👋 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 celebrated his impeachment acquittal at the White House by denouncing his “vicious as hell” enemies one-by-one before pivoting to thank his allies, praising them as “great warriors.” Trump spent the 62-minute event in the East Room boasting of his acquittal by the Senate, criticizing the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election by Robert Mueller, and blaming “crooked politics,” “dirty cops,” “leakers,” “liars,” and “bad people” for his “very unfair” impeachment. “They’re vicious and mean,” Trump said. “Vicious. These people are vicious. Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person.” And, in a presidential use of profanity on camera, Trump added: “It was all bullshit.” (New York Times / Politico / NBC News)
2/ Earlier in the day, Trump spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast and accused his political opponents of being “very dishonest and corrupt people” who are trying to destroy him and the country. Trump – rejecting the keynote address for Americans to put aside hatred and “love your enemies” – attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Mitt Romney, complaining that they used “their faith as justification” for trying to remove him from office. “When they impeach you for nothing, then you’re supposed to like them? It’s not easy, folks. I do my best.” Trump went on to applaud “courageous Republican politicians and leaders” who he said “had the wisdom, fortitude and strength to do what everyone knows was right” throughout the impeachment fight. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times) / CNN)
3/ Attorney General William Barr issued new restrictions on investigations into politically sensitive individuals or entities, including a requirement that he approve any inquiry into a presidential candidate or campaign. The memo said the Justice Department had a duty to ensure that elections are “free from improper activity or influences” and that investigations, including preliminary ones, into a presidential or vice presidential candidate, their campaigns or staff cannot be opened without the written approval of the attorney general. The new rules were issued on the same day that Trump was acquitted on charges that he had abused his office to push a foreign power to publicly announce investigations into his political rivals. (New York Times / NPR)
4/ The Department of Homeland Security temporarily blocked New York state residents from enrolling in the Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, in retaliation for a state law that limits immigration agents’ access to the state’s driver’s license data. The Trump administration expects to kick “roughly 175,000 New Yorkers” out of the programs by the end of this year. The administration also threatened to take action against other states that push to limit immigration agents’ access to state-level data. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)
5/ The White House threatened to veto a nearly $4.7 billion emergency aid package to Puerto Rico. The aid package passed by the House and includes $3.26 billion in community development block grants, $1.25 billion for repairs to roads, and tens of millions more for schools, energy, and nutrition assistance programs. The Office of Management and Budget called the bill “misguided” and warned that multiple “high-profile cases of corruption have marred distribution of aid already appropriated and have led to ongoing political instability on the island.” The bill is not expected to pass in the Senate in its current form. (Washington Post)
6/ The Interior Department finalized plans to permit drilling, mining, and grazing in areas of southern Utah that were previously protected as two national monuments. Two years ago, Trump dramatically cut the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, which contain significant amounts of oil, gas, and coal. (Washington Post / Associated Press)
7/ FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that Russia is still engaged in “information warfare” against the United States heading into the 2020 election. Wray says Russia is still relying on a covert social media disinformation campaign aimed at sowing division and fracturing American public opinion. Wray did conceded, however, that he hasn’t seen “any ongoing efforts to target election infrastructure like we did in 2016,” referring to the theft of DNC and Clinton campaign emails. (Associated Press)
poll/ In hypothetical match-ups, all five of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination would defeat Trump in 2020. Among registered voters, Trump hypothetically loses to Bloomberg (47% to 40%), Biden (46% to 42%), Sanders (46% to 42%), Warren (43% to 42%), and Buttigieg (42% to 41%). (Morning Consult)
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