👋 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 unexpectedly announced that he will impose a new 10% tariff on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese imports – effectively taxing every product that Americans buy from China – after China failed to begin buying more American agricultural products as they had promised. The new tariffs would go into effect on Sept. 1st and would be in addition to the 25% tariff that has already been imposed on $250 billion of imports. The announcement came a day after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer wrapped up talks in Shanghai on a comprehensive trade deal. The negotiations reportedly ended early and without a deal. A new meeting is set up for September. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Associated Press)
- Trump’s former chief economic adviser said the trade war with China is backfiring and having a “dramatic impact” on the U.S. economy. Gary Cohn served as director of the National Economic Council in the Trump administration from January 2017 to April 2018, resigning after Trump decided to impose import tariffs on steel and aluminium. (BBC / CNBC)
2/ The Senate passed a two-year bipartisan budget deal that raises spending $320 billion over current levels and lifts the debt ceiling until after the 2020 election. The legislation now goes to Trump, who is expected to sign it despite complaints from conservatives that it would fuel the nation’s debt. Under the Trump administration, the annual federal deficit is set to reach $1 trillion a year. (Politico / Associated Press / CNBC / Axios / Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)
3/ The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community won’t investigate how the White House handled the security clearances for Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and other officials unless Trump asks him. Michael Atkinson declined the request to investigate the security clearance process by four top Senate Democrats, saying “The authority over access to classified information ultimately rests with the President of the United States.” In response, the senators wrote a letter to Trump, asking him to order the investigation. The White House did not respond to a request for comment and has previously declined to comment on the security clearances. (NBC News)
4/ Justice Department won’t prosecute James Comey over the leak of his memos that the FBI later determined contained classified information. The inspector general’s office had referred Comey for prosecution. After Trump fired Comey, the former FBI Director asked a friend to leak the memos, which detailed his conversations with Trump about the FBI’s probe of Russian election interference. The Justice Department prosecutors declined to prosecute Comey, because they didn’t believe there was evidence to show Comey knew and intended to violate laws regarding the handling of classified information. (NBC News / CNN)
5/ The White House instructed Trump’s newly appointed Secretary of Defense to reexamine the military’s $10 billion cloud computing contract because of concerns it would be awarded to Amazon. The Pentagon planned to award the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract to either Amazon or Microsoft this month. Mark Esper, who assumed his post on July 23rd, is now reviewing accusations of unfairness that pre-dates Trump’s involvement, including allegations by rival companies that the competition unfairly favored Amazon because of perceived conflicts of interest. Despite a court ruling that the competition was fair, Trump asked officials to review the contracting process after companies competing against Amazon lodged “tremendous complaints.” Trump has often made false and misleading attacks against Amazon and the Washington Post, conflating the two as the “Amazon Washington Post” because they’re both owned by Jeff Bezos. (Washington Post / Politico / CNBC)
6/ Trump ordered the military to punish the prosecutors who tried the case of a Navy SEAL charged and acquitted of war crimes in the death of a captured ISIS fighter in Iraq. Trump complained that the prosecutors who tried the case against Eddie Gallagher “were ridiculously given a Navy Achievement Medal” and demanded that the military “immediately withdraw and rescind the awards.” (New York Times / Washington Post)
7/ More than half of House Democrats support launching impeachment proceedings against Trump with 118 out of 235 members now supporting the effort. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has argued that impeachment would alienate too many voters. (Politico / New York Times / BuzzFeed News)
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