It was Halloween this week, and most of the news was appropriately scary to mark the occasion. Also, like that one type of Halloween candy you hate, impeachment news is turning up on every corner. (Seriously, there has been so much impeachment news that I had to triple-check to make sure I wasn’t somehow missing some regular news. It’s impeachment turtles and decoy policies all the way down.)
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 Twitter ban!–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 Corner:
This was another incredible week for Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo, which by this point is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the news cycle. Here are the latest updates:
- Impeachment Inquiry Updates.* The top of the week featured damning firsthand testimony by Alexander Vindman, a military official who was on the infamous Ukraine call–most notably, Vindman was adamant that the official ‘transcript’ left things out and added things, and that his attempts to correct it were unsuccessful. We also received confirmation from him that the phone call was improperly moved to a highly restricted server. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi did indeed hold the first impeachment floor vote this upcoming Thursday–which, predictably, passed the resolution put forward along party lines. The House is also trying to get John Bolton to testify, but he indicated this week that he won’t do it without a subpoena. And Tim Morrison, who was a top Russia official of the National Security Council, stepped down ahead of his own testimony, which corroborated much of Taylor and Vindman’s.
- Administrative Anger Synopsis.* This week saw yet more poor behavior on the GOP side, and it’s getting hard to separate the misconduct of the administration from the bad behavior it causes in others. The early lowlight was definitely a smear campaign against Vindman, which insinuated that he was a double-agent due to his familial ties to Ukraine. But that got overshadowed quickly by bonkers Nunes news, which featured one of his aides feeding Trump Ukraine-related information without authorization, another aide trying to out the whistleblower, and Nunes himself calling reporters ‘assassins.’ Meanwhile, a canny aide to John Bolton filed a lawsuit asking the court to tell him whether to answer House subpoenas, and several more White House officials just straight-up refused to testify. Then Trump accused Schiff of altering transcripts, following his playbook of accusing other people of things he himself does. Finally, a number of Senate Republicans have started taking the demonstrably false stance that quid pro quo isn’t illegal, which is probably because Trump started bribing GOP senators with campaign funds contingent on their impeachment messaging.
As in previous weeks, Disregard of Governing Norms somehow continues on despite the impeachment circus also happening. Here’s what I have for you:
- Goodbye, New York. Trump went ahead and declared himself a resident of Florida this week, saying the quiet part out loud as he did so and insinuating that it was for tax reasons. New York’s governor responded by publicly tweeting, “He’s all yours, Florida” and noting that it was “not like [Trump] paid taxes here anyway.” As if to punctuate the point, the Second Circuit decided today that yes, Trump does have to surrender tax documents to Manhattan’s District Attorney. So that will be a fun jurisdiction argument next week.
Your “Normal” Weird
- Twitterpated. Jack Dorsey, the owner of Twitter, announced this week that he wants to ban all political ads from the platform during the 2020 election. This would probably be more noteworthy if Dorsey didn’t routinely let Trump treat Twitter like his own propaganda service, unleashing about 11,000 belligerent tweets in the past three years–though disturbingly, the proposal is still more than Facebook is doing to curb the destructive role social media plays in misinformation spread. It’s hard not to be frustrated with both platforms right now; Twitter is like that aunt at Thanksgiving dinner who keeps feeding her husband beers but still remains marginally better than your uncle, who has been yelling slurs all night.
- California Wildfires Rage. Trying to stay ahead of the dangerous dry season, California planned electricity shut-offs for a million of its residents. Unfortunately, this didn’t prevent massive wildfires, which firefighters are struggling to contain particularly in the northern part of the state. Throwing, well, gasoline on the fire, Trump is now threatening to cut federal aid to the state–because when there’s a natural disaster, you can definitely fix things by just refusing to do anything to fix it. Not one to take that sitting down, California’s governor promptly replied: “You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation.”
- Immigration Updates. Immigration news was a bit quieter than average this week, but there was still badness for the books: namely, the administration appears to have extended temporary protected status for El Salvador in exchange for an agreement that curtails asylum claims. Ordinarily, this would be good news, but the administration was responsible for ending the program in the first place, TPS provides less protection than asylum does, and there’s no guarantee the administration won’t be Lucy with the football again in a year. About the best thing I can say is that other vulnerable TPS populations got pulled along for the ride, resulting in a new January 2021 termination date for Haiti, Sudan, Honduras, and Nicaragua as well.
- Adoption Discrimination Rule. The Trump administration released a proposed rule this week that would permit adoption agencies to refuse to serve LGBT families, effectively rolling back protections put in place by the Obama administration. The proposal has already been implemented in South Carolina, which got a waiver granted back in the spring, and the ACLU filed a lawsuit around the same time. Since the proposed rule will be subject to a comment period once it officially publishes, which could be as early as next week, now seems a fine time to remind folks that anybody can submit public comments and we’ve seen them have a real effect on other policies in the past year.
- Recent Court Resilience. It may have been a strange week, but it was a decent one for court cases. The ACLU successfully curtailed an Alabama law that would fully ban abortion this week, making the procedure again legal in all 50 states. (This is a mixed blessing, since the pro-life strategy at play involves getting the case before the Supreme Court, but it’s still better than leaving the law in effect.) A North Carolina court ruled that the gerrymandered maps cannot be used in the 2020 election, following the blueprint set by Justice Kagan in her SCOTUS dissent as they did so. And a federal court blocked the Trump rule that predicated visas on health insurance, forcing the administration to pause implementation of the new rule for at least a month.
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 studies about rats driving tiny cars 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 more court injunctions of 45’s policies!