👋 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 claimed – without evidence – that Google “manipulated” votes in the 2016 election after a Fox Business segment aired Senate Judiciary Committee testimony in June of a psychologist claiming that “biased search results generated by Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that gave at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton (whom I supported).” The authors of the study looked at search results for 95 people over the 25 days preceding the election and evaluated the first page for bias. They did not describe their process, provided no data on the searches, or discuss how Google personalizes search results on past searches, preferences, and location. Trump’s tweet also appears to refer to documents leaked to conservative group Project Veritas. The documents, however, do not contain outright allegation of vote manipulation or attempts to bias the election. (CNBC / Washington Post / TechCrunch)
2/ The Federal Election Commission chairwoman called Trump’s repeated allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 election unsubstantiated and “damaging to our democracy” because they “undermines people’s faith” in the election system. Ellen Weintraub’s comment came after Trump asserted at a rally in New Hampshire that voter fraud is the reason he lost the state’s four electoral votes in the previous election. “There is no evidence of rampant voter fraud in 2016,” Weintraub added, “or really in any previous election.” (Politico / CNN / Axios)
3/ Trump falsely claimed that he has the authority to make decisions about which TV networks can host the presidential debates during the general election. While complaining that Democrats had barred Fox News from hosting or televising the 2020 Democratic primary debates, Trump warned that he could do the same to Fox News in the general election if the polls about his reelection chances coming out of the network don’t change for the better. “My worst polls have always been from Fox,” Trump said. “And I think Fox is making a big mistake, because, you know, I’m the one that calls the shots on that — on the really big debates.” (Politico)
- Trump is “not happy” with Fox News after a recent poll by the network showed him losing head-to-head matchups with four of the top Democratic candidates. Trump said he didn’t “believe” the poll. (Politico)
4/ Thousands of union workers at a Shell plant in Pennsylvania were ordered to attend a Trump speech last week or lose some of their weekly pay. The rules given to workers stated that attendance was “not mandatory,” but only those who arrived at 7 a.m., swiped in with their work IDs, and stood for hours waiting to hear Trump speak would be paid for their time. “NO SCAN, NO PAY,” said the memo, which also prohibited the workers from doing “anything viewed as resistance” during the event. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / NBC News / New York Times / Yahoo News)
5/ Trump and two of his senior economic advisers dismissed concerns of a recession. Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, and White House trade director Peter Navarro appeared on all five morning talk shows this weekend, arguing that Trump’s tax cuts and trade war with China aren’t harming Americans. The economy flashed some warning signs of a recession last week with the stock markets plunging as the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell below that of the two-year Treasury note, which is considered one of the most reliable leading indicators of recession. Consumer confidence has also dropped 6.4% since July. Trump, meanwhile, told reporters: “I don’t see a recession.” (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / ABC News)
6/ Trump urged the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates by a full percentage point. The Fed cut rates last month for the first time in a decade, signaling it might further cut rates amid slowing global growth and uncertainty over Trump’s trade war with China. Trump chastised the central bank’s chairman, Jerome Powell, for a “horrendous lack of vision” and claimed that the U.S. economy “is very strong.” (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
7/ White House officials are discussing a temporary payroll tax cut to reverse a weakening economy and encourage consumer spending. Payroll tax cuts usually add to the deficit and – depending on how they’re designed – take billions of dollars out of Social Security and Medicare. (Washington Post)
8/ Planned Parenthood pulled out of the federal family planning program rather than comply with a new Trump administration rule that restricts clinics from referring patients for abortions. Forgoing Title X federal funding could affect more than 1.5 million low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood for services like birth control, pregnancy tests, and sexually transmitted disease screening. Planned Parenthood serves about 40% of the four million patients under Title X. (New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)
9/ Trump wants to set up a naval blockade along the Venezuelan coastline to prevent goods from coming in and out of the country. Trump suggested the blockade to national security officials as recently as a few weeks ago, and has been raising the idea periodically for the last year and a half. Senior Pentagon officials believe a naval blockade is impractical, has no legal basis, and would drain additional resources from a U.S. Navy that is already stretched in their attempts to counter China and Iran. “He literally just said we should get the ships out there and do a naval embargo,” said one source who heard Trump’s suggestion. (Axios)
10/ Trump still wants to buy Greenland. He confirmed that he asked his administration to explore the possibility of purchasing the island from Denmark, even though officials in Greenland have repeatedly said they’re not for sale. Trump, however, called it “essentially […] a large real estate deal.” (NBC News / Washington Post)
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