👋 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/ The Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation. Horowitz reaffirmed that the investigation was adequately justified despite “several errors,” which FBI Director Christopher Wray has promised to address. Horowitz also said he met with Attorney General William Barr’s handpicked prosecutor, U.S. Attorney John Durham, last month seeking information related to the opening of the Trump-Russia probe and the surveillance warrants the FBI obtained and renewed on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Horowitz said Durham’s information failed to convince him that the FBI’s 2016 investigation into Trump’s campaign was improperly opened. When the report was released, however, Durham issued a public statement saying he didn’t agree with Horowitz’s conclusion. Barr also said he disagreed with Horowitz’s conclusion and accused the FBI of having acted in “bad faith” by pursuing the case. The 434-page report concluded that while there were “serious performance failures,” the FBI had adequate cause to launch the investigation and was not motivated by political bias. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Politico / ABC News)
TAKEAWAYS: The Michael Horowitz hearing. (Washington Post)
READ: Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz’s Senate testimony. (CNN)
2/ Trump called the FBI “scum” at a rally in Pennsylvania, referring to members of the FBI who were involved in the investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump also reiterated his claim that the investigation into his campaign was launched by biased individuals within the intelligence community who were intent on undermining his presidency — a theory that was debunked by the report from the Trump-appointed DOJ inspector general. (MSNBC / NBC News / Vox / Daily Beast / Mediaite / Haaretz / Business Insider)
3/ The Justice Department inspector general confirmed that he’s still investigating possible illegal leaks by the FBI to Rudy Giuliani in 2016. Days before then-FBI Director James Comey announced he was reopening the criminal probe into Hillary Clinton’s email server, Giuliani claimed he heard about some “pretty big surprises” regarding Clinton that “should turn this thing around.” Inspector General Michael Horowitz told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his team was struggling, however, to prove that they were illegal leaks, because it’s “very hard is to prove the actual substance of the communications between the agents and the reporter, or the individuals, but we can prove the contacts.” (CNN)
4/ A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from using $3.6 billion dollars from the Pentagon to pay for the construction of Trump’s border wall. U.S. District Court Judge David Briones issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the Trump administration from using the funds to pay for the 11 wall projects along the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNN / Washington Post) / NBC News)
5/ Betsy DeVos overruled Education Department officials on student loan forgiveness. After the department’s Borrower Defense Unit reviewed thousands of complaints against now-shuttered for-profit colleges, it recommended that student borrowers be granted full relief from their federal loan debt under a rule called “borrower defense.” Despite the recommendation, DeVos instead unveiled a new plan that would base relief on how much value a defrauded student had obtained from their school by comparing their median earnings to those of other students who attended similar programs at other colleges. (NPR / The Hill)
- The University of Phoenix agreed to cancel $141 million in student debt to settle allegations of deceptive advertising. The deal settles a dispute over an ad campaign that suggested the school worked with companies like Microsoft, Twitter, and Adobe to create job opportunities for students. There were, however, no such agreements. (NBC News)
6/ Trump will sign an executive order to interpret Judaism as a nationality – not just a religion – which would allow the government to withhold money from colleges for what he perceives as anti-Semitism on campuses. The order comes in response to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which aims to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians” and boycott Israel for its activities in the West Bank and Gaza. By recognizing Jews as having a collective national origin, Trump’s executive order would trigger a portion of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 that requires educational institutions receiving federal funding to not discriminate based on national origin. Jared Kushner pushed for the executive order. (New York Times / CNN / NBC News / Slate / Jewish Insider)
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