Another week, another mess of chaos passing for government. The news continues to be dominated by bizarre dog-and-pony nonsense and impeachment horrorshow, but we’ve also added tragedy in Syria to the fray — and all stories are rapid-cycling at a rate that makes September look positively sedate. (I like a good Tilt-a-Whirl, but this is ridiculous.)
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not Captain Kangaroo! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Constitutional Crisis Corners:
Okay, we have yet another wild round of Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo, which is the gift that just keeps on giving:
- Impeachment Inquiry Updates.* The House committees have been very busy in the past week after the White House made it abundantly clear that they were not going to ‘play ball,’ as it were. Democrats subpoenaed both the Secretary of Defense and head of the Office of Management and Budget, frustrated by the White House’s snitches-get-stitches attitude, and it made underlings start talking — within a few days they had some really useful testimony. And to cap off the week, two sketchy Giuliani associates were arrested at the airport holding one-way tickets to not-here — I hope Rudy collected that $500K from them upfront. And though it’s not actually House-related, I thought y’all might want to know that Penzy’s Spices has spent over $90K on Facebook impeachment ads, making it (as Washington Post notes) the highest spender not named Trump and the official NNR spice brand. (They didn’t pay us to say that, though, because they already spent that money calling for impeachment.)
- Dirt Excavation Synopsis.* As mentioned above, House reps and reporters have been busy, and there has been a lot of new information this week. Here’s what we learned: 1) Giuliani tried to get Tillerson to kill prosecution of his client in 2017, because hey, not like he prosecuted people for a decade or anything; 2a) Deutsche bank doesn’t have any Trump financial records, because 2b) Deusche bank may have destroyed said Trump financial records; 3) Former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch believes she was let go because Trump didn’t like her anti-corruption policies; and 4) Then-current national security adviser John Bolton didn’t like Giuliani’s approach to Ukraine, calling the troll himself “a hand grenade [who would] blow everybody up” and the general approach “a drug deal.”
- Administrative Anger Synopsis. Just like every other week, the administration and allies are full of dangerous nonsense about the impeachment inquiry, which is starting to branch out in both scope and speakers. Among the lowlights: 1) A GOP lawmaker calling the entire thing a ‘malicious kangaroo court’ and assuming that Captain Kangaroo presides over said court; 2) Trump sharing a fake video that showed him shooting members of the media at a Florida resort; 3) Trump holding a horrifying rally in Minneapolis that featured slagging on Somali refugees, spread baseless rumors about Ilhan Omar, and some new lies about Syria; 4) the Trump administration calling the entire inquiry ‘a seditious conspiracy’; and 5) Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, and the OBM all refusing to answer subpoenas pursuant to the inquiry.
As the situation in Syria worsens, Disregard of Governing Norms has become its own mushroom cloud of misery — it’s definitely back to a fully-blown subsection. Here are this week’s developments, with the caveat that military aid is pretty far outside my wheelhouse:
- Shameful Withdrawal from Syria (cont).* The situation in Syria is chaotic and unpredictable after Trump went ahead and withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, just as he forecast, while Turkey went on to strike the hell out of our Kurdish allies, also forecast. Experts warned that this action could lead to a resurgence of ISIS, and we definitely did see hundreds of ISIS prisoners escape in the chaos (to say nothing of the solid we’re currently doing the terrorist group in terms of recruitment fodder). But we also watched desperate Kurdish fighters handle border protection by allying with Assad forces, which gives the Russia-backed Syrian government free rein in a region that had successfully held them back for seven years. And, of course, none of this even touches on the horrifying conditions that were created by the strike, which Trump initially justified with false and distracting claim that Kurdish people didn’t fight at Normandy. While people expressed disapproval and frustration at the horrorshow above, Trump announced he was ordering a full withdrawal from Syria, because Murrica. But almost immediately after, he decided to also sanction Turkey, ordering a fifty percent increase tariff on steel and a suspension of trade negotiations while he withdraws said troops. (Go ahead, try to find a coherent foreign policy in this paragraph. I dare you.)
- Christian ‘Leadership.’ It’s nowhere near the same caliber of bonkers as the above paragraph, but Pompeo also made minor headlines this week for being allergic to the Establishment clause and giving a speech on being a Christian leader. This is a pretty disturbing disruption of separation of church and state, which is never popular with the evangelical set but is, in fact, in the Constitution.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Saudi Arabia Troop Shuffle.* In what I’m sure is just a wacky coincidence, on the same week that Trump announced full withdrawal from Syria he also announced that the United States is sending a comparable number of troops to Saudi Arabia. Since they’re ostensibly helping hold off Iran, this wouldn’t be that strange, except that his whole justification for the Syrian removal was getting troops out of the Middle East, and also Saudi Arabia is apparently paying us. So… uh… that’s a thing that’s happening.
- Your Weekly Immigration Hell. No matter what else is going on, the Trump administration finds time to be terrible to immigrants. As he forecast in Minneapolis, Trump’s newest thing is that he wants to give cities the ability to refuse to house refugees. (He actually wrote an executive order on this a couple of weeks ago, around the same time that he announced the U.S. would only accept 18,000 refugees in FY2020.) This is likely to face challenges just like the ones I’m outlining below, so we’ll want to keep an eye on it; the rest of the immigration news is thankfully much better this week.
- Power Outages in CA.* Northern California experienced widespread planned blackouts this week in an effort to avoid wildfires caused by high winds, leaving 2.5 million people without power in total. This is an unprecedented planned outage that seems likely to become a new normal under global warming, and therefore deserves our attention. Though nobody enjoys being without power, the blackouts are particularly hard on people living with disability, who often need electricity for medical reasons. It’s the state’s hope that this is better than another raging fire, but we’ll have to see how everyone is doing when the outages end.
- Recent Court Resilience. This week has been a chaotic nightmare, but at least we’ve had some really good court results. At the time that I type this, eight different courts have issued injunctions pausing new rules that would penalize indigent immigrants, with one judge calling the rules “repugnant to the American dream.” This new rule set was supposed to go into effect today, and the injunctions are a major advocacy win on this issue. A federal court also held this week that Trump couldn’t divert military funding for his vanity wall, because this was an illegal appropriation of funds. And a federal appeals court also ordered Trump to turn over financial records, which is how we learned that Deutsche didn’t have them in the first place.
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 intrepid pupper 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 stability in Syria!