It has been three weeks since the death knell of impeachment articles, and the news cycle is settling into new routines. Unfortunately, the routines kind of stink. But nevertheless we persist, yes?
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 acting Director of National Intelligence!–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:
We saw yet another active week for Attorney General Overreach, and Trump’s insinuation that he’s actually in charge of law enforcement was a whole new form of looking glass logic. Here’s what I have for you this week:
- No Holds Barred. The week started off with more dog-and-pony show between 45 and Attorney General William Barr, with Barr claiming he was thinking of resigning and then walking it back. Meanwhile, Trump claimed “total confidence” in him and continued to tweet about retaliatory firings. Then he pardoned eleven people, which we’ll talk about more below, and declared himself “the chief law enforcement officer” of the entire country. And then his buddy and election manager Roger Stone’s sentencing hearing happened, and he started yelling about that too.
- Roger Stone Spectacle. Roger Stone’s sentencing hearing went about as well as you might expect, given that all the trial prosecutors walked out instead of offering the sentence Trump wanted. Stone ended up with about forty months to serve and two years of probation for his repeated lying to Congress and witness tampering, and Judge Jackson is still considering a motion for a retrial. Stone also filed a motion demanding that Jackson recuse herself because she said the jurors had acted with integrity during the sentencing hearing, a move which has all the legal merit of a week-old tuna sandwich. Unsurprisingly, Jackson has already denied the request.
- Pardonpalooza. As mentioned above, Trump issued eleven grants of clemency this week, almost all of whom were convicted of white-collar and corruption-based crimes and many of whom are pretty famously terrible human beings. (One wonders why he bothered to pardon Crystal Munoz, the sole recipient with no connections and an actual meritorious clemency claim.) Then at the end of the week, Trump started insinuating that Stone would just get pardoned too if he wasn’t acquitted in a new trial–a move that is technically legal, but definitely very corrupt, and probably designed to inch us closer to accepting a self-pardon if necessary.
We also saw some interrelated Disregard of Governing Norms, which will likely continue to ramp up in the coming weeks. Here’s what has happened so far:
- Wikileaks Witness Lines. Wikileaks founder and real piece of work Julian Assange claimed this week that a Trump representative offered him a pardon back in 2017–all he had to do was say that Russia wasn’t involved in the hack job that leaked countless DNC emails. Naturally, 45’s spokeswoman denied this allegation and claimed that Trump hardly knows the person who allegedly made the offer, Representative Dana Rohrabacher. I’m gonna level with you, both Assange and Trump are sufficiently sketchy that it’s pretty hard to say who is more credible, but we may see more about this in the coming weeks.
- Administrative Ousters (Again). We’re back on the firing staffers bandwagon in the White House this week, though it’s unclear if any of the firings are based on impeachment. Most noteworthy is Trump’s decision to replace his acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph MacGuire, with current ambassador to Germany and complete intelligence novice Richard Grenell. Several outlets say this came about because MacGuire briefed Congress on Putin’s apparent desire to see Trump reelected, but others are reporting it’s simply because of the time limit for acting officials. Pentagon policy chief Jon Rood was forced out as well, for reasons that may or may not be impeachment-related. Their replacements seem selected more for perceived loyalty than any credentials, which is definitely normal and a good way to run a complex government.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Feats of Loathing in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, Nevada hosted the most recent 2020 Democratic Candidate debate, and it marked the first time that former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg participated in a debate. Given all of the negative things about him in the news this week, it’s no surprise that the debate was also a giant Bloomberg dogpile, with several candidates taking well-crafted potshots. Elizabeth Warren was particularly on fire, enjoying heavy coverage on a media platform that recently erased her and a massive uptick in campaign donations. But Bernie Sanders had a good night too, especially because the Bloomberg boxing makes it easier for him to preserve his Nevada lead. All told, it was an interesting lead-in to the caucus on Saturday, which Sanders did indeed carry by a wide margin (though Buttigieg and Biden both picked up delegates too). The next primary will be in South Carolina on Saturday, and we have the next debate tomorrow.
- Other Election Oddities.* There has been plenty of other election noise this week, and a lot of it is pretty weird. As mentioned above, the acting head of intelligence reported that Russia favors Trump in the 2020 election, which set 45 off something fierce if his resulting outburst is any indication. Officials said Bernie Sanders is favored by Putin for the Dem nomination as well, though I’m not sure I believe that with Tulsi Gabbard still running around. Meanwhile, Buttigieg clapped back when Limbaugh dissed his marriage, Bloomberg offered to release some women from their NDAs about him (but not all), and Chris Matthews came under fire because he compared Bernie Sanders, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, to Adolf Hitler.
- Immigration Updates. Another week, another set of bad immigration news. The Public Charge rule went into effect across the country today, with the final injunction in Illinois removed by Supreme Court decision on Friday. Ironically, Mick Mulvaney was also in the news for saying the U.S. needs more legal immigrants–you know, the very status this administration just made harder for most applicants to obtain because they created draconian public charge rules. The New York Times also reported unsafe health conditions for asylees under the M.P.P. program, which forces applicants to wait in Mexico instead of accessing healthcare in America while their application is pending. And ICE was in the news for using therapy notes to try to deport migrant children–a practice which is not new, but definitely deserves attention.
- Corona Virus Creep (continued).* Corona virus continues to be in the news for another week. We’re seeing a rapid uptick in cases again in South Korea, Iran, and Italy, and the stock market is plummeting accordingly. Trump appears rattled as well, worried that a major outbreak might impact his 2020 campaign. (Heaven forfend he actually care about the people getting sick and dying.) Needless to say, this can have a lot of other political implications as well, and I will continue to track it.
- Greyhound Protection. Greyhound announced this week that it will no longer allow immigration checks on its buses, after a leaked CBP memo confirmed that they had no legal obligation to do so without a warrant. Needless to say, the ACLU is pretty happy about this development, and so am I–the new policy is in pretty much everyone’s interests except CBP’s.
- Re-enfranchisement and Felony Re-entry. A panel of 11th Circuit judges upheld an injunction this week that prevents Florida from enforcing a new law that would make people to pay all legal fees before they are allowed to vote. More specifically, they found that the contested law, which responded to a referendum from 2018 that re-enfranchised people upon reentry, was counter to the spirit of the referendum and violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. This is a pretty major victory, even though it’s not a decision on the merits, because it recognizes the role that economic class plays in enforcement of the rule. I’m hoping we’re able to keep the injunction in place until the November election, but we’ll have to see what happens.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve bumblebees falling asleep face-first in flowers 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 a better Attorney General!