👋 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 vetoed a $741 billion defense spending bill, which the House and Senate passed with veto-proof majorities. Trump refused to sign the legislation, saying it includes “provisions that fail to respect our veterans’ and military’s history” – a reference to a provision instructing the military to strip the names of Confederate leaders from military bases. Trump suggested that the bill was a “‘gift’ to China and Russia” and complained that the bill limited his authority to remove troops from Afghanistan and Germany. Trump also demanded a repeal of Section 230, which protects companies from legal responsibility for content posted on their websites. A repeal of Section 230 was not included in the National Defense Authorization Act. Both chambers plan to return the week after Christmas and are expected to vote to override the veto, making it the first successful veto override of Trump’s presidency. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times / Axios)
2/ Trump suggested that he would not immediately sign the $900 billion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress, calling it a “disgrace” that was full of “wasteful and unnecessary” items. Trump demanded that Congress increase the “ridiculously low” $600 stimulus checks to $2,000. Trump largely left negotiations over the measure to lawmakers and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who was responsible for the $600 stimulus check idea. “It’s called the Covid relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with Covid,” Trump said in a video posted online. If Trump refuses to sign the bill, the government would shut down on Dec. 29, the emergency economic aid would be frozen, and benefits from the previous COVID relief bill would expire at the end of the month, including a moratorium on evictions and extended unemployment insurance – all of which were addressed in the package approved by a veto-proof margin. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, responded to Trump’s call to increase stimulus checks to $2,000 per adult, saying she’d bring the measure to the floor by “unanimous consent” this week. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Bloomberg / NPR / CNBC / CNN)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~78,472,000; deaths: ~1,726,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~18,382,000; deaths: ~326,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
3/ The Trump administration agreed to buy 100 million more doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The $1.95 billion agreement doubles the U.S. order of the vaccine to 200 million doses. Combined with the 200 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, the U.S. has acquired 400 million total doses – enough to treat 200 million people. Just over 1 million people in the U.S., meanwhile, have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, roughly 19 million doses short of the federal government’s goal of inoculating 20 million Americans by the end of the year. (Politico / New York Times / CNBC)
4/ Trump granted clemency to 20 people, including two people who pleaded guilty in Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry, four Blackwater contractors convicted in the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians, and three former Republican members of Congress. Trump pardoned former campaign aide George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan. Both pleaded guilty to lying to investigators during the Russia investigation and neither cooperated with Mueller. More than half of the cases did not meet the Justice Department’s standards for consideration. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / CNN / The Guardian)
5/ The White House sent staffers a memo that they “will start departing” the week of Jan. 4., but were later instructed to “please disregard” the email. In the first memo, staffers were sent information about their pay, benefits, records, and security clearance, including a note that they would receive a “comprehensive checklist” in the coming days and be directed to “take inventory of your office space.” (Politico)
6/ A top Dominion Voting Systems employee sued the Trump campaign, several campaign surrogates, and pro-Trump media outlets alleging defamation. Despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud or irregularities, Eric Coomer was forced into hiding after becoming the subject of baseless conspiracy theories accusing him of using his position to steal the election for Biden. Among those being sued, include Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Newsmax, One America News Network, OANN reporter Chanel Rion, blogger Michelle Malkin and others. Separately, the law firm representing Dominion Voting Systems sent letters to White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Giuliani instructing them to preserve all records related to Trump’s conspiracy theories. The defamation attorneys warned Giuliani to stop making “defamatory claims against Dominion” and to “preserve and retain all documents relating to Dominion and your smear campaign against the company” because legal action is “imminent.” (NPR / CNN)
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