👋 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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😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~8,422,000; deaths: ~452,000; recoveries: ~4,118,000. (Johns Hopkins University)
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~2,183,000; deaths: ~119,000; recoveries: ~593,000.
Seventy-seven nations have seen a growth in new coronavirus cases over the past two weeks, while 43 have seen declines.(New York Times)
Florida, Texas and Arizona set records for new COVID-19 cases. The governors, however, are not considering another shutdown. (NBC News)
Some parts of the U.S. are “on the cusp of losing control” of the coronavirus, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb. (CNBC)
Trump: “I personally think [coronavirus] testing is overrated.” Trump added that “even though I created the greatest testing machine in history,” testing “makes us look bad” because more tests lead to a higher number of confirmed cases. Trump also questioned the use of masks as a means of slowing the spread. (Axios / Wall Street Journal)
The federal government has stockpiled 63 million doses of hydroxychloroquine that it can no longer distribute because the FDA revoked authorization for its use to treat coronavirus. The U.S. started stockpiling the anti-malarial drug in late March after Trump began touting it as a “game-changer” that was a “very powerful” treatment for COVID-19. Now, the FDA says there is “no reason to believe” the drug is effective in treating or protecting against the virus. The national stockpile also includes 2 million doses of chloroquine, a related drug manufactured by Bayer. The stockpile had already distributed 31 million doses of hydroxychloroquine by the time the FDA revoked its authorization. (CNN)
The Trump administration paid $7.3 million for more than 3 million test tubes, but received plastic tubes made for bottling soda. Health officials say the tubes don’t fit the racks used in laboratory analysis of test samples and the company’s process likely contaminated the tubes. The FEMA signed the deal with Fillakit on May 7 – six days after the company was formed by a former telemarketer repeatedly accused of fraudulent practices over the past two decades. If Fillakit fulfills its contractual obligation to provide 4 million tubes, it will receive a total of $10.16 million. (ProPublica)
1/ The Supreme Court ruled that Trump violated federal law when he ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2017, which has allowed nearly 800,000 young people, known as Dreamers, to avoid deportation and remain in the U.S. The court ruled that while Trump did have the legal authority to end the program, the government failed to provide an adequate justification for ending the federal program. (New York Times / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Axios / CNN / Washington Post / CNBC / CBS News / Bloomberg / Associated Press)
2/ Trump attacked the Supreme Court, tweeting that its DACA decision was “horrible & politically charged” and complained that it felt like “shotgun blasts into the face.” Trump also questioned whether the Supreme Court “doesn’t like me,” while calling for “NEW JUSTICES” to be appointed. (NBC News / Washington Post)
3/ Trump took credit for popularizing Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S., saying: “I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous.” Trump also claimed that “nobody had ever heard” of the June 19 celebration before he planned a rally in Tulsa originally scheduled on that day. Trump, confused by the criticism for initially planning to hold a campaign rally on June 19, said a black Secret Service agent eventually told him the meaning of Juneteenth. (Wall Street Journal / Politico / Axios / CNN)
- Transcript of Trump’s Interview. (Wall Street Journal)
4/ Facebook removed dozens of ads placed by Trump’s reelection campaign that included a symbol used by the Nazis to designate political prisoners in concentration camps. Facebook said the posts violated the social network’s “policy against organized hate.” Eighty-eight ads ran across pages for Trump, Pence, and the official “Team Trump” page on Facebook, targeting all 50 states. Before their removal, the ads had gained more than a million impressions. (Washington Post / NPR / New York Times / CNN)
- The Justice Department asked Congress to take up legislation that would remove protections for large tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. The stated goal is to incentivize tech giants to address criminal activity on their platforms, such as child exploitation, terrorism or cyber stalking, while increasing transparency for users whenever a company removes otherwise legal content. In a statement, Attorney General William Barr said the reforms are “targeted at platforms to make certain they are appropriately addressing illegal and exploitive [sic] content while continuing to preserve a vibrant, open and competitive internet.” (Reuters)
5/ The Justice Department asked a federal judge to block publication of John Bolton’s memoir, claiming that it contains classified information. The DOJ also urged the judge to make sure the restraining order it’s seeking prevents Bolton’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, from distributing copies of the book once they receive notice of it. In a court filing, the Trump administration claims that publication and distribution of the book, titled “The Room Where It Happened,” would “damage the national security of the United States.” The latest move is a significant escalation from the DOJ’s original lawsuit alleging that Bolton failed to complete the pre-publication review process he agreed to undergo when he received his security clearance to become Trump’s national security adviser. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)
- Bolton: Trump’s not “fit for office” and doesn’t have “competence to carry out the job.” (ABC News)
6/ Another 1.5 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week. 760,000 more filed new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal emergency program that extends benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors, and others who don’t qualify for standard benefits. It’s the 13th straight week that filings topped one million. Previously, the most new claims in a single week had been 695,000 – in 1982. (NBC News / CNBC / Bloomberg / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
A senior State Department official is resigning in response to Trump’s handling of racial tensions across the country, saying Trump’s actions “cut sharply against my core values and convictions.” Mary Elizabeth Taylor was unanimously confirmed to her position in October 2018 and is the youngest assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs in history and the first black woman to serve in that post. (Washington Post)
One of the Pentagon’s most prominent and respected policy officials will resign after Trump dropped plans to nominate her for an intelligence post. Kathryn Wheelbarger had been named by the White House on Feb. 13 to a senior intelligence position at the Department of Defense, but the White House instead announced plans last week to nominate Bradley Hansell, a former special assistant to Trump, to the position of deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence. (CNBC)
Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media started his tenure by sidelining or firing senior leaders at the agency and the chiefs of all the government-sponsored foreign broadcast networks that his agency oversees. Micahel Pack showed up to work on Wednesday – two weeks after being approved by the Senate – and immediately fired the heads of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Office of Cuban Broadcasting, which oversees Radio and Television Martí, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, which runs Alhurra and Radio Sawa. The two highest-ranking officials at Voice of America resigned days earlier in anticipation of Pack’s arrival. Pack also dissolved the advisory boards overseeing each of the networks and replaced them with his own aides. Pack gave no reason for his actions other than his own authority to do so. (NPR)
The EPA won’t regulate an additive in rocket fuel known to cause brain damage in infants. The EPA made the decision to reverse an Obama administration limit on perchlorate after a new analysis showed the toxic chemical is too rare in public water supplies to meet the legal test to set a federal limit. [Editor’s note: Seems like the Obama-era rules were working as intended.] (Wall Street Journal)
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