National News Roundup: Year 2, Week 4 (February 11–17)


Last week, the news was so overwhelming and demoralizing that I kicked a few stories from Monday out to the following roundup, hoping that things would be calmer then. I of course should have realized that by doing this, I virtually guaranteed that this week would be even more Chaotic Terrible than the last one. Sorry for jinxing all of us, folks!

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 EPA security detail! — 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:

This week started out a quiet time for the Russia Investigation, but it definitely ended with a bang! Here’s what I have for you:

Your “Normal” Weird:

  • What Rules of Professional Ethics? The White House attorney stable (and top DoJ staff, who clearly think they have a stall in that barn) have managed to lower my professional opinion of them further this week — which is kind of a neat trick, because I didn’t even know that was possible by this point. First prize in appalling practice goes to long-time Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who announced this week that he personally paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 to shut her up in 2016. For those attorneys reading this and thinking “Wait, did he just admit to a blatant violation of the Rules of Professional Ethics while violating client confidentiality and breaching a nondisclosure contract at the same time?” — why yes, yes he did. Stormy Daniels, bless her, has already announced that she is now free to talk about the whole thing, because Cohen breached the NDA agreement.
  • DOJ Deserting and Dog Whistles. Though my best antipathy goes to Cohen this week, there’s still plenty left over for the Department of Justice. Rachel Brand, third in command after Rod Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions, announced that she’s stepping down after just nine months at her current post. Though she’s ostensibly leaving because the legal department at Walmart was just so attractive, several sources note that she was very frustrated by all the vacancies in her department and afraid she might have to supervise Mueller (with all that would entail) if Rosenstein was fired. Against that backdrop, it kind of underscored the point to watch Jeff Sessions discussthe Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement” this week. Though the department defended his statements as a simple reference to common law, you cannot convince me that was anything other than an intentional dog whistle — a normal human being would have simply said “common law,” which is a much more common phrase, and the use of the word ‘heritage’ is kind of a glaring neon sign. To be fair to Rachel Brand, I wouldn’t want to work for Donald “I Fire You Cause It’s Tuesday” Trump and the Racist Brigade anymore, either.
  • Weird White House Odds and Ends. Disturbingly, the previous two headers are not the end of the wacky news coming out of the White House this week, because we haven’t even gotten to the non-lawyer shenanigans yet. Despite all probability, somehow the White House is still tossing out Porter-related prevarications, with the never-ending string of lies making it look more and more likely that the White House knew about his domestic violence the entire time and he was affirmatively not cleared for his position because of the blackmail potential his abuse history created. And, as if to punctuate that point, Reince Priebus soundbites have started coming out about his time as White House Chief of Staff as a book about the position gets ready to launch. News outlets are already having a field day with one choice quote, “Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50” — probably because this administration is such a goat rodeo that we don’t need more words than that before we believe it. But Vanity Fair gladly gives us a panoply of choice excerpts from the book anyway, and they’re all pretty much exactly as horrorshow as you might expect.

The Bad:

The Good:

  • Recent Court Case Wins. A second district court enjoined the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing the DACA repeal on March 5 this past week, putting more pressure on the administration to avoid deporting people who participated in the DACA program. (You’d think the first case would be its own deterrent, but let’s face it, this bunch isn’t noted for listening to courts.) And just today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a new districting map, making good on its threat to turn this judicial car around if Democrats and Republicans couldn’t draw new voting districts on their own. So now that task is definitely done before November elections, which is a really important development in a swing state that just barely broke for Trump in 2016.
  • Parkland Kids Owning Politicians Left and Right.* The kids most directly impacted by Wednesday’s shooting are acting more mature and decisively than the rest of us put together, organizing marches and calling out politicians as well as the NRA. Their candor is as exemplary as it is horrifying; I hope the rest of us step up to the plate soon, because traumatized high schoolers should not be forced to be the adults here.

And that’s all the news I have for you this week, in its technicolor and vaguely nauseating glory. Hopefully next week will be better, and you’ll hear from me either way. In the meantime, I’m off to spend some quality time with my freezer’s ice cream selection.

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