👋 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 reaffirmed NATO’s Article 5 – the central tenet of collective defense – calling it “a sacred obligation,” adding that the alliance is “critically important for U.S. interests.” The comments were a sharp contrast to Trump, who once declined to endorse Article 5 and called the alliance “obsolete.” NATO leaders, meanwhile, in a summit statement said China’s growing military and “assertive behavior” was “presenting challenges,” accusing the Chinese of working to undermine global order with “systemic challenges to the rules-based international order.” Separately, Biden said the U.S. would “respond in kind” if Putin “chooses not to cooperate” on cybersecurity. (New York Times / ABC News / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press / Washington Post)
2/ The Trump Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for information about an account that belonged to the sitting White House counsel, and then barred the company from telling him about it. Donald McGahn and his wife received disclosures from Apple last month that their accounts were subpoenaed by the Justice Department in February 2018. It’s not clear what the FBI was investigating, but the Justice Department appears to have accessed McGahn’s information around the same time it was reported that Trump had ordered McGahn the previous June to have Robert Mueller fired. McGahn, however, threatened to quit and Trump backed down. The seizure of McGahn’s records also happened the same month the Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for data related to the leaks of information about the Russia inquiry, which included more than 12 people connected to the House Intelligence Committee, including two of its Democratic members. Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, called on former attorneys general William Barr and Jeff Sessions, as well as Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general at the time, to testify under oath in the House about what they knew. (New York Times / Associated Press / CNN / Politico)
3/ Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he was not aware of a subpoena that targeted Democratic members of Congress. At the time of the subpoena, Jeff Sessions was recused from the Russia probe, meaning the leak investigation would have fallen under Rosenstein. Jeff Sessions has also told people he does not recall approving a subpoena for lawmakers’ data in a leak case. And, former Attorney General William Barr, who took office a year after the subpoena was issued, said he does not recall discussing a probe for lawmakers’ data during his time leading the department, adding that he “never discussed the leak cases with Trump.” (CNN / Politico / Washington Post)
4/ Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department will tighten its rules around seizing information about members of Congress and their aides and vowed “strict accountability” for officials who let politics affect their work. Garland said his deputy, Lisa Monaco, will review and update the department’s existing policies “for obtaining records of the legislative branch,” noting that “we must ensure that full weight is accorded to separation-of-powers concerns moving forward.” The announcement came as John Demers, a Trump-era official who leads the Justice Department’s National Security Division, which oversees leak investigations, said he’ll resign at the end of next week. Garland will also meet with executives from CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post to discuss the Trump administration’s leak investigation that involved seeking reporter records from all three media outlets. (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)
5/ Mitch McConnell threatened to block any Supreme Court nominee put forward by Biden during the 2024 election cycle if Republicans regain control of the Senate next year. McConnell suggested that if he became majority leader again, he would give a Biden Supreme Court nominee in 2023 “a fair shot at a hearing” if the person was “not a radical, but a normal mainstream mainstream liberal.” McConnell, however, admitted that the prospects were “highly unlikely,” adding “we’d have to wait and see what happens.” (The Hill / New York Times / NBC News / Bloomberg)
poll/ 52% of Americans trust Biden to negotiate on the country’s behalf with other world leaders, and 49% trust him to negotiate with Putin specifically. 57% of Americans have confidence in Biden to do the right thing regarding world affairs. (ABC News)
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