National News Roundup: Week 9 (March 19–25)

What an incredibly weird week we just had — I’m not even sure what happened for half of it, though that might be because foreign policy is not generally my bag, professionally speaking. That said, I can glean enough to know that this past week was less of a Willy Wonka terrorboat and more of a Six Flags wild mouse, which some weeks is the best we can expect.

Standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I generally only summarize news in my area of expertise. As noted above, though, this week involves a fair amount of foreign policy news, which is outside my expertise as a legal generalist. But it is also important, so I hope folks are up for some offroad adventures! (They are signaled with asterisks, and I won’t be offended if you skip over them.) Also, I can’t claim to make this week’s news make sense even when it was within my area of expertise, though I’m happy to reap the benefits. Okay, onward to the news.

The Weird:

  • James Comey and the Hearing of No Secrets.* So James Comey went firmly on the record about all kinds of bonkers things at his hearing this week, noting that the FBI is investigating both Russian interference in the election and also the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in the election process (!). (He also said that there was no evidence of Obama tapping Trump Tower, but that feels like an afterthought in light of everything else going on.) The whole thing is admittedly a less interesting read than anything involving a basilisk, but consider reading his two sections of the hearing transcript anyway, because it kind of needs to be seen to be believed.
  • …wasn’t the weirdest intelligence news this week.* That honor belongs to Devin Nunes, who decided to go on record and claim Trump’s story about wiretapping was substantiated with zero evidence. He also bypassed the intelligence committee to go straight to Trump with the news, which he then defended with a half-hearted apology. Then McCain got in on the action to opine that Congress can no longer be trusted to have appropriate intelligence oversight, which was a fun thing to hear the same week Comey announced an investigation into collusion with Russia. Also, later Nunes went back on the story due to lack of evidence.
  • Collusion Betting Brackets.* No lie, I’ve started to see folks put together brackets betting on who is going to end up in prison for high crimes first — probably because there is just so much news on it this week. There’s the week’s latest Flynn bombshell, which involves more-or-less kidnapping enemies of the Turkish state for “covert extredition,” Stone’s knowledge of wikileaks in advance, and Manafort working to aid Putin, then volunteering to share what he knows (presumably in a bid to avoid imprisonment). Also, the leading Democrat on the intelligence committed indicated that he has information on Trump’s direct collusion with Russia, though there are no specifics on that though. Oh, and Flynn didn’t sign Trump’s ridiculous ethics pledge, which barely seems worth mentioning against this kind of larger backdrop.
  • Angela Merkel’s Infinite Patience.* This week’s ridiculousness involved Trump giving her an invoice for Germany’s use of NATO resources, despite the fact that a) Trump famously hates NATO for fun and profit, and b) as Merkel correctly notes, NATO doesn’t work that way. This also happened the same week that Tillerson snubbed NATO for China. Frankly, the only thing surprising about any of this is that Trump could remember what NATO was doing twelve years ago.
  • The Wacky World of the AHChoo Vote. This past week in healthcare was honestly pretty scary while it was happening, but now that it’s over it’s just a big ole bowl of schadenfreude flakes. Basically, both the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus and more moderate Republicans refused to play ball, which continued throughout the week despite increasingly disturbing attempts to make the AHCA more to the Freedom Caucus’s liking (and Presidential threats regarding consequences). This was in part because constituents made their strong dislike of the bill known, which moderate House members realistically assessed as far more of a threat to their 2018 election prospects. The vote, which was originally scheduled for the seven-year anniversary of the ACA for spite reasons, got pushed back to Friday. Then Ryan pulled the vote on Friday because he didn’t have enough support for the bill to pass (and because Trump essentially made him), saying that “we’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.” And I’m just so broken up about that as a healthcare professional, let me tell you.
  • Gorsuch A Circus. The twenty-hour Gorsuch hearing took a far weirder set of twists and turns than expected, though predicted results are far more…well, predictable. Highlights include the Supreme Court of the United States issuing a decision on 10th circuit precedent during the hearing, Schumer unexpectedly pushing to filibuster, and Gorsuch calling 19th-century lawmakers ‘racists’. Mostly, though, this hearing was a three-day slog where Democrats tried to get an angle on Gorsuch and he didn’t give them one, and also people were generally still mad about Merrick Garland. That said, though, Schumer did ask to delay the vote in light of all of the bonkers collusion news going on elsewhere on the Hill.
  • “I’m President and You’re Not.” I bet you already know that this is a direct quote rather than parody, because by now we’re all used to the Toddler-in-Chief’s outrageous interviews. But, uh, this sure is a thing he said nonironically to TIME magazine this week.

The Bad:

  • Adjusting the Privacy Settings.* The Senate voted this week on repealing an Obama-era Internet privacy rule that went through along party lines — the resolution will pass privacy reins over from the FCC to the FTC and prohibit the FTC from creating the kind of stricter standards for Internet privacy that the FCC had created. The provision still needs to go through the House, though, so we’ll see what happens to it.
  • Brown Bear, What Do You See?* (I see a mean bill coming for me.) Okay, okay, theatrics aside, the Senate also voted this week to permit more aggressive hunting of predators such as bears and wolves in Alaska, permitting them to be hunted aerially and in proximity to their cubs. Unlike the first bill, this one has already passed in the House, which means it will be finalized if/when Trump signs it into law (which he’s expected to do sometime next week).
  • Electronics Travel Ban. Though the travel ban was slapped down last week, immigration experts can tell you that the unpleasantness is far from over. Trump put another travel restriction in place this week, this time specifically on what electronics can be brought aboard flights to and from eight Muslim-majority countries. The ban, however, only applies to foreign airlines, rather than U.S.-owned companies, which is prompting some media sources to speculate it’s not about terror at all.
  • Sanctuary Slamdown. The Department of Homeland Security put out their first report on sanctuary jurisdictions this week, which was a fascinating and informative read on multiple levels. It was issued around the same time that news outlets began reporting that ICE is targeting sanctuary jurisdictions, presumably as part of a two-pronged “embarrass and/or harass into compliance” campaign. (Note: Though Boston is listed in the third section of the report, there are still no reports coming in of ICE raids in this area.)
  • Supremacy Stabbing in NYC. A middle-aged man in New York City, Timothy Caughman, was fatally stabbed this week simply because he was black (and in the wrong place at the wrong time). We know this because the person who stabbed him turned himself into police and told them so. It’s honestly a pretty heartbreaking story, as well as a bellwether of the emboldened hatred this administration has fostered.
  • Your Weekly Authoritarian Recap. Amy Siskind continues to tell you what’s happening in Trump’s America, and this week was a particularly chaotic slog.

The Good:

  • North Carolina Checks Itself (Hopefully Pre-Wreckage). Remember how the governor of North Carolina refused to give up power, and then eventually dramatically stripped gubernatorial power for his successor on his way out the door? In what is apparently becoming the new normal process, the North Carolina high courts called foul on that this week. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next, as a practical matter — particularly because North Carolina has proven such an interesting testing ground in other ways.
  • Special Education win. Though it made the most headlines for its connection to Gorsuch, the case SCOTUS decided this week was fairly big news in its own right! The short version is that it confirms that all schools must provide a meaningful attempt to education children who need special education based on the individual children’s circumstances. This decision is likely to be particularly meaningful for children in public school as we see further changes to the entire system in the upcoming year, so I’m pretty excited about it.
  • They Started Using Singular They: The AP Stylebook is including use of the singular ‘they’ pronoun in its guide moving forward, which is an interesting change from a literary perspective.
  • Big Trucks and Healing Potions. Oh, and speaking of interesting literary devices, Trump also took a break from his busy ACA-killing schedule this week to take photos behind the wheel of a giant truck. Predictably, a new meme was born, and the Internet’s response was pure gold. Between that and the #GOPDnD trend on Twitter, it’s been a good week for memes. And I encourage you to lose yourself in them, because they are hilarious and you’re now done with this week’s news!

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