You’d think, by now, I would have watched enough media to know that things always escalate as they move towards the season finale–and yet every Monday I’m somehow still surprised. Suffice to say, we can all use the reminder that things will keep getting worse in the short term, but I’m holding out hope that we’ll end on a high note. For the duration, daily summaries like WTFJHT remain particularly helpful.
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 tax record!–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:
After only a week of Trump COVID news, he wants us to forget about his infection, which means we’re back to discussing his taxes! So that’s the current week in Disregard of Governing Norms. For bonus fun, we’re also discussing totalitarianism and terrorist definitions of treason. Here’s what I have for you:
- Trump’s Taxes Again. With Trump back on the campaign trail, we’re back to his taxes. First a federal appeals court ruled that the Manhattan DA could enforce his subpoena on said tax returns, so that decision is now headed to the Supreme Court. This appears to have reminded everybody that the New York Times piece existed, and the New York Times ran another piece discussing some sketchy fund redistributions in 2016 which involved running money from Trump’s Vegas hotel through other businesses into his political campaign. Tax records also showed even more evidence of emoluments clause violations, which isn’t surprising but may impact other lawsuits.
- You Keep Using That Word, Treason. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means. This week’s “can’t believe I’m not making it up” award definitely goes to an FBI complaint alleging several people planned to kidnap Michigan’s governor and “charge” her with “treason” due to her COVID protection decrees. Unsurprisingly, this can be traced back to Trump’s incitement in April, when he was urging his followers to “liberate” Michigan. The charges were announced as part of a complaint charging thirteen people with domestic terrorism, probably in part because the kidnapping plan also involved storming the capitol building and starting a civil war as well as taking several legislators hostage–pretty much the textbook definition of treason, though the irony is probably lost on them. And speaking of treason, around the same time the FBI made this public, Utah senator and waste of flesh Mike Lee tweeted that “rank democracy” can “thwart liberty,” which doesn’t exactly support our existing government either.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Election Oddities (Again). Election news remains on the floor, both morally and logistically speaking. The California GOP was in the news for creating fake ballot drop-off boxes, which needless to say would create a great deal of voter confusion during a pandemic. On the debate front, Mike Pence and Kamala Harris did duke it out in person in Salt Lake City, and the general consensus is that both Kamala Harris and that fly that landed on Pence’s head for two minutes straight were the frontrunners of the day. Trump announced that he won’t participate in virtual debates, despite his current infection with a deadly disease, because he’s claiming that he can’t be contagious due to his Republican COVID cure, magical thinking. (To be absolutely clear, the White House has not released any negative COVID test results, Trump is still in the medically-understood window of contagion, and staff infection numbers continue to rise as I type this. There is absolutely no reason to believe Trump is non-contagious besides his say-so.) The stand-off on this topic has canceled the second Presidential Debate, though it’s unclear what will happen to the final debate scheduled for October 22. Meanwhile, armed with his handy-dandy new nonsense claim of immunity, Trump has already returned to the campaign trail in person and he plans to remain there every day for the next month. Against that backdrop, it’s unsurprising that Nancy Pelosi has introduced legislation that would create a panel to determine Trump’s fitness to serve under the 25th Amendment.
- State of the COVID-19. The FDA unilaterally published its proposed rules for vaccine standards, leaving the White House more-or-less forced to sign on. When he got back to the White House, Trump retaliated by announcing that he would refuse to sign any COVID relief until after the election, which of course made the Dow plummet again, but he walked that back within a day or two and now says Americans should get stimulus payments again–though neither the House nor the Senate likes his proposal. At the White House, staff remain at high risk of infection, with Stephen Miller, a Coast Guard admiral, and 33 other people total testing positive in the last couple of weeks. (Deadline erroneously reported that Mike Pence had COVID this week as well, but the Pence team has put out no such statement.) Meanwhile, rolling averages hit new highs in 13 states, mainly in the American West and Midwest, and the administration blocked a CDC order requiring masks on public transportation. So basically, our COVID landscape remains a hot mess, and the SCOTUS nomination hearing might make several things worse, though I’ll talk more about below.
- SCOTUS Hearing Updates. The Judiciary Committee hearing regarding Amy Comey Barrett started today, and I cannot overstate how messed up all of it is. Utah Senator and human plague rat Mike Lee showed up in person, despite being diagnosed with COVID only nine days earlier and showing no evidence of a negative test, and took off his mask to talk to people (and breathe all over the Senate microphone). Presumably, overseer Lindsey Graham allowed this because Graham also refused to take a COVID test on Friday, despite being present at the superspreader Barrett event two weeks ago. (Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was also present and refused to get tested, so he might be positive as well, and isn’t this a fun game?) Unsurprisingly, many Democrats refused to show up in person, including Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris, who correctly identified how reckless the entire thing was in her remote opening statement. Nonetheless, we have several more days of all of this, during which time we can expect Democrats to keep saying we shouldn’t gut the Affordable Care Act during a pandemic and Republicans to keep ignoring them. Then the whole thing will be capped off by an in-person Senate floor vote on October 22, and I hate everything.
- Recent Court Resilience. There were a few bright spots from a court perspective this week. The judge who blocked the administration’s attempts to curtail census counting has issued a clarifying judgement making it extra super-duper clear that yes, the census counting must continue until October 31 despite everything going on. And in Florida, a movement in response to a recent court decision has donors supporting re-enfranchisement efforts for those convicted of crimes, including paying court fees so that people are eligible to vote. Relatedly, in California, a federal judge has ruled that the IRS cannot deny stimulus payments to convicted people purely on the basis of their incarceration and must extend the claim deadline for this population.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think we can agree that it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this Tiktok musical number 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 the means to hibernate until November!