National News Roundup: Week 35 (September 17–23)

It’s cold season Chez Roundup, and only my live-in editor escaped the plague. (You may note, by process of elimination, that this means your favorite news compiler did not.) I mention this because I feel a great temptation to conclude that this past week was a terrible fever dream — it’s been a strange, dark week. Sadly, no matter how much I nap, the news doesn’t seem to improve.

Standard standing reminders apply: 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. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a tech guru — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

As we’ve come to expect, there were some developments in The Russia Collusion Investigation this week:

  • Walls Closing In on Manafort.* There was a lot of news about everybody’s favorite sketchy campaign manager this week. To begin with, Mueller apparently warned him to expect an indictment when they raided his home in July. But the more pieces of the puzzle fall into place, the more this just makes perfect sense — we also learned this week that the investigation of Manafort stretches back eleven years; that Manafort has been monitored by the FBI since summer 2016; and that the FBI discovered Manafort offered to give a Russian oligarch private briefings on the Trump campaign during that same window of time. So, basically, the surprising thing is that no indictment has been issued yet — though some analysts think Mueller is setting a tone, and that is probably true, I also think Mueller is just being extremely thorough and does plan to indict Manafort soon.
  • Facebook Now Cooperating with Congress.* It took them months, but they got there eventually: Facebook is now cooperating with congressional investigations into the ads they sold to Russian troll farms. (Facebook had already shared some information with Mueller, though this development was fairly recent as well.) Incredibly, Facebook had been claiming that it violated user privacy to share what ads had been stuck on their feeds without their consent — because we all know that Facebook is extremely good at figuring out what we want to see on our walls. (Though it is absolutely true that the company treats users like data mines, but that’s kind of besides the point on multiple levels here.) At any rate, it’s good that they are cooperating now.
  • Anti-Leaking Classes.* News broke this week that EPA staff have been ordered to attend anti-leaking classes as a condition of their employment, per a general Trump administration policy that everybody in federal government will eventually be required to attend. I can’t help but wonder if anybody is going to make Trump’s attorneys go. (Or Trump.)

We also saw some significant movement on the Threat to Free Speech front in the past week:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

  • Maverick Maine and McCain (Maybe). John McCain announced this week that he won’t vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill, which is a bit confusing because when the bill first came on people’s radars he was one of the first to say he would. But his announcement was followed by Susan Collins announcing the same thing once she had reviewed the CBO report. So assuming McCain is accurately reporting, his decision puts the bill in serious jeopardy (as well as pissing off the President, which is always a nice bonus). If as few as three Republican senators vote ‘no’ on the initiative, it definitely won’t become law, and there are a lot of potential third ‘nos’ in the current landscape. (Though new versions of the bill court Lisa Murkowski, she hasn’t yet issued a final statement either way, and Rand Paul has been vocal in his opposition as well.) This is far from a done deal, and we need to keep calling our Senators! But the Graham-Cassidy bill may very well go the same route as the July bills.
  • Paris Accord Gains a Participant. (Just not us.) President Ortega announced that Nicaragua will join the Paris Accord this past week, leaving only two final holdouts from the world agreement — Syria and us. In statements on the topic, Ortega cited recent climate change natural disasters as his reasoning, saying, ““We have to be in solidarity with this large number of countries that are the first victims, who are already the victims and are the ones who will continue to suffer the impact of these disasters.” Nicaragua’s support makes the accord stronger, and might serve as an impetus for private entities in the United States to continue efforts to support the accord.

This week’s news changed so much that I had to draft it three times since yesterday — if anything, the news cycle is getting faster, which I frankly did not think was possible. Daily news summaries like WTFJHT remain a very good idea for the foreseeable future. Until next week, good night and good luck!

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