👋 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 Elijah Cummings a “brutal bully” and his Baltimore-based district a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” that “is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States. No human being would want to live there.” Trump also called Cummings, a black civil rights icon, a “racist.” Trump’s tweets appeared to be in response to a Fox & Friends segment on the same topic that ran earlier in the day, which included images of rundown and neglected apartment buildings in Baltimore. As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings has initiated most of the investigations into the Trump administration. Last week, Cummings was authorized to subpoena work-related text and emails by White House officials, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Trump called Cummings’ “radical ‘oversight’ […] a joke!” (Baltimore Sun / New York Times / Washington Post / Washington Post / The Hill)
Trump denied being a racist, saying that “there is nothing racist in stating plainly what most people already know, that Elijah Cummings has done a terrible job for the people of his district.” Trump added: “Dems always play the race card when they are unable to win with facts.” (BBC)
The Baltimore Sun responded to Trump: “Better to have a few rats than to be one.” The editorial accused Trump of deploying “the most emotional and bigoted of arguments” against a Democratic African American congressman from a majority-black district. (Baltimore Sun / Washington Post)
Four years ago, Trump criticized Obama for not doing enough to address problems in Baltimore. Trump claimed at the time that “I would fix it fast!” (Washington Post)
Trump attacked Rev. Al Sharpton, calling him “a con man” who “Hates Whites & Cops!” Sharpton had tweeted a photo of himself at an airport with the caption: “headed to Baltimore.” (New York Times)
📌 Day 917: The House Oversight and Reform Committee authorized subpoenas for senior White House aides official work communications sent via personal email and cellphone. The White House refused to turn over the messages voluntarily earlier this month. Democrats have raised questions about whether Jared Kushner’s WhatsApp communications with foreign officials, Ivanka Trump’s use of a private email account to conduct official business, and Stephen Bannon’s use of a personal mobile device for White House business violated the Presidential Records Act. (Politico / Washington Post / Axios)
2/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended Trump’s attacks, saying that some people will be offended by anything Trump says and that he was “fighting back” against “illegitimate attacks about the border.” Mulvaney argued that Trump’s use of “infested” to attack Cummings had “nothing to do with race.” Trump, however, has repeatedly used “infested” to attack places in which the majority are people of color. Trump previously told Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” suggested that John Lewis’ district was “in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested),” referred to Africa as “Ebola-infested,” and called California a “ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept.” (Politico / Axios / Washington Post / Mediate)
- 📌 Day 907: Trump told four liberal congresswomen of color to “go back” and “fix” their “broken and crime infested” countries. All four are American citizens and born in the United States, except for one, who became a refugee at age 10 when a civil war devastated Somalia. While he did not mention them by name, Trump’s tweets were directed at the members of the so-called “squad,” who were elected to Congress in 2018: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley. Republicans remained largely silent after Trump’s attack. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, called the tweets “xenophobic” and accused Trump of reaffirming his plan to make “America white again.” (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Yahoo News / CNN)
3/ Jared Kushner owns more than a dozen apartment complexes in Baltimore that have been cited for hundreds of code violations and provide substandard housing to lower-income tenants. Since 2013, Kushner Cos. has owned nearly 9,000 rental units across 17 complexes that generate at least $90 million in annual revenue. In 2017, Baltimore County officials revealed that apartments owned by Kushner Cos. were responsible for more than 200 code violations – all accrued in the span of the calendar year – and repairs were made only after the county threatened fines. (Washington Post / Baltimore Sun / New York Times)
Trump’s eateries in New York were recently fined by health inspectors for “evidence of mice or live mice” in and around the kitchen and other “critical” violations. (New York Daily News)
House Republicans scheduled their yearly policy retreat at a downtown Baltimore hotel in September despite Trump calling Baltimore a “very dangerous & filthy place.” Trump is expected to speak at the retreat. (Washington Post)
4/ Dan Coates will step down as director of national intelligence next month. Coates frequently pushed back against Trump on foreign policy issues, including on Russia and North Korea. Trump said he would nominate John Ratcliffe to replace Coates, who will officially leave his post on Aug. 15th. It’s unclear whether Ratcliffe will be confirmed by the Senate, since he has no background in intelligence. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr “cautioned the president’s advisers that he considered Mr. Ratcliffe too political for the post.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, warned that it’d be a “big mistake” for Senate Republicans to “elevate such a partisan player to a position that requires intelligence expertise and non-partisanship.” Trump was, reportedly, “thrilled by Ratcliffe’s admonishment of former special counsel Robert Mueller in last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters / NBC News / USA Today / NPR / Axios / Politico / CNN / New York Times)
5/ The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can use $2.5 billion in Pentagon money to expand the border wall with Mexico. In a 5-to-4 ruling, the court lifted a lower court order that blocked the four contracts the Trump administration had awarded using Defense Department money. Funding for the projects had been frozen by lower courts while a lawsuit over the money proceeded. (New York Times / Politico / Associated Press / Washington Post)
6/ The Trump administration didn’t include analysis that more than 500,000 children would lose eligibility for free school meals under a proposed change to the food stamp program. When the Department of Agriculture proposed last week to end food stamp benefits for 3.1 million people by changing eligibility and automatic enrollment, the agency did not include its own estimate that more than 500,000 children would also lose eligibility for free school meals. Currently, children whose families receive food stamps are automatically enrolled in a federal program that offers free breakfast and lunch at school. The two programs are automatically linked to reduce paperwork to ensure that children receive all of the food assistance they qualify for. (NBC News)
- 📌 Day 915: The Trump administration proposed ending food stamp benefits for 3.1 million people by tightening eligibility and automatic enrollment. The current rule allows residents in 43 states to be automatically eligible for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if they receive benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The new rule would require people who receive TANF benefits to pass a review of their income and assets to determine whether they are eligible to receive food from SNAP. Removing 3.1 million people from SNAP would save the federal government about $2.5 billion a year. About 40 million low-income people received SNAP benefits in 2018. (Reuters / Bloomberg / CNN / Washington Post)
7/ More than 100 Democrats in the House have called for impeachment proceedings against Trump to begin. A total of 107 House Democrats have publicly supported the move, including 12 since Mueller’s testimony last week. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said Trump “richly deserves impeachment,” but that it was too soon to begin the process despite Trump having “violated the law six ways from Sunday.” (NBC News / Politico / New York Times / Axios)
poll/ 47% of American said Mueller’s testimony made no difference in their views about impeaching Trump. Among Democrats, 48% said they are more likely to support impeachment that could ultimately lead to Trump’s removal from office. 3% of Republicans said they were more likely to support impeachment. 71% of Americans said that they had either read, seen or heard about Mueller’s testimony last week. (ABC News)
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