I have to admit, I’m pretty impressed by how much the news just continues to escalate every week — we’re ten weeks in, and somehow I still can’t believe some of what I’m writing in this summary. A lot of major players are galvanizing right now; if our national news were a television show, we would definitely be gearing up for a season finale. Let’s just hope we’re all living in a genre that is at least somewhat kind to its residents.
Standard 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. Just like last week, this week involves a fair amount of foreign policy news, which is outside my expertise as a legal generalist focused on domestic indigent populations. 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, an additional caveat this week: I threw out my back impressively badly on Tuesday, resulting in a hospital visit and a several-day vacation to A Nice Drug-Induced Haze Land Where None of This is Happening. As a result, this week’s news summaries will be a bit less in-depth and I particularly urge you to review supplemental news as well this week. Okay, caveats over. Let’s get this week’s installment of Mad Max: Fury Road in gear!
- Immigrant Improvements and Sanctuary Showdowns. It’s been an incredibly mixed week for immigrants, both nationally and here in my home state of Massachusetts — I’m including a brief summary of the latter at the end of the news. On the positive side of things, Secretary Kelly has moved away from his threat of separating families at the border, and the odds aren’t looking great on whether Republicans can get Congress to fund the wall. But now that there’s an official report on “sanctuary jurisdictions” (which is to say, governments that aren’t cooperating with ICE demands) in the U.S., everybody’s throwing down over it. Sessions announced that sanctuary jurisdictions will no longer be eligible for Department of Justice grants to assist with criminal law enforcement, an announcement which prompted Seattle to sue the administration (for, what, the third time in two months?). It also caused Bristol county sheriff Thomas Hodgson to opine to Congress that sanctuary jurisdiction elected officials should be arrested, nicely illustrating why so many local people seriously hate that guy.
- Intelligence Rodeo.* I’m seriously starting to think the ongoing intelligence landscape needs its own roundup, though I’ll summarize best I can: Jared Kushner was tapped to testify about his ties to Russia; the White House is attempting to block Sally Yates from testifying about what she knows; Nunes really did get his info last week from a White House source, which is, uh, not good (and making people call for either his recusal, ethics violation charges, or both); the Senate Intelligence Committee is attempting to pick up the pieces of the stalled House investigation; Flynn offered to testify in exchange for immunity, but the Senate wasn’t having it and the House was noncommittal; and Comey apparently wanted to write an op-ed about the investigation back in 2016 (but was not permitted by the White House to do so, because it was a freaking op-ed). Oh, also, questions being asked about Flynn testifying had Trump so rattled that he left the room instead of signing two executive orders on trade matters (though he did sign them eventually, much to everybody’s disappointment). Also, the exact timeline of the unfolding Nunes saga has been very confusing, so here’s a good summary from the New York Times.
- It’s My Party and I’ll Tiff If I Want To. In a move that surprises, well, nobody, Trump appears to have more-or-less declared war on the Freedom Caucus that refused to play ball last week, threatening to put them in the same bucket as Democrats. It’s a remarkably poor move from a traditional politics standpoint, and it will be interesting to see what happens on that front long-term. But the Democrats cleaned house this week as well, reminding us that they are a deeply fractured party too.
- Gorsuch Guessing Game. Schumer has announced that he will filibuster the Gorsuch vote, but two Democrats have already indicated that they will vote for him and McConnell is trying to get Republican senators to go nuclear. The vote got delayed one week on Monday, so this will be an interesting week on this front for sure.
- I Don’t Want Dinner with You Either, Pence. Mike Pence came up in the news a fair amount this week for announcing that he and his wife have a rule that he doesn’t eat meals with other women without her present. I’ll spare you a lengthy analysis of why this kind of rule hurts women professionally, and simply note that the feeling’s mutual.
- Leggings Gate. Two teenaged girls were barred from flying on United Airlines this week because the airline said their leggings violated the dress code for “pass travelers.” Yes, really. No, I didn’t know they have a dress code either. At any rate, Twitter was very angry about it.
- Bad Week for Science.* If you work in the science or tech sectors, please accept my condolences and offer of a cookie on me, because good gravy have you had a week. First Trump signed an executive order revoking the Clean Power Plan and permitting coal mining on federal lands, which he couched as “end[ing] the war on coal.” But energy economists say that the measure won’t even achieve his stated goals, which is the special brand of malice and ignorance that this administration makes its brand. Then, just in case we missed the general point, the Department of Energy also told its workers to stop using the word ‘climate’ in memos (and I seriously cannot believe I am not making that sentence up). Also, the House voted to restrict the scientific studies that the EPA can use to make policy (and I’m not a big fan of that sentence, either). Also, just in case you worked for the EPA in another division and were having a good day, Pruitt announced that he would not be rolling back an insecticide that causes cognitive delays in children. Also, the House pushed through the Internet privacy regulation changes that went through the Senate last week. And a partridge in a pear tree.
- Inclusion/Exclusion Hokey Pokey. Though the trans inclusion bill in North Carolina was partially repealed this week (while leaving in place several lesser-known provisions permitting discrimination in other forms), on the national front LGBTQ people were removed from inclusion on the 2020 U.S. Census. Also, Pence signed a tie-breaking vote to block funding for organizations whose care includes family planning services, and Ivanka Trump is now officially included among the President’s advisers, and they’re saying she’ll resign from the Trump corporation but they said that about her father, too. And Mattis is still posturing against North Korea, which I note under this header only because it puts him on the list of people I would like to shake all about.
- Make America Violent Again. In what I can only describe as an incredibly apt metaphor for the state of the entire country, a man was apparently hit over the head repeatedly with a Make America Great Again sign at a pro-Trump rally in California this week. Several people ended up in police custody over the event. Murrica.
- Your Weekly Authoritarian recap. Amy Siskind continues to tell you what’s going on.
- MAR-A-LAGO Act. This is more amusing news than good, strictly speaking, but Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced a bill they are calling the “Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act.” It would force the White House to reveal logs of visitors at all locations where official business occurs, and why yes, that would include the Mar-A-Lago resort, why do you ask? (The bill is frankly a good idea, with or without the pointed title.)
- Georgia On Our Minds. The Georgia special election is shaping up to be a very interesting election, with Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff showing a real chance of flipping Tom Price’s old seat. We won’t have concrete news on the election results until April 18 or later, but it’s an interesting race to watch, and I’ll try to remember to circle back in a few weeks.
- Revitalized ACA. Now that it’s looking less likely that the ACA is going anywhere, several states are revisiting the subject of expanding Medicaid — including Kansas, which should be an interesting showdown between the legislative and executive branches. Unfortunately, that’s the last of the straightforward good news I have on tap this week, though there’s some good schadenfreude for local readers below. If you aren’t local, feel free to read or skip at your leisure, and catch you next week!
Eastern Corridor Corner:
A rash of local news about national issues is prompting a new subsection this week, because boy howdy, did a lot happen here on several fronts:
- ICE arrested multiple greencard holders in Lawrence this week as they showed up for routine appointments, which is a pretty dramatic change in posture and suggests we may see more aggression from them here in MA in the future.
- Relatedly, things in Brockton exploded because there was a very widely-spread rumor that ICE planned to raid, which ultimately was announced by a state representative for the area on Facecbook. I don’t believe there was an ICE raid on Thursday, but since raids rely heavily on the element of surprise, this might be because ICE knew it would be hard to round up a wary and forewarned population.
- Mayor Walsh gave a brief announcement and raised the transgender pride flag over the Statehouse, which was presumably in response to legislation being considered for trans rights but also happened to be when the “free speech bus” that roams the nation spewing hate speech was nearby; and
- The mayor of Somerville, Joseph Curtatone, publicly called Sheriff Hodgson a “jack-booted thug”’ in response to his statement to Congress, and dared him to “Come and get me”. I admit the whole thing made me kind of miss living in Somerville, but either way, it’s a great way to close out this week’s news!