👋 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/ Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department has “not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” undercutting Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voting irregularities. Barr suggested that the FBI and Justice Department looked into some fraud claims, but they “haven’t seen anything to substantiate” any “claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results.” Last month, Barr authorized U.S. attorneys to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities, if they existed, before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence of widespread fraud at that time. (Associated Press / Washington Post / Axios / ABC News)
2/ Trump’s political operation has raised between $150 million and $170 million since Election Day, using misleading appeals about voter fraud to fund his failed attempts to overturn the election. The first 75% of every contribution goes to a new political action committee that Trump set up in mid-November, Save America, which could be used on political activities after he leaves office. The other 25% is directed to the Republican National Committee. The campaign has sent about 500 post-election fundraising pitches to donors. (Washington Post / New York Times)
- Trump Jr. launched a super PAC to mobilize Trump backers to vote in the upcoming Georgia Senate runoffs. The Save the U.S. Senate PAC will start airing commercials this week – only on conservative radio and TV stations – featuring Trump Jr. that are aimed at mobilizing Trump backers across Georgia. (Politico)
3/ An attorney for the Trump campaign called for the former head of U.S. cybersecurity to be executed for saying that the election was the “most secure in United States history.” Chris Krebs was fired after he rejected Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud. Joe DiGenova, nevertheless, said that “Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs […] that guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.” Krebs suggested he might take legal action, calling DiGenova’s comments “more dangerous language, more dangerous behavior.” DiGenova, meanwhile, tried to walk back his remarks, saying it was “obvious that my remarks were sarcastic and made in jest.” (The Bulwark / Axios / Politico / CNN / NBC News)
4/ Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as special counsel to continue investigating the origins of the FBI’s 2016 probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. Barr made the appointment on October 19 and kept it secret so as not to interfere in the election. In 2019, Barr appointed Durham to investigate the FBI’s justification for the investigation that became Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference. That investigation has only netted one criminal charge — a low-level FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering a surveillance application Carter Page. A special counsel can only be fired by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty, or conflict of interest, which must be documented in writing. (Associated Press / Axios / CNN / Bloomberg)
5/ Trump and Rudy Giuliani discussed a pardon preempting any charge or conviction before Trump leaves office. Giuliani has been under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for more than a year, reportedly focused on his actions in Ukraine, where he tried to dig up dirt about the Biden’s. A Giuliani spokeswoman said Trump’s personal attorney “cannot comment on any discussions that he has with his client.” Giuliani, however, tweeted: “Fake News NYT lies again. Never had the discussion they falsely attribute to an anonymous source. Hard to keep up with all their lies.” While rare, it is legal for a president to preemptively pardon people for federal crimes before they’ve been charged. (New York Times / CNBC / The Guardian / Politico)
6/ Scientists at the CDC found evidence that the coronavirus was present in the U.S. weeks earlier previously thought. While COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, it wasn’t until about Jan. 20 that the first confirmed COVID-19 case was identified in the U.S. Testing of 7,389 blood donations collected by the American Red Cross from residents in nine states, however, identified 106 infections in samples collected between Dec. 13 and Jan. 17. (NPR / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / ABC News / CNN)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~63,637,000; deaths: ~1,477,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~13,667,000; deaths: ~270,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
7/ Trump’s coronavirus adviser resigned. Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist with no experience in immunology, repeatedly made comments that were at odds with public health experts, including the experts on Trump’s coronavirus Task Force. Atlas fought against lockdowns, downplayed the seriousness of the virus, questioned the efficacy of masks, and urged the White House to embrace a strategy of “herd immunity.” Trump invited him to join the task force in August after seeing him on Fox News. (Politico / CNN / CBS News / NBC News / The Guardian)
8/ Biden formally introduced his six-person economic team, saying “help is on the way.” Biden tapped Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary, and nominated former Obama economics adviser Adewale Adeyemo as deputy secretary of the Treasury, Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget, and Cecilia Rouse to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey will join Rouse as Council members. Progressive Democrats and Republicans have expressed opposition to Tanden for her ties to corporate and establishment political leaders. Since 2011, Tanden has been CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and its political arm, the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Biden, meanwhile, said Congress should come together to pass a “robust” aid package, repeated his call for “immediate relief” in the current lame duck period, and pledged “a recovery for everybody.” (CNN / NBC News / NPR / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Bloomberg)
- Biden’s agenda for his first 100 days in office will center on the passage of a broad economic aid package and a series of executive actions. Transition officials say that the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery, and tackling racial inequality are his most urgent priorities, and that executive actions will be aimed at delivering on his campaign promises and undoing the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine government agencies. (CNN)
9/ A bipartisan group of senators introduced a coronavirus aid proposal worth about $908 billion, which Mitch McConnell immediately rejected. The bipartisan compromise, which was described as a “bridge,” would provide $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits for roughly four months, $160 billion in funding for state and local governments, as well as a temporary moratorium on some coronavirus-related lawsuits against companies. McConnell said he wants to pass a “targeted relief bill” instead because “we just don’t have time to waste time.” Congress needs to approve funding legislation by Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown. (Washington Post / CNBC / Politico / NBC News)
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