On a scale of one to ten, I give the first week of 2020 a negative three–the news is so awful, in fact, that we’re enacting the NNR Really Bad Week protocol. You get your dessert good news first this week, and we’re closing with things you can do to feel less like you’re screaming into the wind. We will get through this, and I’m here if anyone needs anything.
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 FBI raid!–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!
- Cease-Fire in Afghanistan.*The Taliban agreed to a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan this week, which is a relief against the larger backdrop of this week’s foreign policy news. If it’s finalized, this would be the first step towards a more permanent peace in Afghanistan, and though that’s certainly not my area of expertise it seems pretty good to me.
- Christian Rebukes Continue. There was another open letter to Trump from the evangelical community this week, this time from a number of congregations in Florida. It doesn’t seem likely that much will come from it, but it’s still kind of edifying to watch pastors say things like, “As members of the Christian faith, we cannot stand idly by while you attempt to co-opt our religion for your political gain” and “you, sir, do not have the moral fortitude to deserve our support.”
Constitutional Crisis Corners:
At the time that I type this, Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo is slowly resuming, though of course we have no more settled than the last week’s update. Here’s a quick summary of the uncertainty:
- Congressional Tug-o-War. At the time that I write this, we’re still firmly embroiled in Congressional back-and-forth, to the extent anybody is thinking about impeachment anymore at all. Nancy Pelosi isn’t sending along the articles of impeachment, which frankly seems pretty understandable given the week we’ve had, and Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he won’t proceed without them. But he also won’t call witnesses, even as John Bolton offers to testify. Meanwhile, the federal case about, among other things, whether officials can be forced to testify is the one thing that is moving forward, so we’ll want to keep an eye on that for sure.
- Ukraine News Still Coming Out.*Rudy Giuliani was in the news yet again this week, this time for back channel talks with Venezuela via telephone (and given his awful performances on the news circuits, the idea of him being trusted with Venezuela is kind of terrifying). New emails also gave more evidence that Trump personally ordered the freeze of Ukrainian aid, adding to the already-considerable pile.
There’s not much in the way of Disregard of Governing Norms stories this week, but we did see one story I think is worth noting:
- FBI Raid.* The FBI raided the home of another Trump ally this week, this time lobbyist and all-around sketchy guy Michael Esposito. Naturally Trump is claiming he doesn’t know him, but unlike most times when words come out of Trump’s mouth, this time he might be telling the truth. The whole story is strange, but the fact that we’ve hit raid o’clock makes me think it’s worth tracking.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- 2020 Election Weirdness.Despite the break, we did see some election news. Julian Castro announced that he’s dropping out of the 2020 race, then announced that he endorsed Elizabeth Warren a few days later–making folks speculate about a Warren/Castro ticket. (I’d vote for that in a hot second, not gonna lie.) Meanwhile, on the malarkey end of the spectrum, Joe Biden hedged that maybe he’d take a GOP running mate if he got the nomination, and he’s still in the running because 2020 is a rich and colorful tapestry.
- Congress and SCOTUS. Two different Congressional groups approached the Supreme Court this week, and frankly I’m not excited about either of them. A group of Democrats have decided to cut to the chase and ask for a quicker ruling on the Affordable Care Act, creating a more certain scenario by the close of the term. This actually makes total sense in context–it would be worse to leave the insurance market uncertain indefinitely, and SCOTUS would weigh in eventually either way–but I’m pretty anxious about it anyway. Meanwhile, a GOP group filed an amicus brief on the case to overturn Roe v Wade, which will be heard in March; it’s a move both unnecessary and frankly terrifying, because they know as much about reproductive health as potatoes know about yoyos.
The Very Bad:
- Fire in Australia.* Australia is currently fighting a totally unprecedented set of bush fires, which have already claimed 24 lives and set over 63 thousand square miles ablaze. Experts agree that the disturbing conditions are worsening because of climate change, particularly because the fires happen as a new study concludes that climate change is changing weather patterns everywhere. This type of devastation is hard to watch, and it has global implications.
- Aggression Against Iran.* Bear with me, because this one isn’t remotely my area, but it’s important so I’m going to try to unpack it. In the day or two leading up to New Year’s, unrest grew around the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, with pro-Iran protesters setting fire to the reception building on the compound and trying to overtake it. Trump blamed Iran for the whole thing, and by Thursday evening had ordered an air strike on the Baghdad airport, intentionally causing the death of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and at least 25 others. This attack was a really big deal, because attacking a sitting general can be considered an act of war, and Nancy Pelosi says that Trump didn’t give any notice to Congress ahead of time. (He did provide a notification after, for whatever that is worth.)
- Iran “Diplomacy” To Date.* The subsequent attempts at deescalation have been going about as well as you might expect from an administration that pretty much hates diplomacy, has half a State department, and thinks Twitter counts as a form of Congressional notice. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately tried to claim that Soleimani was about to attack, while Mike Pence claimed that Soleimani was involved in 9/11 (spoiler: no he wasn’t). Iraq has threatened to expel all US troops, which we’re ignoring in favor of deploying 3,500 more troops in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Iran announced it would end its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal (which we had already walked away from, but renewing the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons maybe wasn’t our best move ever). And Trump has threatened to bomb 52 Iranian sites, including cultural centers, which would be a violation of international law and a war crime. The House, unsurprisingly, is handling all of this by introducing a war powers resolution that would limit Trump’s authorization to do anything of the kind.
What We Can Do:
- Iran Action. Given the current activity in the House, this is a time when it really is helpful to call your representatives. As always, Celeste Pewter has helpful insights as well as scripts, and Indivisible has a page that helps connect you to your rep if you need it. You can also check out the work of groups like Win Without War and the Indivisible National Day of Action on Thursday, January 9.
- Australia Action. If you live outside the outback, donations really help, though please note that donating cash is more helpful than donating supplies at this time.CNet has a good list of places you can donate if you live outside of the outback, with lots of in-depth information about who is doing what and why. Several other outlets havelistsas well. If you live in Australia, WIRES also has good information about wildlife rescue on the ground in the area, and the NSW Office of Emergency Management has information about community recovery assistance opportunities.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no refunds. For making it through, you deserve this parrot love storyandthis hair salon version of a Knives Out clip, as well as 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 a better immune system!