This past week… what can I say, this week had a lot of turkeys. (It’s a fraught time for most of us under the best of circumstances, and in 2018 talking politics with family is a whole new minefield.)
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 chief of Interpol! — 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:
We saw some movement on the Russia Investigation this week, though it was still relatively quiet, in the grand scheme of things:
- Interpol Intrigue.* A new Interpol chief was selected this week, months after the previous leader was abruptly arrested in China for corruption. Going into the election process, a Russian front-runner was favored, but his candidacy left people (including some U.S. Senators) very nervous that Russia would use Interpol to stomp out its enemies. In the end, the role went to a career policeman from South Korea, Kim Jong-yang, instead.
- Trump Is Not, In Fact, Done. Despite Trump bragging early last week that he ‘very easily’ answered Mueller’s questions, it turned out by the end of the week that he hadn’t answered all the questions and Mueller is still considering subpoenaing him. Raise your hand if any of this surprises you.
- Whitaker Again.* News broke this week that on top of everything else, over the last few years Matt Whitaker was paid $1.2M by a conservative nonprofit called FACT that accepted money from unknown donors. Organizations like FACT are commonly known as dark money organizations, because it’s impossible to know where the funds are coming from, which means they can be used in ways that are pretty politically sketchy to say the least. And speaking of sketchy, the New York Times notes that Whitaker continued to receive some payments to his 2014 election campaign as recently as this past year, which definitely violates the Hatch Act.
This week also marked the return of what used to be the most common crisis in this section, the Disregard of Governing Norms. Here’s all the weird noise that happened on that front this week:
- Saudi Arabia Uncertainty.* By the time that I write this, Trump has made it pretty clear that he’s not gonna punish the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, despite overwhelming evidence that the leader ordered the death of Jamal Khashoggi. But what’s less clear is what will happen with a Saudi nuclear deal in light of the past few weeks — the super-trustworthy Saudi government had requested their own nuclear power, but they had also made it clear they would build nuclear arms if Iran did. I freely admit, my expertise is not in foreign policy, but I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s not normal for a U.S. President to potentially give nuclear arms capabilities to countries at the same time that Congress is deciding on sanctions for them.
- But Her Emails.* Ivanka Trump was in the news this week for using her personal email account for government business throughout 2017, which you may recall is exactly what Hillary Clinton did that led Trump to lead chants to “lock her up.” It’s ironic that this story is resurfacing at the same time news breaks that Trump tried to order the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton. But in true White House fashion, they are refusing to comment while Republicans are subpoenaing James Comey and Loretta Lynch on their handling of the same exact topic — because somehow there’s still a House investigation into FBI’s actions in mid-2016, despite it currently being November 2018. On the plus side, that will probably slow to a crawl come January, when the House changes hands. And if you need a score card just to keep all of this straight, I feel you friends; I can barely track it and I write the Roundup!
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Election Endings. Most of the residual election news is resolved by now, but the fact that there are two outstanding results at the end of the month is pretty unusual. For the moment, eyes are turning towards Mississippi, where a runoff Senate election will happen tomorrow. Trump is focusing his efforts there today, but his candidate has had a lot of upsets, so it will be interesting to see what happens to say the least. Meanwhile, the Dems duke it out over who will lead the House, but increasingly Nancy Pelosi is looking likely — a fact only underscored by the op-ed she wrote today in the Washington Post.
- Proud Boys on the Prowl. News broke this week that the FBI has classified the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalism — which might just seem like a No Duh moment to us, but has potential broader implications. Best case scenario, it might suggest that the FBI is taking stochastic terrorism threats seriously, particularly because the notes link the Proud Boys to escalation of violence on college campuses. But even if we’re not quite that lucky, it’s still kind of fun to watch their founder distance himself.
- Romaine Woes.* Per CDC advisory, most of the country is no longer selling or serving Romaine lettuce because it has been connected to over thirty outbreaks of E. coli this week. It’s speculated that this occurred at least in part because Trump rolled back rules that would have required more rigorous water testing to prevent exactly this kind of issue. And on top of the romaine ruckus, several types of prepared foods are experiencing recalls as well. It’s hard out here for a head of lettuce! (And also for your trusty author, who loves Caesar salad and half the prepared foods list — I came out to have a good dine and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now.)
- Get the Heil Out (Redux). A Kansas official who referred to himself as a member of “the master race” last week has been asked to resign on account of Nazism. Incredibly, the guy is insisting he’s not racist, he was just talking about people with gaps in their teeth, and that is definitely the most 2018 sentence I’m going to type this week.
- Shooting Tragedies.* We had not one, not two, but three different shootings this past week, and all three resulted in preventable fatalities that sadden me more than I can say. The first was a murder-suicide in Chicago on Monday, where a gunman showed up at a hospital to shoot his former fiancee, who was a doctor there. He also shot an officer who responded and a pharmacy resident who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time before shooting himself in the head. That same day, five people were shot in downtown Denver, apparently due to gang rivalries (although the five people actually shot were all innocent bystanders, and thankfully four of them will recover). And a dispute in an Alabama mall that left two people wounded by gunfire resulted in police fatally shooting a young black man who wasn’t the shooter.
- Trump Tries to Trump the 9th Circuit (Again). Trump asked the Supreme Court to leapfrog over the appeals court and intervene in his transgender military ban case this week, which marks the fourth time he’s tried to ignore proper court procedure in the last year or so. I kind of can’t stress enough how much this is not how appeals are supposed to work — the standard for granting this kind of request is “such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice.” Also, he had just doubled down on pissing off Justice Roberts the day before he requested it. That’s a bold strategy, President T, let’s see if it pays off for you.
- Climate Change Calamities.* All right y’all, this one is way out of my lane, so bear with me. A Climate Science Special Report was issued at the end of last week pursuant to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, and its conclusions about climate change were… well, not great, let’s just put it that way. Specifically, the report concluded that climate change would cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars by the end of the century due to severe disruption of American exports and supply chains. It also concluded that climate change was making the fires in California worse and that changing temperatures would prematurely kill thousands each year by the end of the century. So of course Trump’s response was that he “doesn’t believe” the report. I’d pity the fool, but since he’s taking the whole planet with him it’s kind of hard. (Sorry, y’all, there’s really nothing I can say that makes this better so I’ll be relying on President T jokes for the duration.)
- Border Updates. This is another rough story that I can’t candy-coat and is still developing. Before the holiday, Trump approved use of force by troops (which, incidentally, probably violates the Posse Comitatus Act) and threatened to close the Mexican border, and by Sunday he had struck a deal with Mexico to make asylee seekers wait there instead of entering the U.S. Between lengthy waits during normal processing and Trump’s constant threats not to take asylees at all, unrest caused about 500 people to protest at the San Ysidro port (at the U.S. southern border between Tijuana and San Diego) on Sunday. The protest started out peaceful, but when people started to evade a police blockade and run towards the border, U.S. border officials began firing tear gas at the crowd of women and children and the border was shut down entirely. Eventually it was reopened later in the day, but Mexico has begun deporting the people at the demonstration. Trump is now calling for Mexico to deport everyone at the border and is back to threatening to close the border permanently. Happy Thanksgiving, pilgrims.
- Recent Court Resilience. Only a few days after the administration issued a proclamation refusing to accept asylum applications raised from inside the U.S., a federal judge has forced them to keep accepting the applications — at least for now. In its temporary order, the court reminded the administration that they “may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.” The bar will remain in place for one month, until another court date scheduled for December 19. Unsurprisingly, Trump threw a wobbly about this, which prompted Chief Justice Roberts to tell him to knock it off already. Which, naturally, Trump handled by doubling down despite conservatives backing the Chief, and then he asked the Supreme Court for a favor the very next day. It’s gonna be some sweet schadenfreude when they tell him no on that last point.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry there’s no returning it to sender. For making it through, you deserve this inexplicable Mr. T Mother’s Day video I found while looking up his catchphrases and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me better news from the border!