National News Roundup: Year 2, Week 48.5 (December 16–26)

Still life — Boot on newspaper, by Ernest Blaikley [Public domain]

This week was a dumpster fire for everyone, including the Trump administration — there are no real winners with a government shutdown and half the administration on its way out the door. And while it’s nice to at least see some collateral damage, I still recommend grabbing a comfort food before you dig into this week’s news — it’s definitely not The Most Wonderful News of the Year, y’all. (I delayed a couple of days to give everyone a holiday break, and also have moved the Good to the beginning of this draft accordingly.)

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a shutdown! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

The Good:

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

We’re inching ever-closer to a reckoning with the Russia Investigation, but several things are going on pause for the holiday before resolution. Here are the things to know and track while we’re paused:

We also saw a few stories on the Disregard of Governing Norms front. Here are the main things to know from this past week:

Your “Normal” Weird:

  • Unsinkable AZ Candidate.* Temporary Arizona Senate appointee John Kyl announced he was stepping down this week, clearing the path for former GOP candidate Martha McSally to be appointed — which means she’s going to have to work with the Democrat who beat her in the election for the Senate seat she was seeking. In another week, this kind of “too bad you lost your bid for the Senate, here, have the Senate seat that belonged to a dead guy you alienated” would probably fall under the purview of Casual Disregard of Governing Norms. But let’s be honest, it’s crowded enough up there already, and either way, it’s plenty weird, so into the Weird column it goes.
  • Bipartisan Criminal Reform? Okay, so a bill passed with bipartisan support through the Senate by 87–12 vote and the House by 358–36 this week, and Trump signed it into law on Friday. All by itself, that’s a little weird these days, but that’s not the part that is really confusing me — it’s that it’s a reasonable bill on criminal justice reform that was architected by Jared Kushner and even Fox News likes it. I haven’t had a chance to review the bill in depth yet, and that means I’m not yet sure what the deal is, though enough people adjacent to the Trumps lose money on this that I’m not sure why they’ve set this up. I’m hoping to review it in more depth soon, and I will definitely report back once I have a better idea.

The Bad:

What We Can Do:

  • Shutdown Shouting. Celeste Pewter continues to be an excellent resource on who to call about what; in particular, she recommends calling both sets of reps to say no money should be given to the wall, and she recommends you also call House reps about back pay for furloughed government workers. For both sets of calls, you can check the #ShutdownStories hashtag for inspiration as well. This is an issue where calling reps really, really matters, because our reps have a huge amount of ability to decide what happens next. So it’s worth a call or three!

And that’s what I have for this week, which was twice more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this United States of Pop 2018 mashup and an eventual better government. I’ll be back soon 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 peace on Earth and goodwill towards humans!

National News Roundup: Week 52 (We’ve Come Full Circle!)

By Polymath38 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The National News Roundup is one year old today! And what a year it’s been, ye gods. Relatedly, it’s also been quite an anniversary week — the only real bright spot is that Trump had to sulk at the White House all weekend because a government shut down forced him to skip his fancy inaugural party at Mar-A-Lago. Go ahead and drink deeply from that schadenfreude spring; we won’t judge.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not an Olympic athlete! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

We actually did see a bit on the Russia Collusion Investigation front this week, but it was overshadowed by all the other rings of the circus happening simultaneously. Here’s what you may have missed:

There were unfortunately multiple other constitutional crisis moments this week as well, for the first time in a little while, and the remaining topics really get my goat. First we have a Separation of Powers issue:

And last but not least, this week featured another round of First Amendment Attacks, because Trump finally got around to his inane Corrupt Media Awards and also made life harder for marginalized people.

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

  • Travel Ban v. Seventy Million. The Supreme Court announced it will hear arguments on the Travel Ban 3.0, which has a lot of valid things to legally criticize to put it mildly. But the case won’t be heard until April — which means the ban will remain in effect until at least late June, which is the earliest we’re likely to get a decision. And of course, since the current version has no end date, a junk decision could mean we’re stuck with it indefinitely. (Meanwhile, we’re supposed to hear about the fate of Syrian TPS by the end of the month, and I’m sure that will be a hoot and a half too.)
  • Other Immigration Updates. This was yet another truly awful week for immigration on a lot of other fronts as well. No More Deaths, a humanitarian effort based in Tuscon, published a report alleging that Border Patrol has intentionally destroyed over 3,500 gallons of potable water left for desperate migrants, as well as food and blankets, under a policy known as ‘Prevention by Deterrence.’ (The premise of the policy is simple: If you intentionally kill enough people trying to cross the border to the United States, fewer people will try it.) The report included videos of Border Patrol engaging in this practice as recently as last year. Meanwhile, Salvadorans and Haitians with temporary protected status were informed that they need to reregister within sixty days in order to keep their status, despite the programs winding down within the next eighteen months. And as an encore, Haitians were quietly removed from the list of workers eligible for seasonal visas in agriculture, creating fewer venues of lawful residence in the United States. This was, of course, only days after Trump disparaged the country in bipartisan negotiations. These policy changes, particularly taken in tandem, paint an ugly picture: An administration trying to locate all the lawfully residing Haitians and Salvadorans while systemically removing their lawful status, so that nearly 300,000 people will be easy to round up and deport as soon as they’re eligible in 2019. We need to be watching this, y’all.

The Good:

  • Korean Olympic News.* North and South Korea announced this week that they’ll be appearing under one flag for the opening ceremony of the 2018 Olympics, which is an exciting step. In addition to potentially signaling thawing relations, it’s also likely to be soothing to the South Koreans who have been watching an increasingly bombastic display between Trump and Kim Jong-un — it suggests that their President, Moon Jae-in, has been getting more of a voice in proceedings.
  • Net Neutrality Lawsuits. Attorneys general from twenty-one states filed a lawsuit to block the net neutrality repeal this week, arguing (probably correctly) that the new rule hurts consumers and oversteps their Congressional authority. The suit was only one of many to emerge, as a plethora of entities made their displeasure with the policy known; at minimum, Mozilla and the Open Technology Institute have filed as well. It will be interesting to see whether these suits go anywhere, especially as they occur while Democrats in Congress try to use the Congressional Review Act to undo the move legislatively.
  • Gerrymandering Jettisoned Part Deux. Following on the heels of last week’s news in North Carolina, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held today that Pennsylvania unconstitutionally gerrymandered as well, with the same issue — that the districts were drawn to intentionally favor Republicans. These districts will need to be redone before the 2018 election as well, and unlike the first case, this was based on the Pennsylvania constitution, not the federal one — so the decision is not appealable to the Supreme Court. I’m really excited to see what happens from here as a result! Also, as I noted last week, tossing district divisions based on partisan intent has historically been a very hard thing to get courts to do, so it’s nothing short of amazing that it’s suddenly raining redistricting!

And that’s all the news that I have for now! It’s been a week, but at least it’s just about over, which is probably the best I can say for it. Hang in there until next time!