👋 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/ Turkey launched a bombing campaign against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria following Trump’s decision to abruptly withdraw U.S. forces from the region. The attacks are aimed at crushing Kurdish militias, which have been fighting for their independence from Turkey. The Turkish bombing campaign, which is being conducted in coordination with the Syrian National Army, immediately drew criticism and calls for restraint from European leaders. Kurdish-led forces in the area have been key U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his military is targeting both Kurdish fighters and ISIS extremists. “The Turkish Armed Forces,” Erdogan tweeted, “together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh [Isis] terrorists in northern Syria.” (New York Times / Associated Press / NPR / The Guardian)
- A Kurdish commander says the militia will attack Turkish forces if they enter northeastern Syria. “We have been at war for seven years,” he said, “so we can continue the war for seven more years.” The threat of armed resistance from the militia, a force trained and armed by the United States, raises the risks for Turkey as it weighs sending troops into Syria, and for the United States, which could find itself on the sidelines of a new front in Syria’s war — this time between two of its allies. (New York Times)
2/ Trump invited Erdogan to visit the White House a day after giving Turkey the green light to attack the Kurds. Trump defended his decision on Twitter and insisted that “in no way have we abandoned the Kurds,” whom he described as “special people and wonderful fighters.” Trump also brought up the trade relationship between the U.S. and Turkey. “So many people conveniently forget,” he tweeted, “that Turkey is a big trading partner of the United States, in fact they make the structural steel frame for our F-35 Fighter Jet.” Trump said Erdogan will visit the White House on Nov. 13. (Bloomberg / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / MarketWatch / Washington Post / MSNBC)
Lindsey Graham: “Nobody besides Trump believes the president’s claim that the U.S. is not abandoning the Kurds.” Graham said Trump’s decision on Syria represents the biggest mistake of his presidency. He also said Trump is putting his presidency at risk by going against the advice of his national security team. “If I hear the president say one more time, ‘I made a campaign promise to get out of Syria,’ I’m going to throw up,” Graham said. (Axios)
Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria shortly after his phone call with Erdogan is raising alarm bells from policymakers and government ethics watchdog groups who see Trump’s extensive business interests as potential conflicts of interest. Trump and his family have longstanding business ties in and with Turkey, including the Trump Towers Istanbul. (NBC News)
3/ Trump ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry and two top State Department officials to deal directly with Giuliani when setting up a May 23 meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump. Trump said that if Zelensky wanted to meet with him, they should circumvent official diplomatic channels and go strictly through Giuliani. Giuliani’s role in setting up Trump’s meeting with Zelensky was more direct than what was disclosed last week by one of the meeting’s participants in his statement to the House. (CNN)
- Read the whistleblower’s memo about Trump’s Ukraine call, as described to CBS News. The memo, dated July 26, is based on a conversation the whistleblower had with an unnamed White House official who listened to the call. (CBS News)
4/ American diplomats who pushed for the restoration of U.S. security aid to Ukraine were told by the White House to downplay the release of the money once it was finally approved. “Keep moving, people, nothing to see here,” wrote the acting deputy assistant secretary overseeing issues in Europe and Eurasia in a Sept. 12 email. The previously unreported internal State Department emails reveal that diplomats were frustrated with the unexpected freeze on funding that had already been approved by Congress. (New York Times)
5/ A new book by journalists Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy reveals another 43 allegations of inappropriate behavior by Trump, including 26 previously unreported allegations of unwanted sexual contact. The book, “All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator,” includes an allegation by Karen Johnson that Trump committed what amounts to an attack on her at a New Year’s Eve party in the early 2000s. Johnson says she was on her way to the bathroom when she was “grabbed and pulled behind a tapestry, and it was him.” Johnson says Trump grabbed her, pulled her close to him, “and he just kissed me.” (VICE / Esquire)
Trump accused the mayor of Minneapolis of trying to “stifle free speech” and announced that the Trump campaign will not be paying $530,000 in security fees associated with a Trump campaign rally scheduled for later this week. In a letter, the Trump campaign accused the city of trying to pass on the city’s public safety bill. The campaign also threatened “court action” if the Target Center doesn’t let Trump use the arena for the upcoming rally. The campaign said the Secret Service is “solely responsible” for security at Trump’s rallies. (Washington Post / WUSA 9)
Trump’s tariffs have cost U.S. companies roughly $34 billion, not including the 15% tax on $112 billion worth of Chinese imports that went into effect on Sept. 1. U.S. tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods are scheduled to rise to 30% from 25% starting next week. (Axios)
The Trump campaign has spent $718,000 on impeachment-related Facebook ads. The House and Senate Republican committees are also putting the majority of their digital ad dollars behind impeachment. (Axios)
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