This news week was basically three weeks of the Kavanaugh saga in a one-week suit, and half of it was incredibly discouraging, makes no freaking sense, or both. I’ll try to break it down for you into manageable pieces, but I’ll be honest: It’s not looking pretty, folks. If you live in a place with a senator on the fence, I definitely recommend calling, and will include links to scripts below.
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 calendar! — 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:
The main thing to know about Casual Disregard of Governing Norms this week is the Kavanaugh saga, but there was also some bonus world leaders laughing at Trump. Here’s the $0.10 digest of the past week’s chaos:
New NAFTA.* After dunking on Trudeau for halfthe week last week, Trump did reach an agreement with Canada on trade late last night after frantic negotiation. The new agreement has the catchy name of ‘United States-Mexico-Canada’ agreement, which I assume happened because Trump loves him some McDonald’s and “U.S. McA” sounds like something you can order there. And speaking of things children love, Trump took away from this experience that bullying people works, and is now threatening to use the same technique in negotiations with European Union, China, Japan, and potentially Brazil and India. So this will be a fun year of trade negotiations.
Tax Cuts That Don’t Apply to You (Redux).* As forecast a few weeks ago, the House did indeed pass a bill that makes the tax cuts of last year permanent, because it managed to squeak by along party lines despite the overwhelming evidence that this isaterrible plan. Pretty much the only reason I’m sticking this in the ‘weird’ section and not the bad, other than the fact that I still can’t believe they did this while the Senate was grilling Ford and Kavanaugh, is the low likelihood that the Senate will touch this with a ten-foot pole during an election year.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough! For making it through all of that, you deserve this parade of animals dressed up as other animals and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more 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 a week’s worth of naps!
Hello, and welcome to the hangry and extra-snarky Passover edition of National News Roundup! The news is still dark and sucking like the quiet vacuum of space — in fact, I think it’s even worse than last week, which is saying something. Let’s try for best out of three, I guess?
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I generally only summarize news in my area of expertise. This week involves a bit less news outside my expertise, which also means fewer off-road adventures, but those that exist are still signaled with asterisks. Okay, caveats over; keep your comfort food at the ready, because here we go.
The Great Disappearing Reappearing Same-Sex Marriage. North Carolina legislators in the House introduced a billrepealing recognition of same-gender marriage in their state this week, because… Gorusch, presumably? Actually, it’s not entirely clear why they thought this was a good idea, as the House speaker so candidly notes; the Supreme Court wasn’t exactly ambiguous when they issued a directly contradictory ruling just two years ago. He jettisoned the bill citing ‘constitutional concerns,’ which is a bit like telling the legislators not to throw lit matches into the ocean due to ‘presence of moisture.’ Some things, apparently, are not their own obvious deterrents.
Trump Can’t Keep Track of Who He’s Bombed. I wish I were making this one up — well, okay, I wish I were making up almost all of the headlines this week, but this one definitely wins some kind of Most Like a Roald Dahl Villain prize. In an interview with Fox Business this week about last week’s decision to bomb Syria, Trump could remember “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen,” which he apparently was eating at the time, but not which country he was bombing while he ate it. Though, to be fair, this is Trump. He also could have been lying about the cake.
Secret Agent Man(afort). Actually, the real secret on this one is whether Manafort, who ran Trump’s campaign for a time, is going to registeras a foreign agentor not; the news doesn’t appear to agree on this point (but sources agree that he was doing work for Ukraine). It sure is fun how many of the people Trump directly relies or has relied on since his campaign literally represent other countries, amirite?
United: Come for the Police Brutality, Stay for the Scorpions. By now, most of us have seen the incredibly disturbing video of a passenger being brutalized by Chicago Police because he refused to ‘volunteer’ to give up his (legally purchased) seat on a United Airlines plane. The passenger, David Dao, has issued statements through his lawyer saying he never wants to fly again and has memory loss due to concussion; the airline’s stock value also plummeted this week. Then, just for extra confirmation we’re all living in an Onion article, reports came out of a passenger stung by a scorpion on one of their flights the same day. And they didn’t even turn the plane around. I miss the days when they were too busy breaking guitars for this kind of thing.
Another Shooting in California. There was another school shooting this week, this time in California. “Only” three dead and one injured — apparently it was a domestic violence murder-suicide that happened to get a couple of kids caught in the crossfire. There’s a much larger conversation to be had here about escalated risk of violence at the point when survivors leave abusers, but for now I’ll just note that this story and the one above it pretty much set the tone of news for this entire week.
Sessions Suspends Forensic Science Commission Session. I know, I know, I should be prosecuted for that headline. But apparently they won’t be able to bring me in, because in a move that even Forbes dislikes, Sessions is ordering the end of an independent commission working on forensic accuracy in criminal prosecution. He hasn’t put any other form of policy review in place instead; he just… disbanded the commission that was supposed to be working on it. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the news suggests our Attorney General — the highest prosecutor in the land — doesn’t care about making sure the correct people are prosecuted for crimes. And in more I-can’t-believe-I’m-writing-this news, this isn’t even the most disturbing thing Sessions did this week.
Sessions Border Bombshell. So what’s the thing that trumps our Attorney General not caring about prosecuting the right people? That would be his prepared statementsand memorandum about immigration enforcement, which he released on Tuesday. They aren’t what I’d call a fun read — in fact, they deserve a content warning — so here’s a quick summary: He wants police to prioritize felony prosecution of a whole host of things involving immigration, he wants to add more immigration court judges in the next two years, and he wants to stop releasing people prior to deportation at all. The whole tenor of the remarks and orders was very harsh and not necessarily fully legal, and perhaps the quickest way to summarize the whole thing would be to note his use of the word ‘filth’ to refer to actual human beings. Also, there’s some language about “impeding investigation” becoming a felony, making me wonder if they are suspending the reports because they are laying groundwork to just start prosecuting city officials.
Spicer Studies World War II (DeVos Edition). Perhaps people didn’t pay more attention to Sessions because Sean Spicer’s adventures in fascism were simply so much louder. First he claimed that Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” which was a pretty spectacular claim all by itself (spoiler: yes he did). When asked to clarify, he explained that Hitler was different because he didn’t use gas on his own people; he used it in “Holocaust centers.” By the end of the week Spicer appeared to have realized that “it was a mistake to do that.” Personally, I suspect the only part of Spicer’s statements that was an actual accident was the part where he revealed how this administration views the Final Solution.
Court of Appeals Judge Body Found. Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a judge on the top court of New York, went missing and was found dead this week. Though there were no signs of trauma on the body, the location of the body suggests heavily that foul play was involved. She had written a decision granting right of same-sex couples to adopt this past summer, and was a widely-respected judge known for liberal pragmatism in general. She was also the first black woman ever to serve on the court.
Pulitzer Praise. Trump may not like the New York Times, but the people who award the Pulitzer prize sure did — for the same attention to Russia’s activities that makes Trump dislike them (among other reasons). The Washington Post was similarly rewarded for its attention to Trump’s charity scandals during the campaign season. Presumably both the Pulitzer and pissing off Trump are measures of doing something right in the journalism world.
Tiny New Giraffe Friend. April the Improbably Famous Pregnant Giraffe gave birth on Saturday to a tiny male calf! Her son’s name will be subject to viewer vote, so no news on that front. Though I suppose that means you can potentially Be the Giraffe Name You Wish to See in the World! And I recommend watching the videos on the first link, because we can all use a giraffe chaser on a week like this.
This past week was really rough — quite bluntly, we were due for a bad news cycle, and we absolutely got one. (In fact, a particularly keen observer might notice that these write-ups only ever issue on Mondays during rough news cycles, because I need the extra day to wrack my brain for that spoonful of sugar to help the horridness go down). The news sucked, and as of Monday afternoon, it still is sucking. It is my fervent hope that this will pass.
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I generally only summarize news in my area of expertise. This week involves a bit less news outside my expertise, which also means fewer off-road adventures, but those that exist are still signaled with asterisks. Also, I am cognizant of the fact that this news review is going out on the first night of Passover, which is a holiday I usually observe; I will re-release the summary mid-week for those who are at seders tonight. Okay, caveats over, and now I give you a moment for the Ceremonial Retrieval of Comfort Food.
Okay, are we ready to roll? Let’s get this show on the road…
Susan Rice Dreams.* Okay that title is admittedly because it amuses me, but a vivid hallucination would certainly explain this past week’s middle-of-the-week attempt to distract the free press — Trump decided that the wiretapping from Obama really did happen, and it was Susan Rice’s fault. This was pretty summarily dismissed by most outlets as the attempted distraction that it was, because there’s nothing to suggest illegal wiretapping at all. It’s pretty clear that the administration quickly understood the strategy wasn’t working — more on that below.
Repeal-and-Replace Rodeo. Even I had a hard time tracking the half-bakedattemptsto make repealing the ACA relevant again this week. I think this CAHC summary says it best: “The smash hit adventure epic The Quest For 216 (votes) continues, and Congress did not manage to get any kind of ACA repeal/replace bill to the finish line before all getting the heck out of Dodge yesterday and today. But . . . the idea now is that if they hit on the magic formula to get the votes (and, more importantly, get the commitments before putting a bill on the floor), Speaker Ryan could call the House back into session during the break to vote on something.” So there you have it.
Pepsi in Politics. In what I (and apparently some news outlets) can only describe as a stunningly off-base attempt to monetize Black Lives Matter, Pepsi released an ad this week for a hot second featuring What’s-Her-Name Babyface Jenner and The Deescalating Power of Pepsi. Or, more accurately, The Deescalating Power of Being A White Girl In Front of a Police Officer. As you can imagine, the Internet had a lot to say about this, and the ad was pulled very quickly — the real mystery here is who approved such an obviously ill-advised ad in the first place.
Nuclear Gorsuch.* We’re leading with the heavy hitters this week — folks, in my opinion this headline is the single biggest and most important thing to know happened in the past seven days. Note that I’m saying that on a week when we also bombed Syria (and more on the latter below, but stay with me here). The order of operations went something like this: The Democrats filibustered the Gorsuch vote. The Republicans didn’t have 60 votes, which have always been needed to overcome a filibuster and vote in a nominee to the Supreme Court. The Republicans responded by changing the rules so that only a simple majority was needed — a change colloquially known as “the nuclear option,” which was already done for Cabinet appointees in 2013 (and we are reaping the oh-so-fun results of that with cabinet members like Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions, who would not have been confirmed under the old rules). Gorsuch was, of course, confirmed under the new rules, but that’s not the important thing here (and liberals in the back, let go of your pearls long enough to let me explain). Using the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominees was an incredibly foolhardy decision that could literally wreak havoc for generations — it’s so serious, in fact, that an op-ed in the Washington Post this week sincerely called Mitch McConnell, who pulled the trigger, “the man who broke America.” You know how much fun we are having with Sessions and DeVos? (If not, let me tell you about the party that’s been happening on both of those fronts below.) They serve “at the pleasure of the President,” which means the very next President can (and probably will) kick them right out the door. Supreme Court Justices, in contrast, serve for life, and their decisions frequently outlast them — one the Supreme Court decides something, it’s the law until a subsequent Supreme Court overturns them, and that can take decades. And now any incompetent muppet can be rammed through the Senate without bipartisan support, which previously wasn’t possible. Gorsuch is conservative but competent, if you ignore the plagiarism allegations; the next nominee could be a judicial Betsy DeVos. It’s a brave new world of eroded checks and balances.
Blue Livelihoods Matter Y’all. Sessions ordered federal review with dozens of law enforcement agencies noted for particular police abuses, noting that “the individual misdeeds of bad actors should not impugn” the remaining police force. In what’s apparently signature Sessions fashion, he requested a 90-day delay on finalizing changes to police procedure in Baltimore that were supposed to be heard by a judge 3 days later, which I might characterize in strictly legal terms as “a total jerk move.” So, that’s what Sessions has been up to, per my reference above.
What’s Cooking in Special Elections. Surprisingly, both Kansas and Georgia are showing signs of potentially going blue in special elections, according to The Cook Political Report — though Georgia is of course more of a possibility than Kansas. In fact, they are calling the Georgia special election “a toss up,” which is pretty awesome for a county that has been Republican since dinosaurs roamed the earth. The Kansas election is tomorrow, though, so hopefully we’ll know more soon! (The Georgia election is not until April 18, so there’s more time on that one either way.)
Major Deportation Public Defense Landmark! This past week, New York set up the country’s first public defense program for deportation proceedings. This is an incredibly big deal, and I’m really excited about it — we’ve never before had any jurisdiction that guaranteed representation for anyone facing deportation from the country. I would love to see other locations follow suit, and I’ll definitely keep folks posted on this.
And that’s all the news that’s fit to print — thank everything; half that amount of bad news would have been enough! Catch you all next week, hopefully with better tidings.
Some great stuff happened this week! Admittedly, also some not-so-great stuff. But all in all, there’s a lot more positive news this week than there have been in previous weeks, so I’ll take it! Also, I went a little overboard with the alliteration this week — sorry I’m not more sorry about that. The news is also a little late this week on account of a sinus infection laying me low yesterday, and that part I am sorry about.
As always, we start with the stock reminders: 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. I may touch on news I think folks should know that is outside my area as a legal generalist, but if we undertake any offroad adventures I’ll do my best to signal that for you upfront by giving that headline an asterisk. Okay, warning label over. Onward to the news!
Trump vs. the Media, Round ???: I’m already tired of saying “I can’’t believe I’m not making this up” when it comes to Trump and the media, but here we go again. First Trump famously claimed on Monday that the media was covering up terrorist attacks for their own gain. The White House then doubled down with a list of terrorist attacks that had been underreported, and about half the list involved zero deaths. The same day, incidentally, Trump also literally said that “any negative polls” about the immigration ban are “fake news.” White House official Sebastian Gorka followed up by explaining that “until the media understands how wrong it is [to “attack a duly elected President in the second week of his term”], we are going to continue to say, ‘fake news.’” In other words, “exercising your First Amendment right to critique our President now makes the President of the United States tell everybody on Twitter that you’re fake news.” Yup, that sure is a thing I had to write. Welcome to the Trump Administration.
Nordstrom (Accidentally) Takes On The World: The unfolding saga of Nordstrom, Ivanka Trump, and Half the Current Administration would be the stuff of soap operas, if soap operas were also running the country. I’ve already written some about it, but the very short version is that Nordstrom dropped Ivanka’s line of clothing and accessories and the Trump Machinewasnot happy about it. Oh, and also, Nordstrom’s stock climbed more than 4% afterwards, so make of that what you will.
Ethics EO Evades Ethics Edict*: (Try saying that ten times fast!) Very early last week, Trump issued an EO about strengthening ethical commitments of executive branch employees. I put off discussing it because I wanted to check some anomalies I spotted when I compared it to Obama’s similar EO — it looked like it was giving lobbyists permission to immediately work in the executive branch, which to my knowledge had not been previously permissible, and also cited provisions I wasn’t familiar with. It turns out that I don’t need to look that up after all, because Pro Publica has helpfully laid all of it out for us this week. It’s an interesting insight into what is usually a dry topic, and I recommend checking it out!
Blue Lives Matter: Trump signed threeexecutiveorders this week, all relating back to crime or assault on police officers in some way. I plan to write more about them sometime this week, since they are all well within my wheelhouse — I had hoped to have this done before now, actually, but being ill derailed my plan to yesterday. At any rate, this administration would like you to know that they Value Law and Order and Blue Lives Matter. And a group of over 175 police chiefs and prosecutors would in turn like you to know that This Administration’s EOs Are Poorly Constructed (No, really; they issued a report and everything. It contains phrases like “antiquated law enforcement tools” and “risks wasting taxpayer money” and “law enforcement officers are not mental health or addiction professionals.” It’s surprisingly great, go read it.).
No Way In*: Yemen has withdrawn U.S. permission to run ground raids after last week’s botched attempt. It’s unclear whether this is tied to the immigration ban or not, because last week’s raid would presumably be reason enough all by itself. It’s also unclear what, if anything, the U.S. government will do with this information.
In (Hot Water) Like Flynn*: National security adviser Michael Flynn is in pretty hot water right now for discussing Obama’s sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which would be illegal although also hard to prosecute. For bonus funtimes, Flynn reported to Pence multiple times that he had not disclosed this information when meeting with Kislyak, which prompted Pence to report that the topic had not been discussed as well. Even worse, former acting A.G. Sally Yates apparently tried to warn the administration about this before she was dismissed, and it remains an open question whether anyone else (besides Pence, who everyone agrees was straight-up lied to) was in on this. No action has been taken by the administration to dismiss Flynn from his position, which doesn’t exactly help the administration’s credibility on this issue. In related news, CNN has also corroborated some of that infamous dossier, including some of the information that led to the sanctions in the first place.
Autocratic State of the Nation: As always, here is the Amy Siskind link to Your Week in Authoritarianism. Some, but not all, of her work is reproduced here. I recommend checking out her summary as well — she has a broader scope of political expertise than I do by far.
9th Circuit Showdown: The Ninth Circuit heard a challenge to the stay of the immigration ban this week, after the Justice Department challenged last week’s District Court order from Seattle, which granted a temporary restraining order enjoining the executive branch from enforcing the travel ban while the court decided its constitutionality. In response to the government filing its appeal, literally hundreds of people filed amicus briefs supporting the stay of the ban, including tech companies, law professors, diplomats, and national security officials. The Ninth Circuit unanimouslydecided to leave the stay in place, stating that the federal government had not made its case for a suspending the restraining order. Though the scope of the holding was narrow — it only applies to a procedural question about whether the TRO remains while the District Court decides the underlying case — it’s still extremely exciting to confirm that the ban will remain on hold for now.
The Road to Impeachment Begins with a Single Step: House Representative Jerrod Nadler filed a resolution of inquirywith the House Judiciary Committee this past week. It’s the first step toward an indictment by the House of Representatives, which in turn is the first step of the impeachment process. That said, it’s far from a guarantee of impeachment; it’s simply an attempt to get information from the executive branch so that people in the House can make an informed decision about whether to pursue things further. But the resolution needs to be acted upon within fourteen working days of when Nadler filed it, so hopefully we’ll know more within the next few weeks. In the meantime, feel free to do a little dance. I know I did.
Britain Debates the Donald: In an interesting and rare display of partisan opinion, the Speaker of the House of Commons has indicated that there will be a debate to decide whether Donald Trump will be allowed to address Parliament. The Speaker called this tradition “an earned right” and “not an automatic honor,” though Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Reagan all had the privilege of doing so on their visits to the UK. It will be interesting to see how this vote goes — I’ll keep y’all posted.
In the meantime, though, that’s all the news that’s fit to print this week!