The immigration news section remains on fire, but the rest of this week was nowhere near the horrorshow of the previous few weeks. Of course, this is rather like walking into a house and saying, “well, only one of these rooms is ablaze” — we can’t just sit and enjoy the mesquite flavor in the next room; we still have to act.
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:
It was actually a pretty quiet week for the Russia Investigation, with the closest news technically being about Trump’s finances. Here’s what happened:
- Trump Tax Return Attempts.* House Democrats officially began a lawsuit for Trump’s tax returns this week, hoping to get enforcement for the subpoenas that the administration ignored earlier in the year. In the meantime, New York’s governor has officially signed the bill that allows Congress to access his state tax returns, which are expected to be nearly identical to the federal ones. So either way, we may have more movement on this soon.
- Subpoena Party. In apparent response to last week’s decision allowing the emoluments case to proceed, Congress went a little subpoena-happy. It’s a subpoena party, and three dozen of Trump’s closest business friends are invited! (I’ll definitely keep folks posted on this news as it develops.)
In contrast, there was a lot of Disregard of Governing Norms stories this week, and they cover a fair amount of ground. Here’s what happened:
- Trump Visits North Korea.* As he left the G20 summit in Osaka, Trump became the first U.S. President to set foot in North Korea — though in true Trump fashion, it was a lot of high drama for only a few minutes before they crossed back into South Korean territory. That said, the whole thing did result in resuming nuclear talks, which created a more positive gloss on an otherwise not very illustrative trip (but more on that below).
- Census Fight Cluster. This story has become so weird as the week went on that I honestly wasn’t sure where to put it, but it’s certainly a deviation from government norms. After the administration missed its own printing deadline for the 2020 Census forms, the Department of Justice started out conceding that they couldn’t put a citizenship question on the 2020 census due to the time crunch. However, after Trump tweeted that he wanted to postpone the census to add the question, the judge dragged the DoJ attorneys onto a conference call and told them to explain themselves — prompting the team to say they found a way forward despite the logistical issues. Then Trump started talking about passing an executive order to get the question out, because he apparently failed Civics 101, and the whole legal team was swapped out en masse without a stated reason. So now the DOJ has Consumer Protection staffers as the new set of attorneys, and who even knows where we go from here.
- Fourth of July Fervor. The biggest single kleptocracy story this week is definitely Trump’s Fourth of July celebration, which was a bizarre power grab from beginning to end. We began the week with Trump announcing that he wanted tanks for a military Fourth of July parade this year, diverting millions from park funds to pay for it despite still owing millions for his inauguration. Just for added insult, he also set up VIP passes for Republican donors (and only Republican donors), turning the entire thing into a partisan event that likely violated the Hatch Act. Eventually the Pentagon got him to back off of the tank plan, before he could do any damage to either the public safety or the roads. But the event was still very odd, from the torrential rain to Trump’s inexplicable statement that Revolutionary War troops “took over the airports.” Although on the plus side, the latter resulted in some truly great Internet memes.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- G20 Lowlights.* I touched on a lot of the Russia investigation implications of Trump’s G20 trip last week, but wanted to spend a few minutes on the other noteworthy happenings today as well. Though the U.S. and China did resume trade talks, Trump also heaped praise on Saudi Arabia, insulted the host country, brought Ivanka along, and refused to back another climate change deal. So not what I’d call a successful summit, all things considered, even if it did have some positive notes.
- Amash Announcement. Libertarian representative Justin Amash announced via op ed that he’s leaving the Republican party this week, proclaiming the GOP is “in a partisan death spiral” in the process. (You may recall Amash as that guy from the GOP who was calling to impeach Trump, though he also left the Freedom Caucus over it.) Folks started speculating immediately that he likely planned to run in the 2020 election, which is easier to do if he’s not a member of Trump’s party-and sure enough, he indicated he hasn’t ruled it out.
- Even More Hellish Immigration News. Immigration news continues to be the horror nobody wants that just keeps on giving. The day after House reps described horrifying CBP station conditions, the DHS Inspector General issued a detailed report that corroborated many of their statements — and is the second report of this type in three months. (Against that backdrop, it’s not surprising that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a statement of disgust.) News also broke that CBP has known about the secret CBP agent facebook group for years, and that the administration is levying half-million dollar fines against people who evaded deportation by seeking sanctuary — and might also go after people who gave them shelter. To cap off a real banner week, Trump issued more statements that he plans to have additional ICE raids soon, and ICE was in the news for using facial recognition software to mine state drivers’ license databases for data. Because yeah, nothing says “you can trust us to do this responsibly without a warrant” like detaining citizens and another round of papers-please raids.
- Iran Tension Update.* Iran continues to violate the 2015 nuclear deal, racking up yet another violation on the heels of last week’s breach. Analysts with far more expertise than me are saying that Iran’s statements are political pressure rather than a true attempt to create a nuclear bomb — it’s an attempt to get the U.S. to back off or to get Europe to step up. Nonetheless, we need to keep watching this carefully.
- Recent Court Resilience. There were several great developments on court-related fronts this week, most of which were really encouraging. The charges against Marshae Jones, the woman in Alabama who was indicted for manslaughter when she was shot in the stomach, have officially been dropped as I type this. We also learned that several states are suing the EPA for stricter asbestos regulations. In court order news, a federal judge has blocked indefinite detention for asylum seekers, saying they must have a bond hearing while their case is pending because they have a constitutional right to due process. And the ‘conscientious objection’ medical rule was delayed until at least November due to a pending legal challenge in California. Hooray progress!
- Culling the Dem Herd. Democrat Presidential hopeful Eric Swalwell announced he is dropping out of the U.S. 2020 race but will seek re-election to the House, marking the first cull of our 24-person herd. Though he’s the first, he definitely won’t be the last, and it’s encouraging to see candidates returning their attention to other 2020 elections.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this close-up view of sand 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!