As predicted, this week was ten pounds of misinformation in a five-pound bag–the NNR will be a bit longer than normal to unpack it all. There’s a fair amount outside impeachment, though impeachment is definitely moving forward as well, and a lot of it is no fun at all to read. On the plus side, there’s room in my desk fort for everybody.
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 an impeachment article!–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 Corner:
This past week featured the entire trajectory of the Judiciary Committee, with every step from the report to the articles themselves–which means yet another full card of Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo. Here’s what I have for you:
- Timeline of the Launch.* So much happened so quickly this week that it can be helpful just to have a timeline! Kicking off the week, the Intelligence Committee released their official report on Tuesday afternoon (as well as a completely bananas and unofficial Republican version, but I’m giving that one the consideration it deserves). The report focused on both the Ukraine scandal itself and the administration’s attempts to stall the impeachment investigation. This was quickly followed by the first Judicial Committee hearing on Wednesday, an official instruction by Nancy Pelosi on Thursday to draft impeachment articles, and a final Judicial Committee hearing on Monday. At the time that I type this on Tuesday evening, the Judiciary Committee has officially released their articles of impeachment–nine pages on ‘abuse of power‘ and ‘obstruction of Congress’ that follow the same basic format as the House Intelligence Committee report.
- Judiciary Kangaroo Court.* The Wednesday and Monday hearings were, simply put, pretty nuts–so it’s not surprising that Judiciary Committee head Jerry Nadler only put up with two sessions before he stuck a fork in his own arm and called the whole thing done. The important big picture highlights: a) Three out of four legal experts (and later by letter, another 500 more) agreed that Trump had committed impeachable offenses; and b) Democrats provided a large bevy of evidence to support this conclusion. Among the GOP’s bad faith parade: a) Insisting nobody let Trump launch a defense, despite the administration’s refusal to do exactly that–twice; b) A completely made-up controversy that accused one of the legal experts of attacking Barron Trump because she said that Trump was allowed to name his son ‘Barron’ but not make him nobility under the Constitution; c) Repeated statements that there was no evidence despite the giant pile of evidence presented on Monday; and d) some of said evidence involving Devin Nunes, who was among those conducting the investigation on the House Intelligence Committee. It’s not a coincidence, by the way, that the nonsense in this paragraph is way longer than the actual hearing summary–the committees have a very clear-cut case and this laundry list of distraction is how the GOP is choosing to counter that.
- So What Now? Now that we have existing articles of impeachment, the Judiciary Committee will vote whether to release them to the House for a final floor vote–which may happen before Christmas. We also may or may not see them make adjustments, such as folding in official response to Giuliani’s trip to Ukraine, which inexplicably happened this week while all of this was going on. Either way, next week is likely to be another whirlwind of activity, as Congress scrambles to get this locked down before the break. After that, the articles go to the Senate, where Mitch McConnell wants a rocket-fast trial but Trump wants a full dog-and-pony show. It’s kind of anybody’s guess what happens from there.
Moreso than any other week in recent memory, we had some really major Disregard of Governing Norms outside of the impeachment circus–most notably, there were some really serious developments around the FBI. Here’s what I have for you:
- Fake Spying Claims Aftermath. As predicted, a Department of Justice inspector general report was issued this week finding that the FBI properly opened an investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia without evidence of political bias. (That said, the report also found a lot of procedural missteps that were apolitical in nature, resulting in a call for more FISA oversight.) A lot of people, myself included, were prepared to declare this report the new “water is wet” and call it a day. But the report has spawned an ongoing misinformation campaign that is truly staggering. First William Barr discredited his own IG before the report even dropped, and doubled down on that criticism once we finally had a report. White House lawyers started literally claiming the report said the opposite of what it actually said. And then Barr graduated to accusing the FBI of ‘bad faith’ and ‘gross abuses’ (again, despite a lengthy report saying the exact opposite) around the same time that Trump started started attacking the head of the FBI, going so far as to call him ‘the current Director’ (which is not exactly a great sign for Wray’s political health). This type of attacking people for accurately reporting obvious facts is disconcerting, and it appears to be the current GOP strategy for just about everything.
- NATO Nonsense. While everything else above was going on, we also had some inane excitement at NATO–first President Macron used reverse psychology to keep Trump in line, calling NATO ‘brain-dead’ so that the other man would double down on preserving it. Then Trump called Trudeau ‘two-faced‘ and canceled a press conference on his way out because the Canadian Prime Minister had laughed at him on a hot mic. Apparently the summit otherwise went well, which is something I guess.
- Recent Trump Antisemitism. Despite Trump’s bizarre alliance with Bibi, his overt antisemitism spiked dramatically this week, and I doubt it’s a coincidence that it happened on the same week as impeachment hearings led by a guy named Nadler. Early in the week, he drew some headlines for horrifying comments to the Israeli American Council in Hollywood Florida, which were sort of a stunning tour-de-force of classic antisemitism. (Among the lowlights: telling a room full of Jewish people that “you are not nice people at all” and “you have no choice, you have to vote for me” because “you’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax” while asserting that other American Jewish people “don’t love Israel enough.”) The latter appears to have been laying groundwork for an executive order he is preparing to sign this week, which will combat the BDS movement on college campuses by, among other things, redefining Judaism as a national origin instead of a religion. (Needless to say, this is making a lot of Jewish observers very nervous, because it echoes early Nuremberg laws from the 1930s.)
Your “Normal” Weird
- 2020 Campaign Weirdness. Election news is trending weird/bad this week, but there’s still a lot of it: 1)Kamala Harris dropped out of the 2020 race, leaving no candidates of color qualifying for the December debates; 2)Joe Biden called a member of the crowd a “damn liar” and challenged the man to an IQ test on his own campaign trail in Iowa; 3) Mike Bloomberg had to apologize for calling fellow 2020 candidate Cory Booker “well-spoken”; 4)Pete Buttigieg turned out to have worked for three years for the McKinsey group, a conservative consulting firm recently in the news for helping engineer current deportation policy; and 5) Joe Biden telling Republican voters to ‘stay a Republican,” because “no party should have too much power,” which is a truly startling thing for a member of the Democratic Senate minority to say in 2019.
- Painful Policy Updates. The Trump administration announced this week that it is finalizing changes to our national food security benefits, properly called ‘SNAP benefits’ but commonly known as ‘food stamps,’ to eliminate access for about 700,000 current recipients. The proposed change, which will go into effect on April 1, would require able-bodied adult recipients to work 20 hours per week in any state that has lower than 6% unemployment, rather than allowing states to seek waivers (as is the current rule). Then, as if to punctuate the point, the Supreme Court followed up by declining to hear arguments on a Kentucky law that requires women to get an ultrasound and listen to their fetus’s heartbeat before permitting an abortion. So… not a great week for health-related policy updates.
- Multiple Gun-Related Tragedies.* This was a devastating week regarding gun violence. At the top of the week, a shooter at our Pearl Harbor Navy base killed two civilian State employees before fatally shooting himself. Later in the week there was another Navy base shooting, this time in Pensacola and ending in three people dead and eight more wounded. There was also an incident in Southern Florida that involved a hijacked UPS truck and the death of two civilians when police engaged the hijackers in a public shootout. And just today, there was a similar incident in Jersey City, when a police shootout resulted in three civilian deaths.
- Orange You Glad To Know? The Washington Post released a story based on the personal accounts of 48 undocumented former employees of the Trump Organization, which were as bleak as you might expect but reflect incredibly bravery on the part of the employees. The news also brought to light an unexpected ridiculous detail: the article names 45’s preferred shade of makeup, which turns out to be a color-correcting concealer he’s smearing all over his face. The manufacturer struggled to keep up with their new popularity after the article’s release but rolled with it enough to market said color as, amusingly, “orange.”
- Recent Congressional Resilience. We had some significant Congressional resilience in both the House and the Senate this week, and they were developments entirely separate from the impeachment circus. The Democratic-controlled House passed a bill that would restore several components of the Voting Rights Act and preserve racial integrity in voting. And on the Senate side, we passed a bill to fund historically black colleges and universities.
- The Theys Have It. Once again at the forefront of the institutional resistance, Merriam-Webster announced that 2019’s Word of the Year is ‘They‘, noting that the word’s usage has increased and formally changed considerably in the past year. This resulted in a great deal of very polarized buzz, but also some decidedly nonbinary-pronoun-friendly articles from the mainstream media. Progress!
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this cat saying hi 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 antibiotics!