National News Roundup: Week 50 (December 31-January 6)


Well, okay, we’re back, and so’s this administration — with a vengeance. All of them, and Sessions in particular, appear to be making up for lost time, though this season’s cast of characters still involves a lot of buffoonery — but hey, at least we know Trump is clearly having as bad of a week as the rest of us!

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 an FBI agent! — 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:

There was a fair amount that broke on the Russia Collusion Investigation front in the past few weeks, which we haven’t focused on specifically during the break. Here are the main highlights to know:

  • Recent Collusion Developments. I wrote a bit about some of this last week, because it broke over the weekend, but it’s important enough to bear repeating: Australia learned the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton back in spring 2016 — and subsequently tipped off the FBI, jump-starting our own first federal investigation — 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. News also broke that Trump ordered the White House’s counsel to stop Jeff Sessions from recusing himself, which obviously didn’t pan out but sure looks like blatant obstruction of justice. And the latest news to break on this front is that Mueller is now saying he wants to interview Trump directly — in response, I’m sure, to the earlier stories.
  • Manafort Suing Mueller. This news comes straight from Bizarro World, which is a neat trick because I didn’t think anything could still faze me by early 2018: Paul Manafort is suing the Department of Justice to stop the investigation against him (or at least slow it). The complaint itself is truly stunning; it rambles about Kenneth Starr for a full two pages like it’s still 1998 and then argues that Mueller should never have been appointed because… reasons? (It’s not exactly clear on that point.) Then the whole thing concludes by arguing that Manafort being an agent of Ukraine in 2014 is somehow unrelated to the collusion claims — a claim that’s laughable on its face for about a dozen reasons — and therefore they should stop investigating it. I cannot stress enough how much this isn’t how any of this works; the established remedy in an improper criminal investigation is that the evidence found gets excluded; the investigation itself does not stop. Unsurprisingly, nobody expects this ploy to succeed; it’s just a cheap political move designed to discredit Mueller further. Honestly, if I were the judge hearing this case I would be tempted to sanction these attorneys for even filing.
  • BUT HER EMAILS! In other deeply aggravating investigation news, the FBI is investigating the Clinton Foundation for a zillionth time, and is threatening to investigate her use of emails on a private server yet again as well. Putting aside the fact that the Clinton Foundation has been investigated without result for literally years, and the fact that much more egregious breaches of protocol than a private server have happened over and over and over again in the past year without any apparent investigative progress, and the fact that the alleged behaviors happened before 2013 and there’s a five-year statute of limitations on federal felonies…you know what, actually don’t put any of that aside; they’re all valid reasons to be really annoyed about this. But it’s also totally fair to be displeased by all these fiddle strains while we’re still waiting for somebody to do literally anything about all this smoke being reported, so you can go ahead and have opinions on that aspect as well.

There were also more egregious attacks on The Free Press front than we’ve seen in a while, though honestly they’re becoming so commonplace that I worry about how normalized it’s become:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

And that’s what I have this week — lots of news of pretty much every type, but that’s better than news that’s uniformly bad. I’m hopeful that we’ll get some more good news next week, but you’ll hear from me about it either way! Until then, keep on keepin’ on.

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