We had yet another chaotic, weird week this week. The news lately is like watching Salvador Dali paint off-handed after four martinis; it’s a vague, overblown mess I’m already dreading mopping up. (Honestly, after reviewing all of this week’s content, I kind of want four martinis myself. But I’ll have to settle for comfort ice cream, because the roundup isn’t going to draft itself!)
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 subpoena! — 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:
Y’all, I follow the news closely and even I can barely track the Russia Investigation and its related aftermath this week. I’ll do my best to unpack the confusion; here’s what I have for you:
It’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish Disregard of Governing Norms from the Russia Investigation circus above, but we did see a couple of power moves that stand on their own. Here’s what happened:
Recent Court Resilience. In more positive news, a panel of judges in Ohio decided that the state’s congressional map was unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering — their words, not mine! — and therefore impermissible. This is a big deal, both in and of itself and because it’s unusual for courts to consider cases like this when there’s an open Supreme Court case. And California is suing the Trump administration over its ‘conscientious objection’ healthcare rule, which allows healthcare providers to refuse to treat certain patients. So courts are remaining an important way for people to get their rights enforced.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think we can all agree it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve capybaras making friends with other critters and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully less confusing) 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 ability to take more naps!
I missed the Superb Owl’s great flight over everyone’s televisions yesterday to draft, which I’m a touch sad about. But it turns out even the Superbowl involved the news this week (which, by the way, is definitely the most 2019 thing I’m going to type today). So I like to think I was at everybody’s Superbowl parties in spirit, reminding people to resist and stealing too many nachos.
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 Senator! — 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:
Now that the shutdown is over, this was a fairly quiet week regarding Disregard of Governing Norms, but there is still some aftermath from the month of partial shutdown to wade through. Here is the latest:
Trump-Cued Fighting.Given his recent mystery meeting with Putin, it sure is comforting that Trump is getting along with his own intelligence staff and political party! Wait, no, I’m informed that I have that backwards — he’s actually been increasinglyfighting with his own intelligence experts, and is knee-deepin a public tiff with Mitch McConnell, my bad! Predictably, the Trump narrative is that he’s right and all the people he’s fighting with are wrong, which is pretty concerning — we’ll talk a bit more about what specifically everybody is fighting about below.
So that’s what I have for this week, which definitely was more than enough! For making it through, you deserve this video of otter pups 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 photos of Superb Owls!
Okay, this week wasn’t as bad as last week — although with the week we had last week, that’s sort of like saying “This thunderstorm sure isn’t as bad as that recent hurricane.” There was still plenty of the surreal trauma we all know and hate to go around, though the week ended on a more positive note; where we go from here is anyone’s guess.
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 — still a lawyer, and not a tech consultant — 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:
Mostly things were pretty quiet on The Russia Collusion Investigation, as Trump successfully redirected our attention — more on that below — but we did see one headline.
Steve Bannon Mystery Motives. This was a deeply weird week for trying to figure out what on earth Steve Bannon is doing. First there was his impromptu interview with American Prospect reporter Robert Kuttner, which apparently was the result of an unsolicited call to the journalist, and included insults for Trump, the alt-right, and basically virtually all of his allies. Then he suggested that he forgot he could be quoted off-the-record, which I find vaguely insulting; if the owner of a multi-million dollar propaganda machine is going to make such blatantly improbable statements, he could at least pretend to be selling real estate. Then Bannon was let go on Friday — ostensibly for his interview, except that the process was missing the bread-and-circus embarrassment train that marked other high-profile firings like Yates, Priebus, Scaramucci, and Comey. Bannon immediately hightailed it to Breitbart post-firing, leading an editorial meeting by the end of the day. Trump tweeted his praisesmultiple times on Saturday, and Breitbart has published exactly zero articles eviscerating the President since Bannon’s White House exit — though they did publish an article on Sunday sympathetic to Trump’s policy on Afghanistan. So I’m thinking Bannon was not “let go” so much as “transferred for more efficient rampaging.”
ACLU and Free Speech. One surreal piece of the aftermath of Charlottesville has been the American Civil Liberty Union’s struggle to define where, exactly, it draws lines about hate speech and violent protest. After the Governor of Virginia accused the organization of causing the riots with their representation of the Unite the Right organizers, and three ACLU chapters in California went rogue in protest (citing incitement to violence’s lack of constitutional protection as their reasoning), the ACLU announced that they will no longer represent hate groups who demonstrate with firearms. As a lawyer, I’m really not sure what to make of all that. For context, as the California chapters note, speech that incites listeners to violence is not constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment, but it’s not always clear what incitement to violence actually means; old case law draws the guideline of “clear and present danger” of violence in response to the speech, but of course that’s a question of perspective. The ACLU has a long history of representing hate groups due to its belief that hate speech is still protected speech, and it looks like it mostly still will; note that this policy does not rule out protesting with clubs and shields (which were the main weapons used in Charlottesville). So that’s disturbing — it’s like knowing the Tooth Fairy hangs with vampires on occasion because She Firmly Believes That Everybody’s Gotta Eat.
Confederacy Statue Removal. Baltimore moved up its timetable to remove Confederate statues from the city last week, using emergency powers relating to the city’s security to remove all four statues in the middle of the night. This is both a valid decision in light of Charlottesville’s violence and a referendum on Trump’s statements; prior to the President’s escalation, this had been a very lengthy process. An expert on Confederate symbols was quoting as saying he expected a “rolling cascade” of similar actions from other cities. “[I]f you do it quickly the opposition can’t build up, and the confrontations that we’ve had, not only in Charlottesville but elsewhere, will not materialize,” the expert reasoned. He’s already been proven at least partially right; the University of Texas followed suit this morning, removing four statues during the night and citing the “horrific displays of hate” in Charlottesville as its reasoning.
Boston Strong. My home city of Boston hosted about a hundred far-right protesters this past week, which was a pretty bizarre experience. Though I can’t say any of us enjoyed shutting down our downtown, we did show up in droves, with estimates that the counterprotest reached about 40,000 attendees throughout the day. The sheer numbers allowed for a level of nonviolence that would not have been an option in Charlottesville, and in fact the counterprotest was so effective that the speakers opted to cut their rally short by about an hour. Although a few dozen people were arrested — which friends of mine enjoy pointing out is fewer than some Sox games — as the commissioner noted, “99.9 percent of the people here were for the right reason and that’s to fight bigotry and hate.” Also, many of the signsweretrulyamazing.
And that’s the week’s news! Inch by inch, up to the next summit we go. I’ll do my best to keep touching on all the key points each week no matter how bad and frenetic it gets, but the news is still moving really fast. Daily news summaries like WTFJHT are still an excellent resource until we meet again.
Well this week… happened; it was mostly a mixed bag at best. There was a lot of fighting back against terrible news, and some good news in its own right, which some weeks is the best we can hope to see. Resistance is how progress is made; we’ll try again next week.
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 news continues to contain multiple headlines each week outside my area as a legal generalist — still a lawyer, not a spy! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Trump is Meeting with Putin Next Week. Incredibly, spokespeople for the White House say there is “no specific agenda” when Trump meets with Putin next week. Maybe they’ll talk about the weather. Maybe they’ll talk about the government. I have no idea, and there’s so much wrong with that I don’t know where to start.
Thankfully that’s the only front to see movement this week, which is probably for the best.
Your “Normal” Weird:
Trump TIME. Your weekly Trump weirdness is that he apparently hung a forged TIME cover of himself in several properties around the world. Even more bizarrely, Trump has been on the cover of TIME for real about fourteen times (as TIME helpfully reminds us), and several of them were perfectly flattering covers — so he didn’t even need to forge anything. I don’t even want to speculate about what would make someone with several real covers to choose from do this, on the grounds that I think it would kill brain cells to try. But, uh. That guy’s our President for another 3.5 years.
Weird Politician Behavior Roundup. This has been a super weird week for political behavior, even by our modern standards. The splashiest headline is Chris Christie closing New Jersey beaches due to a government shutdown, and then being photographed on one of said closed beaches. Incredibly, Christie’s response to being photographed was to say “That’s the way it goes.” But in addition to Christie’s crusade to be the country’s least popular governor, Jason Chaffetz is leaving the House to join Fox News mid-term. Given that Chaffetz is the current chairperson of the House Oversight and Government Reform, I really cannot stress enough how strange of a move this is — it’s like a police chief who’s investigating the mayor of his city for kickbacks suddenly leaving mid-investigation to become an ESPN announcer. That said, though, Chaffetz also randomly announced this week that he thinks Congresspeople should get housing stipends because their salaries are insufficient, so your mileage may vary on that one all around. Oh also, Trump had about a milliondistracting and obnoxious tweets, but at this point that’s not even news anymore.
Church Playground Case Blurs Church and State. The Supreme Court reached a decision this week that was innocuous on its face, but has the end result of blurring the separation between church and state. In a 7–2 decision, the court concluded that a church playground should not be exempt from a government grant to fund resurfacing its playground purely on its basis as a religious institution. The danger in this case is not in the immediate result, but in the precedent it might set for later cases; though Roberts did write a footnote emphasizing the non-religious use of the funds in this instance, it could potentially pave the way for government funding of religion in future cases. On this basis, Sotomayor wrote a pretty impassioned dissent; given that Gorsuch did not join on the Roberts footnote, complaining that he “doesn’t see why it should matter” what the use of funds was, she appears to have a valid concern. (Side note: the Gorsuch concurrence is super gross and made me yell things at my computer. You have been warned.)
Kate’s Law and Sanctuary Cities. The House passed two laws this week cracking down further on immigration practices; one cuts funding from so-called “sanctuary cities” and the other imposes harsher sanctions on people who illegally reenter the country. Both provisions more-or-less passed along party lines, and both further blur lines between immigration enforcement and criminal procedure.
The recurrent theme I’m hearing from everyone about this week is “Well that sure was an eventful four months of news!” The news on the Russia investigation has grown so many heads that it’s getting its own section this week, but the remainder is in its normal weird-bad-good format. I did my best to keep this weekly update manageable; can I have a less chaotic news cycle next week for my prize? (Spoiler: Probably not, if the last couple of days are any indication. And that’s a good thing, despite my whining, because losing momentum would mean bad things for democracy.)
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 also contains multiple headlines outside my area as a legal generalist — still a lawyer, not a spy! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
On Russia With News:
It has been an absolutely bonkers week yet again on the Trump Tells Us About Trump and Russia front, and it can be really hard to keep up with the constant updates. Here’s a Biggest Hits list for those playing the home game.
James Comey and the Undying Russia Investigation.* Comey may not be head of the Russia investigation anymore, but he sure still is in the news a bunch. He’s been invited to testify in both Senate and House investigative hearings, and though he declined to testify immediately it does look like he will eventually do so. Also, there’s still a bunch of news around whose idea it was to fire him. Oh, and Trump apparently told Russia that it “relieved pressure” to have him fired (and called him “a real nutjob”).
More Republican Weirdness. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on tape opining to various Republicans that Trump is on Russia’s payroll, which Paul Ryan first denied and then explained was clearly a joke (because people follow up their jocularity with the words “swear to God” all the time, amirite?). Also, House investigative committee leader Jason Chaffetz announced he was resigning effective late June. He did this literally a day after inviting Comey to testify, which is baffling to say the least, and who only knows what’s going to happen to the House investigation as a result. Oh, and it also came out that Flynn told the Trump transition team he was under investigation as a lobbyist for Turkey weeks before the inauguration.
“Person of Interest” Mystery Investigation.* We also learned this week that activities of an unnamed current White House official are being monitored by the probe because this person is a ‘person of interest’. There’s some speculation that the person identified might be Jared Kushner, but no official word has been given. Presumably we’ll either hear more in the next few days, or the next news will come out after the top officials are done touring abroad.
Trump’s First Education Budget. The Washington Post has previewed documents outlining Trump’s first proposed education budget, and it sucks exactly as much as you expect. In addition to placing way too much emphasis on school choice, the budget also ends public service loan forgiveness and cuts hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for school mental health services, after-school programs, advanced coursework, and who only knows what else. It does not, however, change special education budgeting, presumably because he hasn’t gotten to that part yet. An official release of the previewed documents is expected on Tuesday as part of a much larger budget plan.
Black Lives Still Matter. It’s been another rough week in white supremacist violence. First and foremost, Richard Collins III, a 23-year-old lieutenant and member of ROTC due to graduate, was stabbed to death in an apparent hate crime on Saturday. Police have apprehended and charged a local suspect with first-degree murder based on video footage of the attack. The suspect was a member of a facebook group called “Alt-Reich Nation,” and police are saying the attack was unprovoked — the victim and assailant didn’t even know each other. Also, House Rep Al Green (D-Tx) received multiple lynching threats after calling for Trump’s impeachment on the House floor this week.
Airport Showdown Showdown. This story is so incredibly unreal that I still can’t believe I’m not making it up. The North West Immigrant Rights Project, a Seattle-based nonprofit that specializes in protecting the rights of immigrants, brought the Department of Justice to court this week over a cease-and-desist letter it received in early April. The letter threatened disciplinary action for the nonprofit’s representation of immigrant populations — more specifically, for assisting people detained in airports until they were released. The Department of Justice cited a 2008 policy designed to protect immigrant populations from predatory notario fraud, which NWIRP has been exempt from since 2008 because it doesn’t collect any money from its clients and is a freaking nonprofit founded to protect immigrant rights. This story wound up in the ‘good news’ column because the federal district court judge was about as impressed by this as I am and granted NWIRP a temporary restraining order the same day it was argued. In his decision, the judge extended the TRO to the Department of Justice nationally, so that they can’t try this tactic again in another jurisdiction.
I do have a couple of pieces of News Roundup news this week, which is below; other than that, we’ve reached the end of this past week’s news. I hope. But this week upcoming week is looking incredibly full of stuff as well, so expect a long summary this time next week as well!
National News Roundup news of note:
National News Roundup is being moved to a Monday release (on purpose and consistently, as opposed to on occasion and in a haphazard fashion). This is in part because news cycles have become extremely accelerated, and the weekend has stopped being a slow point in the news cycle; it’s also partially to accommodate my work on the Activism Newsletter (which you should check out as well, if you want suggestions on how to react to the news you read here!).
You can also send feedback, including both opinions on release dates and opinions on news generally, by leaving a comment below or at the community page of the Patreon tip jar. Good luck with the upcoming news cycle, and I’ll catch you all next week if not before!
My friends, we have seen a very elusive creature this past week — the fabled good news cycle. In particular, we saw some significant strides on both the investigation into collusion and protecting vulnerable immigrant populations. Although we also saw a lot of deeply weird stuff. I guess that’s what happens when you drink unicorn frappuccinos for good luck.
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 does contain a few headlines outside my expertise, but all my off-road adventures will be marked with asterisks. Onto the news!
Correspondence Dinner Without Correspondence. Well, okay, that’s not fully true, strictly speaking — comedianHasan Minhaj had plenty to say. But he had to say it without Trump present, because Trump was busy deriding the media in Pennsylvania instead of attending. In fact, the entire White House staff skipped the event, which is unprecedented (and Trump’s absence marks the first time a President has declined to attend in almost fifty years). This kind of petty snubbing reflects the administration’s extreme derision for the press in general, and is both unsurprising and unsettling.
Sanctuary Preserved (For Now). In what I would characterize as the biggest news of the week, a federal district court judge issued an injunction against the government regarding its threat to cut funding for sanctuary jurisdictions. Just like with the other two court cases, it’s a temporary injunction rather than a permanent ban, and just like in the other two, the court cited public statements made by officials in its rationale. That said, the judge did make perfectly clear that there are seriouspotential constitutional problems with the order. The decision is extra exciting because it marks the fourth piece of the immigration executive orders to go into limbo indefinitely, following the travel ban, funding for the wall, and the reports that would identify sanctuary jurisdictions in the first place.
I’d Like To Report a UFO. Fed up with VOICE’s role within the propaganda machine, activists have started calling the hotline number to report criminal aliens like Darth Maul and Invader Zim. The effort was apparently sufficiently successful to jam up the phone lines, which are no longer working properly. Though this is a particularly clever form of activism, it goes in the ‘good’ column because the VOICE program is exploitative and dangerous, and gumming up its wheels for any length of time should be celebrated.
Bizarrely Productive Voting Happened: Despite threats to the contrary, Congress managed to vote to avoid shutdownon Friday. Then they voted on a more long-term budgetary plan on Sunday, and it was deeply impressive just how much the King of Negotiation failed to successfully negotiate. There’s no funding for the wall, domestic spending increased, Planned Parenthood funding remains, the EPA’s funding goes down only 1%, and military spending fell far short of Trump’s proposal. The whole thing was so unapologetically against Trump’s agenda that I’m honestly kind of wondering where they put the hidden catch. But for now, I’m going to turn off that part of my brain and celebrate how uncannily non-damaging this week has turned out to be! I encourage you to do the same, but save some of the ice cream in the freezer — I suspect we’re going to need it later.