National News Roundup: Week 37 (October 1–7)

FORTEPAN / Saly Noémi, via Wikimedia Commons

This week started out really rough and ended up really strange — we had a lot of very traumatic and troubling events in the earlier half of the week, but by the end of the weekend Trump was taking credit for inventing the word “fake.” It’s sort of like being stuck in a horror movie where the killer stabs someone on Monday and then comes back on Friday to ask the survivors “What’s the deal with soap?” (Also, I know the news cycle has practically become minute-by-minute these days, but this is ridiculous.)

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 a lot of detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a football player! — 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:

The Russia Collusion Investigation saw a lot of movement this week:

We also are still in a stalemate on the Threat to Free Speech front:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

  • Trump Went to Puerto Rico and it was the Actual Worst. Trump did end up taking a trip to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, which ended up being an odyssey of blatant mischaracterizations, surreal t-shirt-cannon style paper-towel launching, and countless offensive and tactless comments — but not very much actual help. After it was over, FEMA removed statistics about how much of the region has power and water (which, according to an official Puerto Rican website, is about 15% power and 55% water respectively, in case anyone was curious). Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether Congress will provide more aid to the island, which is still sorely needed post-visit. Though government responses have been sluggish, several nonprofit entities have been working tirelessly; I’ll write more about that below.
  • Trans Rights Should be Civil Rights. Sessions reversed course on another Obama-era protection this week, this time on a directive clarifying that gender expression is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The directive gave protection against workplace discrimination for transgender Americans, which has effectively been removed; it’s realistic for trans Americans to expect that workplace discrimination based on their gender expression has effectively become legal again. The Sessions memo made it clear that this would be the Department position on all legal issues related to sex moving forward. Ordinarily I would put a pithy statement here, but I’m still really mad about it, so I’ll content myself with saying that it is not ideal.
  • Trump’s Alarming Non-Diplomacy with North Korea.* Trump continued his disturbing gambit with North Korea this week, saying that Tillerson was “wasting his time” on diplomacy. Meanwhile, Russia is apparently claiming North Korea has missiles that can reach the west coast of the US, and Trump referred to this week as “the calm before the storm” but wouldn’t say more about what that meant (though it was probably in reference to either North Korea or abandoning the Iran nuclear deal, which he’s expected to do next week). Though Ted Lieu opined publicly (and probably accurately) this week that Trump has “no strategy on North Korea,” Trump did tell military leaders this week that “our goal is denuclearization.” Hopefully he doesn’t intend to achieve that by goading Kim Jong-un into chucking his entire arsenal at us.
  • Continuing UN Embarrassment. The United States joined twelve other UN countries this week in refusing to condemn the death penalty for certain kinds of conduct — namely, apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations — when the penalty is applied in a discriminatory manner. The resolution passed anyway, by a sound majority of 27 to 12. What we did support was a failed amendment by Russia asserting that the death penalty was “not necessarily a human rights violation.” ‘Murrica.
  • What Is Even Happening in the EPA.* News broke this week (well, for some definitions of ‘broke’) that Pruitt does many things that hurt the credibility and functionality of the EPA, such as spending lots of time with industry executives and spending agency funds on questionable things such as frequent travel to his home state and a $25,000 phone booth (yes, really). But Trump managed to one-up himself with his pick for deputy director, who is a literal coal lobbyist. As in, “he was registered as a lobbyist two months ago.” What’s particularly noteworthy about this pick is that Bannon is no longer advising Trump and yet his nominations look identical to when he was — either Bannon actually does still have Trump’s ear, or Trump hates the EPA so much that he doesn’t need to have any kind of deconstructionist agenda to actively try to destroy it.

The Good:

And that’s what I have, in all its terrible and deeply strange glory. Daily news summaries like WTFJHT remain a very good idea for the foreseeable future. Here’s hoping that next week brings better tidings!

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