👋 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/ Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for killing George Floyd. In May 2020, Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the 46-year-old Black man, who was handcuffed and face down in the street, repeatedly cried out, “I can’t breathe.” The former Minneapolis police officer faces up to 75 years in prison when he is sentenced in the coming weeks. Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, however, call for sentences short of the maximum. Each murder charge for a person with no criminal history carries a presumptive prison sentence of 12.5 years in Minnesota, while manslaughter carries a presumptive prison sentence of four years. The jurors deliberated for about 10 hours over two days after the prosecution and defense teams presented nearly six hours of closing arguments. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC)
📌 Day 1226: Trump threatened military violence against U.S. citizens in Minneapolis who were protesting the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed, unarmed black man who was killed while pleading for air as a white police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes. Trump, who previously called the video of Floyd’s death “shocking,” tweeted that the protesters were “THUGS” and warned that “the Military is with [Gov. Tim Walz] all the way […] Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” Hours later, the White House reposted Trump’s comment on its official account. Last month, Trump tweeted support for protesters in Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia to “LIBERATE” themselves and defy coronavirus stay-at-home orders. In 2017, when neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Va., and a counter-protester was killed, Trump responded by saying there were “very fine people” on “both sides” of the issue. (New York Times / Politico / NBC News / Washington Post / CNN)
📌 Day 1228: Police nationwide responded to protests against police violence by deliberately targeting demonstrators, journalists, and bystanders with pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, and excessive use of force. The ongoing protests following the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer – who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes – have taken place in at least 75 cities, including at the gates of the White House, in the days since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been fired, arrested, and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Since then, police have tear-gassed protesters, drove vehicles through crowds, opened fire with rounds of rubber bullets and pepper balls on journalists and bystanders, pushed over an elderly man with a cane who was walking away, shot a woman in the face with a rubber bullet as she left a grocery store, and shot a photojournalist in the eye with a rubber bullet, who is now permanently blind. Curfews have been enacted in more than two dozen cities, and about 5,000 National Guard troops have been activated in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Organizers have tried to keep the protests focused on police accountability and social justice through chanting and marching, but agitators, posing as peaceful protesters, have exploited the situation by looting stores, setting fire to buildings and police cars, and throwing firecrackers, bottles, bleach, and, reportedly, a molotov cocktail at police. Some advisers, meanwhile, have urged Trump to formally address the nation and call for calm, while others have said he should condemn only the looting or risk losing middle-of-the-road voters in November. The White House, however, declared a lid, which means no one should expect to see or hear from Trump for the rest of the day. (Slate / Nick Waters / Vox / Washington Post / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / The Week)
📌 Day 1230: Trump threatened to deploy “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers” to end “riots and lawlessness” if states and cities failed to quell the demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd. In a brief Rose Garden speech, Trump declared himself “your president of law and order” and said he would mobilize every available federal force, both “civilian and military,” to “quickly solve the problem” and end the nationwide protests. Trump denounced the violence as “domestic acts of terror” as he ordered governors and mayors to establish “an overwhelming law enforcement presence.” Trump, however, stopped short of invoking the Insurrection Act, which would allow him to deploy active duty U.S. troops to respond to protests in cities across the country. After Trump made the announcement, he left without taking questions from reporters. (New York Times / Politico / Bloomberg / CNBC / CNN / Axios / NBC News / NPR / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Washington Post)
2/ EARLIER TODAY: Biden suggested that the evidence against Derek Chauvin was “overwhelming” and said he was praying for the “right verdict” in the George Floyd case. Biden also called the Floyd family to express his support and sympathy. Rep. Maxine Waters, meanwhile, urged protesters in Minnesota to “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” if Chauvin is not convicted. The judge overseeing the trial, however, said the comments could be grounds for appeal and “may result in this whole trial being overturned.” (New York Times / Politico / NBC News / Washington Post / CNN)
3/ The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general declined to investigate what role the Secret Service played in the clearing of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square in June 2020 so Trump could stage a photo op. According to documents, Joseph Cuffari’s staff submitted a draft plan on June 10 to investigate whether the Secret Service violated its use-of-force policies when it cleared the area with rubber bullets and a sprayed chemical irritant. Trump and his aides then walked across the park to demonstrate strength and control amid the civil unrest that followed George Floyd’s death. Cuffari declined to approve the investigation, as well as another investigation into the spread of the coronavirus among the Secret Service as Trump continued to hold campaign events during the pandemic. Hundreds of officers were either infected with the coronavirus or had to quarantine after potential exposure. (Washington Post)
- 📌 Day 1230: As he spoke from the Rose Garden, police cleared peaceful protesters outside the White House with tear gas and flash grenades so Trump could pose by a church for photographs to dispel the notion that he was “weak” for hiding in a bunker over the weekend. Following his remarks in the Rose Garden, Trump left the White House and walked through Lafayette Square, where riot police and military police had cleared protesters moments before. Once Trump reached the far side of the square, he raised a bible in front of the church for a photo. Trump’s decision to speak to the nation from the Rose Garden and to then visit the church came together because he was reportedly upset about the news coverage of him retreating to the White House bunker amid the protests. Just before Trump spoke, Attorney General William Barr personally ordered law enforcement officials to clear protesters from Lafayette Square. (New York Times / CNN / ABC News / Vox / Washington Post / YouTube / Religious News Service)
4/ Biden will pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by 2030 – a near-doubling of the target that the U.S. committed to under the 2015 Paris climate agreement – when he convenes a virtual climate summit with more than three dozen world leaders on Thursday. In 2015, the U.S. pledged to cut emissions between 26 and 28% compared to 2005 levels as part of the Paris accord. Biden officials are still considering a target range for reducing its emissions, which could go above 50%. Trump pulled the U.S. from the global climate deal in 2017. (Washington Post)
5/ The Biden administration said it “strongly supports” making D.C. the 51st state, adding that Congress should “provide for a swift and orderly transition to statehood” for the more than 700,000 Washington residents who do not have full voting representation in the House and Senate. (Washington Post / CNBC)
6/ The U.S. ambassador to Russia initially refused to leave the country after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home following sanctions by the Biden administration. John Sullivan later announced that he would return home for “consultations” with American officials. Russia’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, announced it would expel 10 American diplomats and bar current officials from visiting Russia. Satellite photos, meanwhile, show that Russia has moved warplanes and troops to Crimea and bases near Ukraine to a greater extent than has previously been disclosed. (Axios / NPR / Politico / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)
7/ A dozen megadonors contributed $1 in every $13 raised for federal candidates and political groups since 2009. The top 12 donors and their spouses – split equally between six Democrats and six Republicans – donated a combined $3.4 billion. (New York Times / Bloomberg)
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