Some great stuff happened this week! Admittedly, also some not-so-great stuff. But all in all, there’s a lot more positive news this week than there have been in previous weeks, so I’ll take it! Also, I went a little overboard with the alliteration this week — sorry I’m not more sorry about that. The news is also a little late this week on account of a sinus infection laying me low yesterday, and that part I am sorry about.
As always, we start with the stock reminders: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. I may touch on news I think folks should know that is outside my area as a legal generalist, but if we undertake any offroad adventures I’ll do my best to signal that for you upfront by giving that headline an asterisk. Okay, warning label over. Onward to the news!
- Trump vs. the Media, Round ???: I’m already tired of saying “I can’’t believe I’m not making this up” when it comes to Trump and the media, but here we go again. First Trump famously claimed on Monday that the media was covering up terrorist attacks for their own gain. The White House then doubled down with a list of terrorist attacks that had been underreported, and about half the list involved zero deaths. The same day, incidentally, Trump also literally said that “any negative polls” about the immigration ban are “fake news.” White House official Sebastian Gorka followed up by explaining that “until the media understands how wrong it is [to “attack a duly elected President in the second week of his term”], we are going to continue to say, ‘fake news.’” In other words, “exercising your First Amendment right to critique our President now makes the President of the United States tell everybody on Twitter that you’re fake news.” Yup, that sure is a thing I had to write. Welcome to the Trump Administration.
- Nordstrom (Accidentally) Takes On The World: The unfolding saga of Nordstrom, Ivanka Trump, and Half the Current Administration would be the stuff of soap operas, if soap operas were also running the country. I’ve already written some about it, but the very short version is that Nordstrom dropped Ivanka’s line of clothing and accessories and the Trump Machine was not happy about it. Oh, and also, Nordstrom’s stock climbed more than 4% afterwards, so make of that what you will.
- Mitch McConnell Misstep: Mitch McConnell accidentally created a new liberal meme this past week when he cut short Elizabeth Warren’s reading of Coretta Scott King’s letter to Strom Thurmond during the Sessions debate. McConnell relied on a senate session rule regarding decorum towards senators to shut her down (though the letter was ultimately read into the record anyway by multiple male liberal counterparts). After being banned from the debate, Warren took to twitter, where she was quickly hailed as a feminist hero. I put this news in “the weird,” rather than either “the good” or “the bad,” because McConnell lionizing Warren like that was such a rookie mistake that I’m still scratching my head over it.
- Ethics EO Evades Ethics Edict*: (Try saying that ten times fast!) Very early last week, Trump issued an EO about strengthening ethical commitments of executive branch employees. I put off discussing it because I wanted to check some anomalies I spotted when I compared it to Obama’s similar EO — it looked like it was giving lobbyists permission to immediately work in the executive branch, which to my knowledge had not been previously permissible, and also cited provisions I wasn’t familiar with. It turns out that I don’t need to look that up after all, because Pro Publica has helpfully laid all of it out for us this week. It’s an interesting insight into what is usually a dry topic, and I recommend checking it out!
- Papers Please: ICE conducted raids in at least six states this past week, creating checkpoints, entering homes, stopping at work places, and generally terrifying immigrant populations. The raids have already resulted in the detention of hundreds of people across the U.S. This is likely the beginning of enforcement of one of the President’s less focused-on executive orders, which largely targeted undocumented populations. I wrote a bit yesterday about the history of immigration raids under George W. Bush, and many immigration organizations have excellent reading materials on this topic.
- Blue Lives Matter: Trump signed three executive orders this week, all relating back to crime or assault on police officers in some way. I plan to write more about them sometime this week, since they are all well within my wheelhouse — I had hoped to have this done before now, actually, but being ill derailed my plan to yesterday. At any rate, this administration would like you to know that they Value Law and Order and Blue Lives Matter. And a group of over 175 police chiefs and prosecutors would in turn like you to know that This Administration’s EOs Are Poorly Constructed (No, really; they issued a report and everything. It contains phrases like “antiquated law enforcement tools” and “risks wasting taxpayer money” and “law enforcement officers are not mental health or addiction professionals.” It’s surprisingly great, go read it.).
- No Way In*: Yemen has withdrawn U.S. permission to run ground raids after last week’s botched attempt. It’s unclear whether this is tied to the immigration ban or not, because last week’s raid would presumably be reason enough all by itself. It’s also unclear what, if anything, the U.S. government will do with this information.
- In (Hot Water) Like Flynn*: National security adviser Michael Flynn is in pretty hot water right now for discussing Obama’s sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which would be illegal although also hard to prosecute. For bonus funtimes, Flynn reported to Pence multiple times that he had not disclosed this information when meeting with Kislyak, which prompted Pence to report that the topic had not been discussed as well. Even worse, former acting A.G. Sally Yates apparently tried to warn the administration about this before she was dismissed, and it remains an open question whether anyone else (besides Pence, who everyone agrees was straight-up lied to) was in on this. No action has been taken by the administration to dismiss Flynn from his position, which doesn’t exactly help the administration’s credibility on this issue. In related news, CNN has also corroborated some of that infamous dossier, including some of the information that led to the sanctions in the first place.
- Checking the Cabinet: There were some more Cabinet appointments this week, and none of them are what I would call “good for the agency involved.” Betsy DeVos just barely squeaked through her confirmation vote and is now our Secretary of Education, though Senators voted 50/50 and Pence had to cast the tie-breaking vote. Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General as well, though his vote was almost as close (at 52 to 47, and for those of you who are doing the math in your head right now, yes, that does mean that a Democrat voted for Sessions — Joe Manchin, from West Virginia.). Tom Price was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services, also by a 52–47 vote.
- Autocratic State of the Nation: As always, here is the Amy Siskind link to Your Week in Authoritarianism. Some, but not all, of her work is reproduced here. I recommend checking out her summary as well — she has a broader scope of political expertise than I do by far.
- 9th Circuit Showdown: The Ninth Circuit heard a challenge to the stay of the immigration ban this week, after the Justice Department challenged last week’s District Court order from Seattle, which granted a temporary restraining order enjoining the executive branch from enforcing the travel ban while the court decided its constitutionality. In response to the government filing its appeal, literally hundreds of people filed amicus briefs supporting the stay of the ban, including tech companies, law professors, diplomats, and national security officials. The Ninth Circuit unanimously decided to leave the stay in place, stating that the federal government had not made its case for a suspending the restraining order. Though the scope of the holding was narrow — it only applies to a procedural question about whether the TRO remains while the District Court decides the underlying case — it’s still extremely exciting to confirm that the ban will remain on hold for now.
- The Road to Impeachment Begins with a Single Step: House Representative Jerrod Nadler filed a resolution of inquiry with the House Judiciary Committee this past week. It’s the first step toward an indictment by the House of Representatives, which in turn is the first step of the impeachment process. That said, it’s far from a guarantee of impeachment; it’s simply an attempt to get information from the executive branch so that people in the House can make an informed decision about whether to pursue things further. But the resolution needs to be acted upon within fourteen working days of when Nadler filed it, so hopefully we’ll know more within the next few weeks. In the meantime, feel free to do a little dance. I know I did.
- Britain Debates the Donald: In an interesting and rare display of partisan opinion, the Speaker of the House of Commons has indicated that there will be a debate to decide whether Donald Trump will be allowed to address Parliament. The Speaker called this tradition “an earned right” and “not an automatic honor,” though Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Reagan all had the privilege of doing so on their visits to the UK. It will be interesting to see how this vote goes — I’ll keep y’all posted.
In the meantime, though, that’s all the news that’s fit to print this week!