Hello, and welcome to 2018! Well okay, Day 2 of 2018. But so far so good! We made it through 2017, and hopefully this year will be better, and in the meantime enjoy this sampling of New Year News. Same format as last week: Brief bullets with the best, the worst, and the weirdest. It’s the latest in resolution crazes!
Standard standing reminders still apply, though: 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 an ambassador! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the Special!
- Down the Hatch and Bachmann Blues.* Orrin Hatch announced today that he’s retiring this year, after nearly four decades of service. This is weird news, rather than good news, because it comes only a couple of weeks after rumors swirl that Paul Ryan is stepping down, potentially leaving both the Senate and the House without continuity of leadership at a time when the GOP controls all branches of government. Which is… well, it’s weird, and a mark of how interesting our times are. And speaking of Interesting Times, Michelle Bachmann apparently told a televangelist that she might run for Al Franken’s seat in 2018. I don’t know what to think of this, so I’m just gonna hope she was speaking in tongues.
- Russia Investigation Updates.* This has been a fascinating week for the Russia investigation. First a jailed Russian hacker claimed he can prove he hacked the DNC on the Kremlin’s orders, which may or may not be true but it sure created a stir. Then news broke that Australia learned the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton back in spring 2016 because George Papadopolous got drunk and told them so. As Seth Abramson notes in some twitter analysis, this sheds some light on the timeline of the FBI investigation, and also potentially seriously strengthens the legal case for collusion. So, all that good weirdness happened while we were on break.
- North Korea News.* There’s only one really concrete bad story this week, but it really is the worst. After the United Nations issued sanctions on North Korea, and Kim Jong Un reacted… let’s just say not very well, news also broke that China might be ignoring the sanctions, and South Korea seized ships that it believes were violating the sanctions. Meanwhile, Tillerson wrote an op-ed and Trump wrote some tweets. China denies the allegations, and also notes that this isn’t how a U.S. President should behave. And, uh, they aren’t exactly wrong on that last count. It’s been a stressful week on the North Korea front all around.
- PACHA Pink Sheets.* News quietly broke over the past week that Trump fired all remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. It’s unclear which of several different jerk motives were at play, but my guess is that it was a combination of “I don’t want any of Obama’s people doing literally anything” and “my beliefs about this disease are stuck in the 1980s.” I can’t imagine this council will be replaced anytime soon, unfortunately.
- Moore Is Less (or: Petty Slights Part Deux). We’ve got a good thing going at Schadenfreude Central apparently, because this week had yet another instance. This time, Roy Moore tried to challenge the special election process by claiming voter fraud — and his complaint was tossed the same day it was filed. Then they went ahead and certified the Doug Jones victory, also the same day, while Roy Moore continued to refuse to concede (which apparently is a habit of his). At this point, since there’s been a certified winner, it doesn’t actually matter that Moore didn’t concede — we’re pretty much all moving on without him. Oh, and for an encore, news broke that Moore’s Jewish attorney publicly supported Doug Jones.
- Some More Courtroom Wins. A federal judge in Washington put another national stay on part of the travel ban this past week, specifically protecting refugees who have bona fide familial relationships to people in the United States. This has the potential to really help a lot of people fleeing dangerous situations, so though it’s not a permanent fix it’s an excellent start. Meanwhile, the 9th Circuit found that the travel ban was an unconstitutional overreach of authority, though the ban itself remains in effect due to a Supreme Court order pending its decision. Though these wins are by no means conclusive, they represent concrete hope for people whose lives have been disrupted by the ongoing travel ban battle.
And that’s the New Year News, folks! We go back to our regular routine next week, with the news coming out on again on Monday, January 9. Until then: Keep on keepin’ on.