👋 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/ Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged to double the size of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division staff to protect every American’s right to vote. “There are plenty of things up for debate in America, but the right of all eligible Americans to vote is not one of them,” Garland said, calling the expansion of voting rights as a “central pillar” to American democracy. Garland added that the Justice Department will “do everything in its power to prevent election fraud, and if found to vigorously prosecute” but will also scrutinize “new laws that seek to curb voter access.” The additional trial attorneys will be hired over the next the next 30 days. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / Axios)
2/ The Trump Justice Department secretly subpoenaed Apple for the metadata of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, as well as their current and former staff, and family members, including a minor. The records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized, including Rep. Adam B. Schiff, then the panel’s ranking Democrat and now its chairman, and Rep. Eric Swalwell. Trump administration prosecutors, looking for the sources behind news stories about contacts between Trump associates and Russia, subpoenaed Apple in 2017 and early 2018, which included a gag order, seeking the metadata for more than 100 accounts as part of the investigation to determine who was leaking classified information. The data obtained, however, did not tie the committee to the leaks of classified information about Russia. The gag order was renewed three times before it expired this year and Apple notified at least 12 people in May connected to the panel of subpoenas. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)
3/ The Justice Department’s inspector general opened an investigation into the Trump administration’s secret seizure of data from Apple belonging to at least two Democratic lawmakers, their staff, and family members. Michael Horowitz said the review “will examine the Department’s compliance with applicable DOJ policies and procedures, and whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations.” Horowitz added that the investigation would also look into the use of subpoenas to obtain journalists’ phone records, as well as “other legal authorities [used] to obtain communication records […] in connection with recent investigations of alleged unauthorized disclosures of information to the media by government officials.” Separately, Senate Democratic leaders demanded that former attorneys general William Barr and Jeff Sessions testify under oath about the secret subpoenas of Rep. Adam B. Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell, calling it “a gross abuse of power and an assault on the separation of powers.” The senators threatened to subpoena Barr and Sessions if they don’t appear voluntarily. The Biden administration, meanwhile, called the “behavior” of Trump’s attorneys general “appalling.” (Washington Post / New York Times / NPR / Bloomberg / USA Today / CNN / Associated Press / NBC News)
4/ The Biden administration will “repeal or replace” a rule allowing roads and development in more than half of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The move revives protections originally put in place in 2001 by Clinton, which Trump stripped three months before leaving office. (Washington Post)
5/ A bipartisan group of senators said they reached an agreement on the framework for an infrastructure deal. The deal reportedly includes $579 billion in new spending and would “be fully paid for and not include tax increases.” The overall proposal would spend $974 billion over five years and about $1.2 trillion if it continued over eight years. Lawmakers in both parties sounded skeptical that the proposal, which expected to address a narrow range of physical infrastructure projects, can get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)
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