👋 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: ~29,995,000; deaths: ~943,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~6,665,000; deaths: ~198,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
🗳 How To Vote In The 2020 Election In Every State. Everything you need to know about mail-in and early in-person voting in every state in the age of COVID-19, including the first day you can cast your ballot in the 2020 election. (FiveThirtyEight / Washington Post / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
1/ Another 860,000 people applied for unemployment insurance last week – the 26th-straight week that unemployment claims have remained above the 1960s pre-pandemic record. The total number of people claiming unemployment insurance went up by about 100,000 to 29.7 million as of Aug. 29. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
2/ Attorney General William Barr criticized his own Justice Department, equating them to preschoolers and “headhunters.” Barr insisted that he has the ultimate authority to intervene in investigations and to overrule career lawyers as he sees fit. “What exactly am I interfering with?” he asked at an event hosted by Hillsdale College. “Under the law, all prosecutorial power is invested in the attorney general.” In February, Barr overrode a sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, and in May he directed federal prosecutors to withdraw the government’s case against Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
3/ Shortly before federal police officers cleared Lafayette Square with smoke and tear gas on June 1, federal and military officials stockpiled ammunition and tried to obtain a sound cannon and “heat ray” that could be deployed against demonstrators. Active Denial System technology was developed to disperse crowds in the early 2000s, but shelved over concerns, in part, of the safety and ethics of using it on human beings. D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco told lawmakers that military officials were searching for crowd control technology deemed too unpredictable to use in war zones. DeMarco’s account also contradicts the administration’s claims that protesters were violent, that tear gas was never used, and that demonstrators were warned multiple times to disperse. DeMarco did, however, authorize the transfer of about 7,000 rounds of ammunition to the D.C. Armory. (NPR / Washington Post / NBC News)
- 📌 Day 1230: As he spoke from the Rose Garden, police cleared peaceful protesters outside the White House with tear gas and flash grenades so Trump could pose by a church for photographs to dispel the notion that he was “weak” for hiding in a bunker over the weekend. Following his remarks in the Rose Garden, Trump left the White House and walked through Lafayette Square, where riot police and military police had cleared protesters moments before. Once Trump reached the far side of the square, he raised a bible in front of the church for a photo. Trump’s decision to speak to the nation from the Rose Garden and to then visit the church came together because he was reportedly upset about the news coverage of him retreating to the White House bunker amid the protests. Just before Trump spoke, Attorney General William Barr personally ordered law enforcement officials to clear protesters from Lafayette Square. (New York Times / CNN / ABC News / Vox / Washington Post / YouTube / Religious News Service)
4/ Trump blamed nationwide protests against police brutality on schools teaching students about the impact of slavery and racism on American history, calling it “toxic propaganda” and “left-wing indoctrination.” Trump – again – denounced the “1619 Project,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning public school curriculum developed by the New York Times that aims to reframe American history from when the first slave ship arrived, equating the curriculum as “radical” “toxic” “child abuse” that threatens “to impose a new segregation.” Earlier this month, Trump tweeted that the Department of Education would cut off federal funding to schools that adopted the 1619 curriculum. Trump also announced he would create a “1776 Commission” to promote a “pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history,” which he said would encourage educators to teach students about the “miracle of American history.” (Bloomberg / Washington Post)
5/ Attorney General William Barr argued that coronavirus-related lockdowns were the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties” in history “other than slavery,” which he characterized as a “different kind of restraint.” When asked to explain the “constitutional hurdles” involved in preventing churches from meeting during the pandemic, Barr called stay at home orders a form of “house arrest” before comparing it to slavery. Barr went on to accuse governors of “treat[ing] free citizens as babies” by using their executive powers to prevent people from going back to work, and suggested that the federal response to the pandemic should be guided by politicians and elected officials rather than “the person in the white coat.” (CNN / Politico)
6/ FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that “Russia continues to try to influence our elections” and is seeking to “primarily to denigrate” Biden’s campaign. Wray said Russia has not successfully hacked any election systems and that activity has been limited to social media misinformation and influence operations. Wray added that his biggest concern is the “steady drumbeat of misinformation” that could undermine confidence in the result of the 2020 election. Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s top intelligence official will brief congressional intelligence committees on threats to the November election. Last month, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said he would no longer give Congress in-person briefings about election security, citing concern over “unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information.” (Bloomberg / Washington Post / New York Times / The Guardian / Wall Street Journal / CNN)
7/ A federal judge temporarily blocked U.S. Postal Service operational changes that have slowed mail delivery, saying that Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are “involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” that could disrupt the 2020 election. Judge Stanley Bastian granted a nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states, saying mail delivery backlogs “likely will slow down delivery of ballots, both to the voters and back to the states” this fall. The states sued the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service, challenging the so-called “leave behind” policy, where trucks leave the facility on time, whether or not there is more mail to load. (Politico / Washington Post)
[April] U.S. Postal Service leaders planed to distribute 650 million masks nationwide before the White House nixed the plan. The Department of Health and Human Services had suggested that a pack of five reusable masks be sent to every residential address in the country. The draft news release was never sent and instead HHS created Project America Strong, a $675 million effort to distribute “reusable cotton face masks to critical infrastructure sectors, companies, healthcare facilities, and faith-based and community organizations across the country.” (Washington Post)
The White House offered to provide the Big Ten with enough COVID-19 tests for resume football. The Big Ten instead sourced the tests from a private company. (ABC News)
8/ Trump continued his lies about mail-in voting, tweeting that the results “may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED” because “big unsolicited ballot states” automatically send ballots to registered voters. There is no evidence that states that send mail-in ballots to registered voter have had issues with accuracy, and voter fraud, broadly speaking, has proved exceedingly rare. Twitter, meanwhile, labeled Trump’s tweet indicating that it included potentially misleading information regarding the process of mail-in voting. (New York Times / Associated Press / Reuters)
9/ Another woman accused Trump of sexual assault while at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York in 1997. Former model Amy Dorris alleged that Trump “shoved his tongue down my throat” and that “his grip became tighter and his hands were very gropey and all over my butt, my breasts, my back, everything.” Dorris provided evidence to support her account of her encounters with Trump, including her ticket to the U.S. Open and six photos showing her with Trump over several days in New York. Several people also corroborated her account. Dorris was 24 at the time, while Trump was 51 and married to his second wife, Marla Maples. Trump’s attorneys say Trump denies having ever harassed, abused or behaved improperly toward Dorris. (The Guardian / The Independent / NBC News)
10/ Trump’s businesses have charged the Secret Service more than $1.1 million in private transactions since he took office, including rentals at the Bedminster, N.J., club that was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Washington Post)
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