Day 887: A federal judge ruled that the Democrats’ emoluments lawsuit against Trump can proceed. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said discovery could begin Friday, and Democrats are expected seek financial information, interviews and other records from Trump and the Trump Organization. The Trump administration can still try to delay or block Democrats from issuing subpoenas by appealing directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to intervene. (Washington Post)
📌 Day 810: The Department of Justice recently adopted a narrow interpretation of the emoluments clause, which would exempt Trump’s hotels from a ban on foreign payments or gifts. DOJ filings since June 2017 reveal a new interpretation that allows federal officials “to accept unlimited amounts of money from foreign governments, as long as the money comes through commercial transactions with an entity owned by the federal official.” (The Guardian)
4/ Trump’s golf club will host a tournament put on by a Miami-area strip club, allowing golfers to pay for a dancer to serve as their “caddy girl” while they play golf. The Trump Organization confirmed the event and said it was for a “worthwhile cause” — a Miami children’s charity. Trump still owns Doral and the Trump name and family crest were featured prominently in the strip club’s advertising. Participation in the event ranges from $450 for a single player to $1,800 for a group of four with VIP upgrades available. (Washington Post / CNN)
5/ Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta defended his handling of a 2008 plea deal with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein amid criticism that the deal he brokered was too lenient for the sex offender. Epstein was indicted on Monday by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan on child sex trafficking charges. Trump encouraged Acosta to hold a news conference to defend himself, which was seen as a test for whether Acosta would keep his job. “[Trump] has very publicly made clear that I’ve got his support,” Acosta said, adding that “Times have changed, and coverage of this case has certainly changed,” and that “the facts are being overlooked.” (Politico / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney privately urged Trump to dismiss Acosta. Mulvaney told Trump that the information surrounding the 2008 agreement Acosta struck with Epstein would hurt the administration. (Politico)
Trump and Epstein were once the only attendees at a party with roughly two dozen women at Mar-a-Lago. 28 women were flown in for a “calendar girl” competition that was organized at Trump’s request. (New York Times)
Acosta attempted to cut to the 2020 budget for combating child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking from $68 million to $18.5 million. The International Labor Affairs Bureau helps fund programs in countries through civil society organizations and other non-governmental groups to address the root of child labor and trafficking, as well as maintaining a list of products and source countries that the office has reason to believe use child and forced labor. (Daily Beast)
6/ The Justice Department is attempting to discourage two of Robert Mueller’s deputies from testifying before Congress. Lawmakers previously reached an agreement with the DOJ to have the two former prosecutors answer questions behind closed doors next week, but the DOJ told the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees last week that it was opposed to the testimony and instructed both men not to appear. It is unclear whether the DOJ’s intervention will impact the prosecutors’ appearances, but the move suggests that the previous agreement between Congress and the Justice Department may be in jeopardy. (New York Times)
7/ Trump’s $1.7 million military-style July Fourth parade bankrupted the Washington, D.C. security fund used to pay for extra security and anti-terrorism measures in the nation’s capital. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser estimated that the fund will be running a $6 million deficit by Sept. 30, noting that the account was never reimbursed for $7.3 million in expenses from Trump’s 2017 inauguration. (Washington Post / NBC News)
8/ Trump reportedly asked aides to find a way to weaken the U.S. dollar in an effort to boost the economy ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Trump has grown concerned that the strengthening dollar is a threat to his economic agenda, which he expects to carry him to a second term. Trump asked about the dollar in job interviews with both Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller last week, who he selected for seats on the Federal Reserve’s board. (Bloomberg / CNBC)
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signaled that an interest rate cut will likely happen this month, because Trump’s trade war “continue[s] to weigh on the U.S. economic outlook.” Trump has repeatedly attacked the Fed, blaming Powell for hurting the economy by keeping interest rates too high and threatening to try to remove Powell if the situation doesn’t change. Powell, meanwhile, told lawmakers that the U.S. economy is doing “reasonably well,” but business investment has “slowed notably” due to uncertainty around trade and global growth. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)
The White House plans to send the North American Free Trade Agreement replacement to Congress after Sept. 1, setting up a vote on Trump’s United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement by the end of the year. The Office of U.S. Trade Representative and the White House, however, disagree over how aggressively to push the deal through Congress. (CNBC)
9/ A State Department intelligence official resigned in protest after the White House blocked portions of his written congressional testimony on climate change and its threat to national security. Rod Schoonover spoke before the House Intelligence Committee in June that climate change is a “possibly catastrophic” threat to national security, but the White House would not let him submit evidence and data supporting his assessments. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
- 📌 Day 872: The White House blocked a State Department intelligence agency from submitting written testimony that human-caused climate change is “possibly catastrophic” to national security. The written testimony by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research for a House Intelligence Committee hearing outlined that “absent extensive mitigating factors or events, we see few plausible future scenarios where significant — possibly catastrophic — harm does not arise from the compounded effects of climate change.” Officials from the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, and National Security Council all objected to parts of the testimony because it did not align with the Trump administration’s official stance. The analyst, Rod Schoonover, was ultimately allowed to speak before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, but the White House refused to approve Schoonover’s written testimony for entry into the permanent Congressional Record. (Washington Post / New York Times)
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