This week was a day shorter than normal, and yet somehow still managed to nonetheless squeeze in two weeks’ worth of burning garbage. It’s kind of a neat magic trick, except for the part where, y’know, it sucks.
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 an energy-efficient light bulb manufacturer! — 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’re starting to see more movement on the Russia Investigation, and I’m excited to see what the House does now that it’s returning! Here’s what I have right now:
- Impeachment Investigation Update.* With the House resuming this week, the Judiciary Committee plans to vote on formalizing the whole impeachment inquiry thing sometime this week — it’s a necessary initial step for real impeachment proceedings, and has only been done twice before in our history. With a majority of House Democrats now favoring impeachment, it will be very interesting to see what is done with this vote.
There was also a fair amount of Disregard of Governing Norms, and some of it is pretty extreme. Here’s what I have for you:
- Trump and the Taliban.* Trump announced via Twitter this week that he invited the Taliban to come talk at Camp David this week, only a few days before the eighteenth anniversary of 9/11. In true Trump form, he also wanted praise for refusing to let the Taliban in after they took credit for killing 12 Americans, ignoring the fact that he never should have been offering them entry in the first place. Then Pompeo tried to convince us that this is super normal and every President invites terrorists over for tea — and I think this Twitter user speaks for us all when she says, “I am really thankful that Obama eliminated Bin Laden before Trump became best friends with him.”
- Primary Blues. Despite the fact that more Republican candidates have announced they plan to run in 2020, Republicans in four states are canceling their presidential primaries ahead of the election season. Needless to say, challengers aren’t exactly thrilled with this, and though I’m loathe to agree with Joe Walsh on absolutely anything I do agree with his observation that this is something a mob boss would do.
- Emoluments Again.* We appear to have once again reached that magical time when people suddenly start remembering the Emoluments Clause is a thing, and again start looking into the money that Trump is making off of our government hand over fist. The latest this week is a new investigation into Trump’s previously-failing resort in Scotland, which has prompted a disproportionate number of stopovers at the nearest airport — including multiple military flights, even though it’s standard procedure to refuel at air bases. So the Air Force and the House are now looking into that, and we can add them to the pile of multiple other emoluments actions.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Further EPA Deregulation Adventures.* In apparent response to resistance from automakers on proposed deregulation of emissions rules, the Justice Department is now investigating those automakers for antitrust violations. Apparently confident in the persuasive power of petty abuses, they then went ahead and relaxed light bulb efficiency rules too. The new rules create more costs for literally everyone, and on the heels of the automotive stuff I can’t overstate how wild this all is. It’s like if an amusement park decided it was too much work to use seat belts on roller coasters, and then when park-goers stopped riding them, the park responded by threatening to slash coaster enthusiasts’ tires and taking the seat belts off of Ferris wheels.
- Your Weekly Immigration Hell. This week was a little bit lighter than previous weeks on the immigration front, but that really isn’t saying much. The military has started defunding over a hundred Pentagon projects to divert moneys to the border wall, with most of the projects being quality-of-life supports such as daycares and schools. (Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is trying to talk European allies we’ve alienated into footing the bill for said projects.) Meanwhile, the Trump administration is considering severely cutting our refugee program for a third year in a row, and one of the plans on the table is admitting no refugees at all in FY20. So that’s fun and definitely legal.
- Dorian Aftermath. Throughout the tail end of the week, Hurricane Dorian (and the administration’s reaction to it) remained very concerning. As I mentioned on Tuesday, it passed through the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm that took at least 43 lives and left 70,000 people in need of aid. (The hurricane also hit Florida, the Carolinas, and Canada, though nowhere near as hard). Though we’ve historically permitted open travel for Bahamans with a passport and clean criminal record, people started reporting that Bahamans were being ordered off of Florida-bound boats, because an overnight policy change means trips now require a visa. Meanwhile, news sites are still covering the ongoing saga of Trump’s weird lies about Dorian hitting Alabama — though, to be fair, there’s plenty there that’s very concerning. In particular, NOAA being told to lie to back 45 up isn’t great, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatening to fire people if they didn’t comply is even worse.
- Straight Pride Parade Brutality (continued). As the aftermath of the Straight Pride Parade unfolds, we continue to see distortion of proper due process that is very concerning. As I mentioned last week, the judge hearing criminal charges issued bail conditions barring people from the city, and followed that up by rejecting the District Attorney’s motion to dismiss charges against the majority of protesters. For an encore, the same judge held a prominent immigration attorney in contempt when she read precedent about case dismissals into the record while defending one of the protesters in court. District Attorney Rollins has moved for interlocutory appeal of the motion to dismiss, and the appeals justice found the BMC judge in error today. Folks, especially as an attorney who practices in the Boston area, I really can’t overstress how bizarre and bad I find this entire story — none of this should be considered normal, and I’m not surprised that the decision was immediately overturned.
- Success in Hong Kong. The extradition bill in Hong Kong, which sparked many months of dedicated protest, was finally taken off the table this week by leader Carrie Lam. The protesters are nonetheless holding strong, calling for more bedrock political reform that would allow the region to retain its autonomy and curtail police brutality. Both the withdrawal of the bill and the protesters’ convictions are really powerful reminders of how civil unrest can protect important liberties.
- Stores Take a Stand. This week, Walmart announced that it is going to stop selling handguns and their associated ammunition in its stores, and also will ask customers to stop carrying guns in the stores entirely. The change comes on the heels of several mass shootings over the past few months, including two recent shootings that occurred within Walmart’s stores. Shortly after Walmart made its announcement, Kroger announced that they were following suit on the whole “don’t carry guns here please” thing. Both companies are also asking Congress to enact better gun reform laws, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell keeps passing the buck on voting. And the NRA is already trying to froth up gun owners about this, because the Second Amendment definitely protects your right to bear arms in a Walmart.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think we can all agree that it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this American woodcock rocking out 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 already out!