The news this past week was bizarre and horrendous, and a lot of us are scared and hurting as I type this. But that sentiment is starting to lose meaning, because I type it so often–by my count, fourteen times since the year began. I truly think that’s worth highlighting, especially in our second year of Dem control of all houses of government, on the tail end of a pandemic, on the tail end of four years of Trump. We all deserve better than this endless toxic waste.
Standard standing reminders still apply: I guess after six years I’m conceding that I’m a journalist, but I summarize news within my areas of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a hearing!–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!
Cleanup in Aisle 45:
A good chunk of the news this week is January 6 hearings on the Election Rejection front. Here’s what I have for you:
- Insurrection Update: This Past Week’s Hearings. The week kicked off with last Tuesday’s hearing, which largely focused on the false elector scheme–notably, we started hearing evidence of Trump’s personal involvement in planning said scheme. (This was, of course, in addition to his harassment of election officials in several states, pressuring them to simply overturn the results.) Then on Thursday, we learned more about Trump’s efforts to pressure his own Department of Justice, as well as more information about the laundry list of allies that scrambled for pardons. Somehow, none of this really quite prepared us for the absolutely ketchup-off-the-wall testimony that happened today.
- Insurrection Update: Emergency Bonus Hearing. Initially, though the January 6 panel knew they wanted to continue to hold hearings, they planned to break for the Fourth of July and come back after the recess in a couple of weeks. However, yesterday, the committee suddenly announced that there would be another hearing today based on “recently obtained evidence” that emerged, and when they postpone their own recess for this you know something is probably up. The mystery witness turned out to be Cassidy Hutchinson, a young aide of chief of staff Mark Meadows who had proximity to Trump through her boss’s role. Hutchinson gave truly horrifying but credible testimony about Trump’s knowledge and encouragement of armed protesters on January 6, including demands that metal detectors stop being used because they were screening people out and he wanted maximum protesters in the Capitol building. Perhaps most disturbingly, she quoted Trump as saying that he “didn’t care that they ha[d] weapons” because they “aren’t here to hurt me.” He also apparently tried to join them at the Capitol building by attempting to grab the steering wheel of the Presidential limo while it was being driven, and then assaulting a secret service agent when that didn’t get him anywhere. By the time that I type this, many legal experts are already saying that there’s enough here for an incitement or sedition charge, and I’m frankly inclined to agree.
I’m not super thrilled with Biden at the moment, but he did manage to get the new gun violence bill passed, which is the main news in Biden Rebuilding. Here’s what has happened:
- Responsible Gun Law Finalized. The bipartisan deal that was reached in the Senate on responsible gun legislation was drafted into a coherent bill called the Safer Communities Act at the top of this week. It then managed to pass on the Senate floor by Thursday, notably overcoming a filibuster in the process. This prompted a quick House vote on Friday, where the bill passed along party lines. The bill then went to Biden’s desk, and he signed it into law on Saturday evening. The final version does not include all of Biden’s asks, but it’s nonetheless the most noteworthy federal gun legislation in 30 years.
Your New Normal:
- State of the COVID-19. The biggest COVID news this week is a local study suggesting that some Omicron subvariants may escape antibody response, which obviously is not a sentence you want to read. The study is echoed by a similar study in China, but we’re still in very early stages of research; I will continue to track this and keep folks posted. Meanwhile, the WHO debated whether monkeypox should be considered its own global emergency, but opted not to declare it one. It’s important to understand that this decision may reflect stigmatization and structural inequities that harken back to early AIDS response, rather than a lack of true emergency. This is particularly true given repeated overemphasis on same-sex sexual transmission. On a related note, given the political nature of this issue as well as the virus’s increasing case numbers, you may start seeing more about monkeypox in the NNR.
- Roe vs WTAF. A great deal of news attention has been given to the Dobbs decision issued on Friday, which overturned the landmark case Roe v. Wade, and which you may remember was leaked a couple of months ago. The published decision is pretty similar to the leaked draft, which is to say, it’s a stare-decisis-is-for-suckers nightmare that gleefully tosses fifty years of reproductive right precedent right out the window. And as predicted when the draft leaked, Clarence “Why Am I Not Impeached Yet” Thomas issued a concurrence that straight-up told us that he’s gunning for all right to privacy precedent, including the right to marriage equality under Obergefell, the right to sexual expression under Lawrence, and the right to privacy at its root under Griswold. (Somehow, right to interracial marriage under Loving didn’t make the list–gosh, can’t imagine why.) The decision to remove a fundamental right after fifty years is terrifying, and the proponents’ blatant disregard for reproductive health and the safety of pregnant people is terrifying too. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that in the context of several other cases that SCOTUS released over the past week, the Dobbs decision is even scarier.
- Other SCOTUS Misery. It’s extremely important to understand that Dobbs, while horrifying all on its own, is part of a much larger trend of our highest court running completely amok. There were four other court cases decided in the same week that bear mentioning: 1) NY State Rifle and Pistol Association v Bruen, a case which held that New York can’t restrict the right to carry concealed firearms, as it has done for a hundred years, because that violates the 2nd Amendment; 2) Vega v Tekoh, a case which curtails police officers’ responsibility to inform suspects of their constitutional rights; 3) Carson v Makin, a case which held that Maine must provide tuition aid to schools run by Christian churches; and 4) Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case which held that a public school cannot fire a coach for making students pray at the 50-yard line because it violates the Free Exercise clause. We’re also still waiting on a ruling for West Virginia vs EPA, which is widely expected to dramatically curtail administrative authority for executive actions on climate change. I want to stress that all of these decisions have the same flagrant disregard for stare decisis that characterizes Dobbs; they basically all overturn or ignore existing legal tests for determining constitutional rights and restrictions. This is like if a driving instructor suddenly decided that red lights mean go and stop signs mean turn left and started failing everybody who used known traffic rules–except, in this analogy, the driving instructor also gets to decide what happens to literally the entire country. Additionally, they seem to be leading towards something concrete–Dobbs, Vega, Carson, and Kennedy all dramatically reduce personal freedoms in favor of fundamentalist Christian sensibilities; meanwhile, Bruen and the anticipated West Virginia decisionplace limits on the government’s ability to create meaningful safety-based regulations. Vega and other recent cases such as Egbert v. Boule, which limits citizens’ ability to sue federal agents, restrict accountability of law enforcement bodies–when we still desperately need that accountability, if the current mess in Uvalde is any indication. Taken in tandem, these cases paint a picture which includes a lot of elements of a nascent Christofascist state, and we absolutely must track that bigger picture.
- Migrant Lives Matter. News broke yesterday that fifty-one people were found dead in a tractor trailer in San Antonio; several other people found at the scene still alive were taken to nearby hospitals. The incident appears to be related to increased migration at the border, where reduced access is still in effect and many people are unable to enter through more conventional means. It’s also almost certainly related to record temperature highs in the area; officials say that the metal trailers can get up to 173 degrees inside and the bodies were found with no evidence of water inside. It’s a deeply horrifying and preventable tragedy that highlights the desperation of people fleeing unsafe circumstances in the northern triangle of South America.
- Recent Reproductive Justice Resilience. The far right wasted no time making ghoulish future plans, and Biden announced pretty early that he has no interest in making changes to the court. Against that backdrop, it’s truly comforting to see state officials and judges stepping up to the plate to preserve reproductive rights–something that Dobbs left them the freedom to do by leaving the issue “up to the states.” At the time that I type this, two states have paused trigger laws by judicial order and several more states have blocked criminal liability for the providing of reproductive health services by either legislative or gubernatorial action. Additionally, Attorney General Garland has indicated that his office will protect use of Mifestiprone, a medication approved by the FDA to terminate early stages of pregnancy. The NNR will continue to track state response on this issue, and we continue to encourage folks to support efforts by organizers and experts who specialize in reproductive rights.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news or SCOTUS refunds. For making it through, you deserve Jorts the Cat’s fun beachy summer style and a more functional government. I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved 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 more sleep because I sure need it!