👋 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 is expected to pardon or commute the sentences of more than 100 people on his final full day in the White House. Trump met with Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and other aides Sunday to review a list of pardon requests, including whether to issue preemptive pardons to his adult children, aides, and himself. Trump allies, meanwhile, have reportedly sold their access to the White House to lobby Trump and White House aides for pardons. While there is nothing illegal about Trump associates being paid to lobby for clemency, any explicit offers of payment to Trump in return could be be a possible violations of bribery laws. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)
2/ The FBI is vetting all 25,000 National Guard troops in Washington tasked with securing the inauguration. U.S. defense officials said they were concerned about an inside threat from service members. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said that the vetting process hasn’t flagged any issues with the troops. (Associated Press / NBC News / Washington Post)
Capitol Police warned three days before the Capitol riot that “Congress itself” could be targeted by Trump supporters on Jan. 6. “Supporters of the current president see January 6, 2021, as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election,” according to the 12-page internal intelligence report. “This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent. Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th.” (Washington Post)
The FBI is investigating whether foreign governments or groups helped fund the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, including payments of $500,000 in bitcoin to key figures in the alt-right. (NBC News)
3/ The director of the Census Bureau resigned after whistleblower complaints warned that political appointees were pressuring staff to release “statistically indefensible” data on the number of unauthorized immigrants in the country by Jan. 15, which could be “misinterpreted, misused, or otherwise tarnish the Bureau’s reputation.” Steven Dillingham’s term was scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2021. Trump appointed Dillingham to lead the agency in 2019 as the Trump administration pushed to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census, which was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court. (Talking Points Memo / NPR / Politico / Washington Post)
4/ The National Security Agency moved to install a former GOP political operative and White House official as its general counsel. Under pressure from the White House, Defense Secretary Christopher Miller ordered NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone to place Michael Ellis the role. Nakasone was reportedly not in favor of Ellis’s selection and tried to delay his installation. Ellis tried to prevent the release of a portion of John Bolton’s, the former national security adviser, manuscript that dealt with Ukraine and would presumably be damaging to Trump. The Pentagon plans to swear Ellis in on Tuesday. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)
5/ At least five anti-vaccine organization received more than $850,000 in loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The groups all oppose or question the safety of vaccination, and are known to spread misleading information about the coronavirus, raising questions about why the Trump administration approved loans to groups that actively opposed its own public health agenda. (Washington Post)
6/ By the time you read this, the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. will have surpassed 400,000 and more than 2 million people worldwide will have been killed by the virus. The U.S. confirmed its first case of the virus in Seattle on Jan. 21, 2020. As the total number of U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed 24 million, California health officials reported a new coronavirus variant linked to about 25% of new cases in the state. The new variant, known as L452R, is distinct from the highly contagious British mutation, known as B117, which has also been found in California. (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times / Los Angeles Times)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~95,441,000; deaths: ~2,038,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~24,046,000; deaths: ~399,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
One Year, 400,000 Coronavirus Deaths: How the U.S. Guaranteed Its Own Failure. After the White House declined to pursue a unified national strategy, governors faced off against lobbyists, health experts and a restless public consumed by misinformation. (New York Times)
poll/ 56% of Americans believe there will be more violence at the inauguration, and 70% say America’s democracy is weaker – not stronger – than it was four years ago. (USA Today)
poll/ 43% of voters gave Trump a positive job approval rating – down from 45% before the November election and 44% shortly after he took office in 2017. (NBC News)
poll/ 67% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the presidential transition. In 2017, 40% of Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the transition. (Washington Post)
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