We’re back to the combination COVID crisis/civil unrest this week, assuming we ever left, and I would way rather be at a Taco Bell. Parts of the country are starting to close back up, but racial tensions are still very much 45’s bread and butter, and let me tell you, I am not proud to be an American this week.
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 rally–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:
Another week of different forms of constitutional crisis, this time mostly under the “COVID” and “Not COVID” categories. First up, we have more lingering stories from the Russia Investigation, though none of them are what I’d call a fun read. Here’s what has happened:
- Bounties for Russia (continued).* News aboutRussian intelligence officers offering bounties to Taliban agents to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan just keeps on trickling in, and none of it makes any of this better. Former national security adviser John Bolton apparently had information on this as early as March 2019, in addition to the written briefing Trump received this past February, but none of these facts are stopping Trump from calling the whole thing a hoax. Meanwhile, some of Congress has been briefed as of this week, but not all, even though the White House is still claiming it was unverified intelligence. And for Putin, all of this is probably better than Sweeps Week.
- Minor Mueller Updates. Speaking of improbable news involving Russia, the Supreme Court decided this week to block the release of select Mueller investigation documents until a hearing in the fall–an unprecedented move when we’ve never even had this kind of fight about subpoenaed documents before. This means we will likely get a decision about the documents’ release, ultimately, but not until after the election, so that’s fun. Also, Pence was in the news this week for raising almost $500K from donors to pay his legal fees for defense during the Mueller investigation.
On the Disregard of Governing Norms front, we have another week of growing COVID crisis and shrinking leadership. Here are the stories to know:
- Trump on Racial Relations. Whenever Trump isn’t sure what to do with a national crisis, he responds by spewing some racism loudly, and this week was no exception. At Mount Rushmore ahead of the holiday (which is itself a statement of white supremacy), Trump railed against “new far-left fascism” (spoiler: that’s not a thing), describing protesters as “bad, evil people” who were “terroriz[ing]” innocent Confederate statues. He also announced he would create a new set of statues to honor… no apparent point of commonality, honestly, beyond “Trump has heard of these people.” After the rally, he also decided he had a lot to say about COVID-19, but we’ll talk about that below.
- Messed Up Trump Response: COVID Edition. Having said his piece about race relations, Trump moved on to messaging about COVID by Sunday, and it was about as inspiring as you might imagine. According to our current President, Americans “need to learn to live with” COVID because “99% of COVID cases are harmless.” This, of course, is not particularly effective camouflage for all of the crisis problems the administration has managed to exacerbate–namely, skyrocketing COVID-related drug overdoses, our highest single-day infection rate since March, a massively mismanaged COVID small business loan program, a worsening recession, an undercounted death toll, and increasing infection among White House staffers.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Epstein Associate Apprehended. This week, long-time Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested this week for several years of helping Epstein groom teenage girls. Since Epstein was arrested about a year ago, the charges are from the 1990s, and Maxwell doesn’t appear to have really gone anywhere, it’s not clear why she’s only being arrested now. But presumably we’ll know more soon.
- Confounding Court Cases. It continues to be SCOTUS season, and it’s hard to find a rhyme or reason out of the cases coming down–and several of them aren’t exactly great news for Team Awesome. Among the head-scratching and concerning cases released: 1) a decision that Trump can fire the head of the Consumer Protection Bureau without cause; 2) multiple decisions to delay voting by mail authorizations in Alabama and Texas; 3) a decision authorizing speedy removal proceedings on asylum cases; and 4) a unanimous decision that faithless elector laws are constitutional.
- State of the COVID-19.* As I alluded above, things are really not going swimmingly in the COVID department. We’re currently experiencing an unprecedented rate of infection in the United States, with over 2.5 million recorded cases and over 131,000 recorded deaths –about one fifth of the entire world’s total cases to date. Dr. Fauci estimates we may see rates of up to 100,000 new cases per day, and we’ve already scaled past 50,000 per day at the time that I type this; thirty-nine states are recording rising infection. Against this backdrop, it’s hardly surprising that some states are closing back down. The infection rate remains particularly concerning in Florida, Arizona, and Texas, where lax standards combined with high concentrations of people seem to be creating a perfect storm. Texas is now requiring masks in every county with more than 20 positive tests, while bar owners are suing the state because they were ordered closed again. Meanwhile, Arizona lines for testing are sometimes miles long, and the country is beginning to prepare for a massive surge in evictions as people stop being able to pay rent.
- Black Lives Matter News. We’re still seeing a lot of news about race relations and protests, particularly over the Fourth of July weekend. In many locations, protests passed without major incidents. But in Seattle, a protester was killed when a car drove onto the protest site, and in Oregon tear gas was used on angry protesters. Meanwhile, Aurora police who killed autistic youth Elijah McCain last year were fired for taking photos mocking his death in response to his memorial this week.
- Recent Court Resilience. We had some solid court cases this week in addition to the less-solid cases above. A federal district court judge struck down a law that makes asylum harder to claim in the United States, saying that the rule forcing applicants to apply in unsafe other countries first was arbitrary and capricious. And just today, a federal court ruled that the Dakota Access Pipeline must be closed down by early August for further environmental review.
- Recent Racial Renaming. Increasingly, institutions with names that glorify racial violence are being pressured to change said names, and we saw movement on several fronts related to this last week. The NFL’s Washington team is reviewing their name as a first step towards changing it, and the Cleveland franchise doing the same. Meanwhile, students and faculty at Washington and Lee University are making a similar request, objecting to the glorification of a Confederate general in the school name. None of these steps are sufficient on their own, but it is progress in the correct direction.
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 baby shark rescue 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 photos of your pets because I could frankly use the pick-me-up!