What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics.
Curated by @matt_kiser

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Day 299: Do not recall.

1/ Jeff Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee he didn't lie under oath, but he has "no clear recollection" of the proposed Trump-Putin meeting. Despite repeatedly answering "I do not recall" to questions about a March 2016 meeting where George Papadopoulos proposed that Trump meet with Putin, Sessions said he believes he rejected the suggested meeting. Later during testimony, Sessions was more direct: "At the meeting, I pushed back." In January, Sessions testified that he had no communications with Russians during the 2016 campaign. It was later revealed that he met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least twice during the campaign. (Politico / Reuters / New York Times)

2/ Sessions: There is "not enough basis" for assigning a new special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton. Earlier, Sessions sent the House Judiciary Committee a letter informing them that the Justice Department was looking into whether a special counsel should be appointed to investigate the Clinton Foundation and a 2010 deal to sell a US uranium company to Russia. On November 3rd, Trump said he was "very unhappy," "disappointed," and "frustrated" with the Justice Department for not investigating Hillary Clinton. (Washington Post / New York Times / The Guardian)

3/ Senate Republicans added a provision to their tax bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. In order to be protected from a Democratic filibuster, the tax bill can't add more than $1.5 trillion to federal deficit over a decade. The CBO said that repealing the mandate would free up more than $300 billion in funding over the next decade while also causing 13 million fewer people to have health insurance. Mitch McConnell said Republicans are "optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful." (Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ The US embassy in Moscow hired a security firm owned by Putin's former KGB counter-intelligence director to provide "local guard services" for the US mission in Russia. Moscow forced Washington to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia from more than 1,200 to 455 in response to sanctions adopted against Russia in August. To make up for the loss of security guards, Washington awarded a $2.8 million no-bid contract to Elite Security, which was founded in 1997 by Viktor Budanov and his son Dmitry. Budanov retired from espionage in 1992. (The Telegraph / New York Times)

5/ The FBI is investigating Russian embassy payments "to finance election campaign of 2016." The Russian foreign ministry made more than 60 wire transfers that exceeded $380,000 in total to its embassies around the world, most of them bearing the memo line "to finance election campaign of 2016." Nearly $30,000 was sent to the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. (BuzzFeed News)

6/ Trump tweeted about John Podesta's hacked emails 15 minutes after WikiLeaks told Trump Jr. "we just released Podesta Emails Part 4." While Trump Jr. didn't respond to the message, he tweeted out a link WikiLeaks had provided him two days later. (The Hill / The Atlantic)

  • Mike Pence denied knowing that Trump Jr. was in contact with WikiLeaks during the campaign. In October 2016, Pence was asked if the Trump campaign was "in cahoots" with WikiLeaks as it released droves of damaging information about Hillary Clinton. "Nothing could be further from the truth," Pence replied. (Politico)

7/ Democrats raised concerns about Trump's ability to use nuclear weapons during a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee meeting. "We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with US national security interests," Senator Chris Murphy said. The bipartisan panel doesn't plan to seek legislative changes to rein in the Trump's authority to use nuclear weapons, but rather ensure legal and strategic oversight measures are in place to prevent ill-advised use of nuclear weapons. (CNN)

Day 298: Step aside.

1/ Trump asked Putin if Russia meddled in the election. Putin said they didn't. Trump believed him. After meeting on the sideline of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Vietnam, Trump said he was done asking Putin about election meddling. "He said he didn’t meddle — I asked him again. You can only ask so many times … Every time he sees me he says, 'I didn’t do that,' and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it." Trump added: "I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country." The comments came during a question-and-answer session with reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday. (New York Times / CNN)

2/ Trump called US intelligence leaders "political hacks" and labeled the community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the election as an "artificial Democratic hit job." Later Trump tweeted: "When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing." On Sunday, Trump walked back his comments, saying "I'm with our agencies." (Politico / The Hill)

  • CIA Director Mike Pompeo said he stands by the US intelligence assessment that Russia meddled in the election. Pompeo had falsely claimed Russian meddling didn't affect the election results. (CNN)

  • Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates called Trump "shamelessly unpatriotic" for accepting Putin’s denial that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. (The Hill)

3/ The former CIA director said Trump is being "played" by Putin regarding election meddling. "By not confronting the issue directly and not acknowledging to Putin that we know you’re responsible for this, I think he’s giving Putin a pass," former CIA director John Brennan said. "I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities." Brennan added that Trump called him and two other top intelligence officials "political hacks" in order to "delegitimize" the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

4/ Trump Jr. corresponded with Wikileaks during the campaign via Twitter direct messages, which were turned over to congressional investigators as part of its probe into Russian meddling. Wikileaks made multiple requests of Trump Jr., including asking for Trump's tax returns, urging the Trump campaign to reject the results of the election as rigged, not to concede if he lost, and, later, asking the president-elect to have Australia appoint Julian Assange as ambassador to the United States. Intelligence agencies believe Wikileaks was chosen by the Russian government to share the hacked DNC emails. (The Atlantic)

  • George Papadopoulos told Stephen Miller he had received "interesting messages" from Moscow a day after learning that Russia had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. (Business Insider / New York Times)

5/ Kim Jong-un called Trump an "old lunatic." Trump tweeted that Kim was "short and fat". "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!" (Washington Post / CNN)

6/ Mitch McConnell called on Roy Moore to "step aside" from the race for the Alabama Senate seat. "I believe the women" who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers, the Senate majority leader said. Moore tweeted that McConnell is "the person who should step aside … He has failed conservatives and must be replaced." Republicans are exploring whether to pursue a write-in candidate for the December 12th special election in an effort to retain their Senate seat. (New York Times / Politico / The Hill)

7/ Trump nominated Alex Azar to lead the Health and Human Services Department, which was vacated by Tom Price after it was revealed that Price used government and private jets to take repeated trips that cost taxpayers more than $1 million. Azar is a former pharmaceutical executive and was a top health official during the George W. Bush administration. (Washington Post / Politico)

8/ Trump's judicial nominee didn't disclose he's married to the chief of staff to the White House counsel. Brett Talley has practiced law for three years, has never tried a case, and has been unanimously rated as "not qualified" by the American Bar Association. (New York Times)

Day 295: If true.

1/ Trump cast doubt on the accusations that Roy Moore initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old when he was 32. "Like most Americans, the president believes that we cannot allow a mere allegation – in this case, one from many years ago – to destroy a person's life," Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. "However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside." (Washington Post / ABC News)

2/ Roy Moore called the allegations against him "completely false and misleading" and that he would remain in the race for the Alabama Senate seat. Senate Republicans are trying to block their candidate, having discussed fielding a write-in candidate, delaying the December 12th special election, and possibly not seating Moore at all if he is elected. (CNN / New York Times)

3/ The Republican Party's Senate campaign committee ended its fundraising agreement with Roy Moore. The joint fundraising committee involving Moore's campaign, the Alabama Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee allowed Moore to raise $80,500 at a time from individual contributors. (Politico / The Daily Beast)

4/ Robert Mueller is investigating Michael Flynn's role in a plan to extradite a Muslim cleric in the US and deliver him to Turkey in return for $15 million. Investigators are looking into the role Flynn and his son may have played in the alleged proposal to deliver Fethullah Gülen to the Turkish government. Erdoğan views Fethullah Gülen as a political enemy and has repeatedly pressed the US to extradite him. Flynn is facing military, congressional, and criminal investigations for concealing his financial ties to Turkey and Russia, and whether the ties played a role in his decisions as Trump's national security adviser. Any deal where a government official is bribed to act on behalf of a foreign government would involve multiple federal crimes. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

5/ Mueller's team is investigating a meeting between Michael Flynn and a pro-Russia congressman. The meeting between Dana Rohrabacher and Flynn took place in Washington on September 20th, 2016, while Flynn was an adviser to Trump’s campaign. Rohrabacher has pushed for better relations with Russia, traveled to Moscow to meet with officials, and advocated for overturning the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 bill that froze the assets of Russian investigators and prosecutors. It's the first known time that Mueller's investigation has touched a member of Congress. (NBC News)

6/ George Papadopoulos initially lied to the FBI out of loyalty to Trump. Papadopoulos has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, while Trump has tried to distance himself from Papadopoulos, tweeting that "few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar." (ABC News)

7/ The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a Trump nominee for a federal judgeship who has never tried a case. Brett Talley, 36, was unanimously rated as "not qualified" by the American Bar Association. Talley has practiced law for three years. As a blogger he denounced "Hillary Rotten Clinton" and pledged support for the National Rifle Association. He has been approved for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. (Los Angeles Times)

8/ Five states have asked a federal judge to halt the rollback of the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate. California, New York, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia filed the motion for a preliminary injunction, arguing that the policy change is unconstitutional and discriminatory. In October, Trump rolled back the federal requirement for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans, citing moral and religious grounds. (The Hill)