This week has basically been ten pounds of chaos in a five-pound can — it’s a rough ride featuring everything from rainforest arson to Trump deciding he’s The Chosen One. I’m sorry, this is in fact reality, but your ice cream is here for you and so am I.
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 Twitter tantrum! — 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:
With the Mueller investigation over and the Senate and House both on a break, the Russia Investigation has been pretty quiet. But here’s what I have right now:
- Subpoenas Ahoy.* The House Judiciary Committee plans to subpoena former Trump aide Rob Porter, who was apparently present for several obstruction of justice exploits mentioned in the Mueller Report. Porter makes the third person to be subpoenaed to testify, after the same committee subpoenaed former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn. All three are slated to appear on September 17, so that’s the date to watch here.
The name of the game this week was Disregard of Governing Norms, and oh, what a week it was. Here’s what I have for you:
- Delusions of Grandeur.* Kicking off the chaos, we have all the news about Trump’s high opinion of himself. First he retweeted the esteemed opinion of a conspiracy theorist that Israeli Jews “love him like he is the second coming of God.” Then, riffing on that theme some more, he informed reporters that he is “the chosen one” to deal with looming trade wars. And for an encore, he told a room full of veterans that he thought about giving himself a medal of honor. (Apparently, nothing says “deserving of our highest award of valor” to him quite like “I dodged the draft and compare myself to Christ.”) These quotes are nauseating, but they also reflect an intentional disruption of our governing norms that shouldn’t be ignored.
- Nukeicane Donald. Somehow, 45 literally calling himself the messiah isn’t the most bizarrely disturbing thing I’m writing about him this week, because Axios reports that he proposed flinging nuclear bombs into hurricanes as a means of dealing with them. (The writers really jumped the shark this week; it must be sweeps season.) Trump is calling this story fake news, which means odds are good that he actually did suggest it. Needless to say, this plan would cause radioactive tradewinds, so it’s not an awesome idea either way — although people have been suggesting it since Eisenhower’s day.
- Recession Rodeo.* As a threat of recession continues to loom, 45’s behavior gets more and more extreme — and that, in turn, speaks to tossing more norms out the window. The nadir this week was calling the head of the Federal Reserve a “bigger enemy” than the President of China. But that said, we should probably be most concerned about him “hereby ordering” American companies to withdraw from China via Twitter amid rising tariffs. The market definitely reacted to that last one, dropping more than 600 points in one day, and though 45 doesn’t have the ability to legally enforce the order it sounds like he might try anyway.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Policy One-Eighty Patrol. There were some stunningly quick about-faces on some important issues this week which seem worth noting. The most extreme was 45’s amazing Appearing Disappearing Regret About Trade Wars with China — it’s not unheard of for politicians to change their stances on things, but a complete one-eighty in the span of a few hours is a bit much. He also reversed course on the subject of background checks for gun purchase, now seeming more reluctant to move forward on legislative changes. It’s been that kind of week, I guess.
- Electoral College Dropouts.* New precedent out of the 10th Circuit this week found that the electoral college doesn’t have to listen to the popular vote it represents, or at least can’t be penalized for breaking faith in this case’s instance. Though I haven’t yet read all 125 pages of this case, I find the ruling baffling; the constitution is pretty silent on this topic but pledge laws have been protected by the Supreme Court for half a century. And no matter what the Supreme Court finds if they hear the appeal on this case, there’s a Washington Supreme Court case that compels electors — and they’re the ultimate authority on the Washington constitution, so that can’t be overturned by the federal case.
- Joe Walsh What Now. Former Republican congressman and all-around tea partier Joe Walsh announced this week that he’ll be running for President as a Republican primary candidate, which I find baffling on a lot of levels. This isn’t so much the GOP rejecting Trumpism as a Trumpist rejecting Trump, so I’m not even certain his presence will split the GOP vote much. I guess it will be interesting, if nothing else?
- Even More Hellish Immigration News. As has become the norm, there are a bunch more horrifying immigration updates this week. The administration announced that it wouldn’t provide flu shots to migrants in custody, which is a really serious problem given the appalling hygiene conditions in the camps. They then followed this up by moving to hold kids in camps indefinitely instead of placing them in sponsor homes as they’re required by law, and twenty states are suing over it. Meanwhile, Trump has started threatening to take away birthright citizenship yet again, which is just as flagrantly unconstitutional as it was the last seven times he brought it up. And news broke that the Justice Department sent white nationalist content to sitting immigration judges, and apparently has been doing this for months. (Relatedly, I learned a new antisemitic term from my government today, so that’s a thing that happened.)
- Amazon is Burning. The Amazon rainforest is suffering massive wildfires as I type this, which have actually been going on for weeks but gained the world’s attention this week due to the mass circulation of photos of the damage. The problem has significantly worsened since the election of President Bolsonaro, who ran on a platform of allowing rampant deforestation (no, seriously), and the fires this year are the worst on record. This is likely to have devastating effects on our global ecosystem long-term, because the Amazon is an important player in delaying climate change.
- G7 Summary.* Many of the topics of this weekend’s G7 summit have already been covered elsewhere in this roundup, but it was a veritable merry-go-round of messy topics and adult politicians behaving badly. Among the remaining lowlights: Trump trying to get Russia back in and insulting France again; UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting that Britain shouldn’t have to pay for Brexit; and a sudden gate-crashing minister from Iran who turned out to be France’s party guest. There was also some apparent progress, such as a new trade deal with Japan, but those moments appeared few ad far between. And since the United States hosts the next G-7 summit, Trump’s already threatening to hold it at a property he owns in Florida, because of course he is.
- Recent Court Resilience. We did get some pretty awesome court news this week: The Ninth Circuit ruled that denying sexual reassignment surgery to prisoners with severe dysphoria violates the Eight Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. This is a major win for trans rights, because it means courts are viewing trans healthcare as medically necessary. I’m really happy to get to write about it.
So that’s what I have for this week, and good gravy, what even is the news right now. For making it through, you deserve this monkey reunion video 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 ice cream, cause we’re gonna need it!