👋 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/ Biden reversed Trump’s ban on transgender troops serving in the military, restoring protections first put in place by Obama. In 2017, Trump tweeted that the U.S. would no longer “accept or allow” transgender people in the military, saying the military “must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory” and it could not afford to accommodate them. As Biden signed the executive order, he said: “What I’m doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform.” The order provides protection for all transgender service members, stops all involuntary separations or discharges based on gender identity, and directs the secretary of Defense and the secretary of Homeland Security to implement the order and brief Biden within 60 days on their progress. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NPR / Associated Press / NBC News / Axios)
2/ Biden signed an executive order requiring the federal government to “Buy American” for products and services where possible. The new policies will tighten existing government procurement rules, reduce opportunities for waivers, and make it harder for federal agencies to purchase imported products. The order also ensures that small and midsize businesses will have better access to bid for government contracts. (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Axios)
3/ Trump considered a plan in early January to replace the acting attorney general with a different Justice Department lawyer who would pursue his baseless claims of voter fraud. The plan would have forced Jeffrey Rosen out as the acting attorney general and replaced him with Jeffrey Clark, who had been working with Trump to devise ways to force Georgia lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results. Trump also pushed for the Justice Department to file its own lawsuit against four states, asking the Supreme Court to invalidate Biden’s victory. The efforts failed after Trump’s own appointees at the Justice Department refused to file what they viewed as a legally baseless lawsuit. Later, Trump forced Rosen and Clark to make their case to him in a White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of “The Apprentice.” Trump ultimately backed off that plan after senior Justice Department leadership threatened to resign en masse if he removed Rosen. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, demanded that the Justice Department’s inspector general launch a probe “into this attempted sedition,” saying it is “unconscionable a Trump Justice Department leader would conspire to subvert the people’s will.” (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
👑 Portrait of a president: Trump’s chaotic last week. “Trump, in those final weeks in office, hadn’t simply dented the guardrails of governance. He’d demolished them.” (Vanity Fair)
The Justice Department and FBI are debating whether to not charge some of the individuals who stormed the U.S. Capitol. Some federal officials have argued that those who only unlawfully entered the Capitol should not be charged, while others have pushed back against the suggestion, saying it’s important to send a forceful message that the kind of political violence needs to be punished to discourage similar conduct in the future. Prosecutors, however, have signaled they’re considering charges of seditious conspiracy against anyone who planned and carried out violence aimed at the government. (Washington Post)
4/ The Justice Department’s inspector general will investigate whether any department official “engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome” of the 2020 election. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced the investigation following reports that Trump considered replacing his acting attorney general with an official more amenable to his unfounded claims of voter fraud. (Associated Press / NBC News / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNBC / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Axios)
5/ Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani. Dominion is seeking more than $1.3 billion in damages, accusing Giuliani of carrying out “a viral disinformation campaign about Dominion” made up of “demonstrably false” allegations intended to promote the “false preconceived narrative” that the election was stolen from Trump and enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast. The lawsuit comes after Dominion sued lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation earlier this month. In that lawsuit, Dominion also said it was seeking more than $1.3 billion in damages. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)
- Rudy Giuliani acknowledged that an associate had sent an email to Trump campaign officials asking that Giuliani be paid $20,000 a day for his work. When asked about the fee request in November, Giuliani called it a “lie.” (New York Times)
6/ The Supreme Court dismissed two cases over whether Trump illegally profited off his presidency. Both lawsuits involved the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which forbids a president from receiving “any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince, or foreign state” or any state in the U.S. While lower court rulings had allowed the lawsuits to go forward, the Supreme Court also ordered that those rulings be thrown out because Trump is no longer in office. (NBC News / Associated Press / CNN / CNBC)
- The Biden administration hasn’t decided whether to release Trump’s federal tax records to investigators. Since last March, a lawsuit filed by the House Ways and Means Committee to enforce a statutory request and a subpoena for six years of Trump’s federal tax records has been frozen. (Washington Post)
7/ CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned that the federal government doesn’t know how much coronavirus vaccine the nation has. Walensky said the lack of knowledge of vaccine supply is indicative of “the challenges we’ve been left with.” (CNBC)
8/ Biden reinstated Covid-19 travel restrictions on non-US citizens who have been to Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and much of Europe in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus variant. The restrictions will also extend to travelers who have recently been to South Africa. Trump rescinded the travel restrictions two days before his term ended. (Reuters / CNN / Associated Press / Bloomberg / NPR / NBC News / Washington Post)
9/ Texas sued the Biden administration over its decision to pause most deportations for 100 days. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cited a last-minute agreement between the state and the Trump administration that required Homeland Security to consult with the state and provide six months’ notice before making changes. (Axios / CNN / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
10/ Biden’s Treasury Department is “exploring ways to speed up” the process of adding Harriet Tubman to the front of the $20 bill. The Trump administration delayed the Obama-era initiative, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying in 2019 that adding new security features was more important than the new imagery. (New York Times / CNN)
poll/ 56% of Americans approve of the House impeaching Trump for his role in inciting the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. 52% support a Trump conviction by the Senate. (Politico)
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