The news this week was a wild, wild ride from start to finish, and covered a pretty broad range. If nothing else, the administration’s actions suggest that they really do plan to just go back to business as normal. (Of course, for this administration, “business as normal” means an impressive blend of corruption and incompetence, so the news reflects this accordingly.)
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 a press release–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:
This is the first week in quite some time that we have several different forms of constitutional crisis, as the COVID Road meets Corruption Street and Authoritarian Avenue in the roundabout literally nobody wanted. First up, we have yet another round of Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo, despite the impeachment process being over for months, because this is the timeline that good sense forgot.
- Bolton Windows. John Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” is scheduled for release this week, and Trump is big mad about it. In fact, the administration was so angry about this book that they filed a court case asking a judge to block its release. The judge denied this request, but did note that Bolton is a piece of work in the opinion. Among the allegations supposedly included in the book: Trump asked China’s President to help reelect him and definitely tied Ukraine aid to them investigating Hunter Biden. Needless to say, if the latter is true, Bolton’s testimony would have been appreciated several months ago.
- Retaliatory Firing (Again Again). This weekend, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman received quite a surprise when Attorney General William Barr announced that Berman was stepping down and being replaced by Jay Clayton, who heads the SEC. Berman quickly issued a statement saying that he was not stepping down, just so that we’re all clear on this point, and by the way did this have anything to do with his investigation of Rudy Giuliani? After Barr issued Berman a nastygram, Chuck Schumer and Amy Gillibrand refused to approve the swap, and Barr appointed Berman’s deputy like the law says he’s supposed to, Berman did step down. Needless to say, all of this makes Barr look pretty bad, and he didn’t even get the guy he wanted installed, so I wouldn’t call it a win for him even though Berman is now gone.
On the Disregard of Governing Norms front, we have more-or-less what you might expect, though I can’t say I’m enjoying it–an incompetent and malicious government that breaks or bends rules left and right. Here’s what has happened:
- Messed Up Trump Response: COVID Edition. Trump sure had some stuff to say about COVID this week, and none of it exactly screamed “competent management.” In addition to his refusal to work with Tulsa on its request to make the rally safer (more on that below), he attracted attention for announcing at his Saturday rally that he asked for less testing so that fewer people would test positive for COVID-19. This is consistent with the $14B earmarked for testing that he hasn’t distributed, and nobody in his camp can give a coherent story on the admission, so it seems very likely to be true. For bonus fun, he also used racist language to refer to the virus while disclosing this, because of course he did. And just to cap the whole thing off, two members of his team who attended the rally have tested positive for COVID, but he’s nonetheless cutting back on checking symptoms for visitors and staff at the White House.
- Messed Up Trump Response: Incitement Edition. Trump’s escalation of his base is truly something to behold this week. The real lowlight was when he ran an actual campaign ad featuring the symbol used by Nazis to mark political prisoners in World War II, which Facebook removed on account of, y’know, literal Nazism. (The same day, Twitter flagged one of his tweets as “manipulated media.”) He also released an insultingly weaksauce police reform order that was conspicuously silent on issues of race. He then immediately followed that by claiming he made Juneteenth famous and insulting Black Americans, who definitely had in fact heard of the 155-year-old holiday, in the process.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Tulsa Rally Rodeo. The Tulsa rally, boy howdy, where do I even start? Trump did indeed hold a completely whackadoodle rally on Saturday. He prepped beforehand by threatening protesters and announcing they would have a ‘wild evening’ where people didn’t have to wear masks or even follow a COVID safety protocol. But Generation Z was prepping too, and managed to wildly throw off the campaign’s expectations by mass-requesting tickets with zero intent to show up–leading the Trump team to make decisions that reflected an anticipated larger crowd. As a result, when fewer than 6,200 people attended in a stadium made to hold 19,000, Trump had a lackluster audience for his stale racist jokes and explanation for why he drinks water funny. Needless to say, this was a major embarrassment for the campaign, because the optics are really bad, which Trump took about as well as you might expect.
- State of the COVID-19.* Though this administration is treating COVID like an afterthought, the W.H.O. is cautioning that we’ve entered a “new and dangerous phase” as infections grow in the American South and West. Cases have also skyrocketed in prisons, which has implications for arrested protesters. Meanwhile, many restaurants are closing again despite recently reopening for in-house dining, finding their workers are becoming infected. AMC was in the news for announcing that when they reopen next month, moviegoers wouldn’t have to wear masks, though they quickly walked that one back for obvious reasons. In more positive news, a University of Oxford study found that a commonly-available steroid may save lives in severe COVID cases. That same university is also reaching Phase 3 of their vaccine study, which may mean we have more information on possible vaccines soon.
- Black Lives Matter News. As seems to be the trend on this topic, we saw a lot of push and pull on racial equity this week. The former officer who shot Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta last week has been charged with murder, as well as several other things–but several other officers protested the decision. We still have two Congressional bills active as well as Trump’s toothless order, but negotiations appear stalled as I type this. And Bubba Wallace, the driver who persuaded NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at events, found a noose in his Talladega garage stall this week.
- Recent Court Resilience. The Supreme Court held this week by 5-4 vote that the Trump administration improperly ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, calling its process “arbitrary and capricious.” It was a very unusual decision that focused on procedural grounds, and left the door open for the administration to try again–which Trump says they will definitely do. But the decision means the DACA program remains in place as we head into the November election, and that’s an unexpected if precarious win with value that cannot be overstated for its roughly 690,000 recipients, all of whom are now safe from legal deportation for the time being.
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 Pokemon drawn to actual size and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully more tolerable) 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 pictures from your phone camera!