Well, I said last week that the respite wouldn’t last, and sure enough, this week we were back to some truly fetid stuff. I recommend you grab a stuffed animal to cuddle before we begin, because some of this week is pretty nauseating.
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 a subpoena! — 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 have a bit more than average Russia Investigation news, most of it mind-numbing. Here’s what I have for you:
- Subpoena Fights Continue.* The House voted to authorize the resolution from last week that would allow them to sue people who ignore subpoenas, because it would be nice to do that to Don McGahn if nothing else. But apparently wanting a backup plan, the House Oversight and Reform Committee also voted to hold Attorney General Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to cough up documents related to the 2020 census. (Though, to be fair, that last bit is probably Trump’s fault, because he’s the one who invoked executive privilege on the relevant subject matter.)
- Trump Jr. Testifies.* Donald Trump Jr was called to interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee a second time this week, and apparently did not care for the experience. He seems pretty sure this is the end of the Senate’s investigation, and honestly, it’s the Senate so he may be right. But there’s definitely a lot of emergent sketchy stuff since he last interviewed in 2017, so we’ll have to see what the committee does with what they learned this past week.
- Foreign Intelligence Admissions.* This week’s “I can’t believe I’m not making this up” award goes to Trump flat-out saying that if offered, he would accept info from foreign governments on political opponents in the 2020 election. Needless to say, this is illegal as well as ignorant, which is probably why he had to backpedal furiously and get Mitch McConnell to do the same. Meanwhile, a Republican Senator blocked an attempt to require candidates to disclose foreign offers to the FBI. And the Justice Department continues to handle all of this by investigating the CIA’s Russia investigation, because we live in the dumpster timeline.
We continue to see Disregard of Governing Norms each week, but this week, not all of them came from Trump. Here’s what happened:
- White House Staff Shuffle (Reprise).* Trump announced via tweet this week that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is resigning from her position as White House press secretary, after working for the administration about two and a half years (regardless of what Trump tweets). The news has people speculating about who will replace her, but the answer might be nobody — she limited the role more and more before leaving, and the communications director position has been open since March. But we do know for certain that Kellyanne Conway is not going anywhere, despite recommendations that she be removed due to multiple Hatch Act violations — because something something loyalty to Trump. (Raise your hand if you didn’t see that one coming.)
- Pelosi Fuels the Feud. By now, Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to bring impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump has inspired considerable frustration to those of us watching, but her restraint seems to have its limits. Pelosi has started clapping back to Trump’s insults, attributing them to projection and talking about him like a misbehaving child. There are strategic reasons that Pelosi might be choosing not to impeach, but it’s not entirely clear why she’s antagonizing him so much.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Flint Mulligan. The Internet felt its collective heart stop upon finding out that Michigan authorities have dropped all criminal charges relating to the Flint water crisis. But the full story is that while all charges were dropped and the investigation ended, the AG also plans to start another investigation, because the first one was botched pretty badly. Given the Michigan Attorney General’s record, perhaps people are right to be wary of another investigation from the same department.
- Stewart: 9/11 Fund is No Joke. Though most of us think of former comedy news host Jon Stewart as his wisecracking and witty show persona, his response to the House Judiciary Committee’s poor attendance at a hearing for 9/11 first responders’ medical care funds was deadly serious. Referring to the empty seats as an “incredible metaphor” for the Committee’s disregard for the “sick and dying,” Stewart pulled no punches and called the hearing an “embarrassment to this country.” Whether or not Stewart’s impassioned pleas were the tipping point, the Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill to extend the fund.
- Tariff Trade-offs (continued). After last week’s tumultuous tariff threat with Mexico, we’ve moved on to a week of tumultuous tariff threats with China — which has fewer immigration implications but still isn’t what I’d call ‘fun.’ Also, for bonus funsies, Trump keeps insisting that there’s a seekrit second deal with the Mexican government. But the Mexican government keeps saying that he’s full of Cheetos, and frankly, I think we can all agree that they’re the more credible party, on account of Trump’s bogus photo evidence and habit of lying twelve times a day.
- Other Ill-Advised Immigration Updates.* Immigration circumstances remain really bad at the border — news outlets are now reporting that the administration is holding migrant kids on military bases and holding adults in “human dog pounds” under bridges. (Pro tip: Any time you have to utter the phrase “shower facility use is prioritized for children,” that should maybe be a clue that you are doing something inhumane with your detention practices.) Unsurprisingly, these awful and overcrowded conditions have also resulted in problems with disease vectors, and twenty-four people in total have died in custody since Trump took office. About the only good news on the immigration front is that the administration’s attempt to prosecute humanitarian aid proved unsuccessful; Scott Warren’s trial for providing food and water to migrants resulted in a hung jury.
- Black Lives Still Matter. Tensions between police and the public continue to worsen, particularly in cases of white officers policing black neighborhoods. In Memphis, brief but intense unrest erupted after 20-year old Brandon Webber was shot 20 times during a violent altercation with police. Meanwhile, a video from Phoenix hit the Internet showing police threatening to shoot parents in response to a four-year-old’s accidental shoplifting. The incident comes only a few months after a report showing that Phoenix police use the most deadly force in the country.
- Iran Tensions Continue.* Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is still being scary about Iran, claiming that its government is behind attacks that happened nowhere near them, that Iran has denied, and that have been claimed by other entities. Needless to say, this standoff is very concerning, particularly when it looks like the Trump administration may be making half of it up. Democrats, unsurprisingly, are continuing to safeguard requirements for congressional approval so that Trump can’t unilaterally drag us into a formal conflict.
- Recent SCOTUS Resilience. The Supreme Court issued several favorable (if mildly baffling) decisions today. By far, the biggest news is a 5–4 decision to affirm a finding that Virginia must use redrawn district maps in its next election due to impermissible racial gerrymandering. (It’s worth noting that the majority on this case was Ginsburg, Kagan, Gorsuch, Sotomayor, and Thomas, which is a match made in Weirdtown.) But the court also reaffirmed that double jeopardy doesn’t apply to state and federal prosecution, which means Paul Manafort can’t escape punishment with a pardon (although it does have some negative implications for marginalized defendants). And the Supreme Court also refused to hear a second case involving a baker refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. So it was a fairly good week for Supreme Court news.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this splashy flamingo chick 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 more hours of sleep!