👋 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/ Nearly 8 million Americans fell into poverty over the past five months. The poverty rate jumped to 11.7% in November – up 2.4 percentage points since June. The federal poverty line is $26,200 for a family of four. (Washington Post)
- The Federal Reserve officials expect the U.S. economy to shrink by 2.4% this year and for the GDP to roughly equals that of 2009 — the worst year of the Great Recession. (Politico / Washington Post)
2/ Congressional leaders and the White House are nearing agreement on a roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief deal that would include another round of direct payments. Checks are expected to be in the $600 to $700 range per person – less than the checks of $1,200 per person in the initial round earlier this year. The measure would also contain enhanced federal unemployment insurance, roughly $300 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans, money for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and testing, and relief for hospitals. The bill, however, is not expected to include any new money for state and local governments. Congress must also pass a new spending bill by midnight Friday to avoid a government shutdown. (Washington Post / NPR / CNBC / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / New York Times)
3/ A Trump administration official repeatedly urged top health officials to adopt a “herd immunity” approach to COVID-19 and encourage millions of Americans to be infected by the virus. “Who cares” if “infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions” get infected, Paul Alexander, a senior adviser at the Department of Health and Humans Services, wrote in an email to health officials. “We want them infected.” Alexander also argued that colleges should stay open to facilitate the spread of COVID-19, saying “There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD.” (Politico / Bloomberg / Axios)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~73,970,000; deaths: ~1,645,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~16,886,000; deaths: ~307,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
The Trump administration is negotiating with Pfizer to secure more coronavirus vaccines this spring, despite the company’s warning that worldwide deals have locked in hundreds of millions of doses through the summer. (Washington Post / Politico)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled his indoor holiday party after being forced him into quarantine because he was exposed to someone who tested positive for coronavirus. The department said Pompeo had tested negative for the virus. (Washington Post / ABC News / Associated Press / CNN / Washington Post)
👑 Portrait of a president: Trump appointees describe the crushing of the CDC. “The White House insisted on reviewing — and often softening — the C.D.C.’s closely guarded coronavirus guidance documents, the most prominent public expression of its latest research and scientific consensus on the spread of the virus. The documents were vetted not only by the White House’s coronavirus task force but by what felt to the agency’s employees like an endless loop of political appointees across Washington.” (New York Times)
4/ The White House counsel’s office “strongly” advised Trump not to fire FBI Director Christopher Wray after the election because it could put him in potential legal jeopardy. Trump wanted Wray to more aggressively investigated his political opponents, including announcing a probe into Biden’s son before November’s election. White House lawyers, however, told Trump that firing Wray would risk creating the perception of a “loyalty test” and could be seen as retaliation because Trump had publicly pressured him to take specific actions on certain investigations. (NBC News / Bloomberg)
- Trump’s Director of National Intelligence is considering withholding certification of a report on foreign efforts to interfere with the Nov. 3 election. While the report is supposed to be delivered to lawmakers on Friday, John Ratcliffe wants the report to cite China more prominently.(Bloomberg)
5/ Trump has reportedly been pushing to have a special counsel appointed to investigate his baseless allegations of voter fraud and allegations surrounding Hunter Biden. Trump — angry that Attorney General William Barr didn’t publicly announce the investigation into Hunter Biden before the election — has consulted with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and outside allies on names of potential appointees. While a special counsel must be named by the attorney general, the Justice Department will undergo a change in leadership next week when Barr resigns. Trump has asked whether he could name one himself. (Associated Press / CNN)
6/ Betsy DeVos urged career employees at the Education Department to “be the resistance” when the Biden administration takes over next month. During a department-wide virtual meeting to discuss the transition to the new administration, DeVos told employees: “Let me leave you with this plea: Resist. Be the resistance against forces that will derail you from doing what’s right for students. In everything you do, please put students first — always.” (Politico)
7/ Biden will nominate Jennifer Granholm to run the Energy Department. Arun Majumdar, a scientist and engineer who led a new research agency under the Obama administration, is under consideration as deputy secretary. Biden also tapped Gina McCarthy, who ran the EPA under Obama, to coordinate the administration’s domestic climate agenda. (Politico / Washington Post)
8/ The U.S. Postal Service released Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s calendar following a Freedom of Information Act request. The calendar released from June 15 to Nov. 7, however, is almost entirely redacted. (HuffPost)
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