National News Roundup: Week 34 (September 10–16)

Kara Hurvitz
7 min readSep 19, 2017

Okay, y’all, another week, another pile of terrible news. This week at least contains some schadenfreude, so there’s that, but it’s a pretty rough ride otherwise — and that’s even with me holding off on a couple of stories that I think are about to break more fully. Comfort foods at the ready.

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 climate scientist — 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:

First and foremost, a bit of errata from last week:

  • Magnitsky Act Changes.* A reader (correctly) flagged that I should have remembered to include this point last week: Without much fanfare, last Friday Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum allowing the Magnitsky Act, a law imposing sanctions for very serious human rights abuses in Russia, to be enforced by proxies — more specifically, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (for visa sanctions) and Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin (for financial sanctions). Many people view this as a way for Trump and Russia to get around the Magnitsky Act — you may recall that Trump Jr’s infamous meeting with a Russian lawyer turned out to be about getting this same Act repealed. The Magnitsky Act generally requires the President to report any changes in policy to Congress, but there’s nothing in the Act shifting that responsibility to delegated agents. So, in effect, this presidential memorandum does repeal the Act unless/until Congress fixes it. And that’s fun.

There are a couple of odds and ends in The Russia Collusion Investigation this week as well:

  • Flynn Power Plants in the Middle East.* News broke this week that Flynn had business interests in the Middle East on top of everything else; more specifically, he took trips to the Middle East in 2015 to set up a deal for about forty private power plants in the region. The information came out in part due to a formal inquiry from House Democrats. Needless to say, this is yet another conflict in Flynn’s closet, and not a good look generally for the administration.
  • Cobb (Dowd) Salad Debacle. It is Attorney 101 that You Do Not Discuss Client Matters In Public, because you have both the obligation and the privilege of confidentiality to your client. When you represent someone, you don’t discuss their case in public at all, let alone at a working lunch. This is so fundamentally basic and self-evident that I have trouble believing Ty Cobb and John Dowd, members of the White House counsel team, didn’t know it when they were recorded opining in public on matters regarding the Russia Investigation yesterday. And even if they somehow forgot this point, it seems unlikely that they forgot not to discuss matters relating to their work with names and specifics at a restaurant that is literally next door to a major newspaper outlet. Which leads me to believe that they wanted to be recorded, and I’m honestly not even sure what to do with that.

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

  • Shrkeli’s Bail is Revoked for Being a Gross Weirdo. (I stand by this headline.) Your second dose of schadenfreude for the week is Shkreli’s bail getting revoked while he awaits sentencing because he offered a $5,000 bounty on Hillary Clinton’s hair — which is both creepy and, as the judge correctly noted when he revoked bail, a solicitation of assault. It’s basically Criminal Defense 101 that your bail can be revoked for committing another crime, and he technically committed a (gross and weird) crime with the post. And while I don’t generally enjoy displays of misogyny and expectations of privilege, I do enjoy that the federal judge on this case didn’t put up with it.
  • New York Sanctuary Order Signed. The Governor of New York signed an executive order this past week prohibiting state agencies from inquiring about immigration status. (In layperson terms, that means people can’t just be randomly asked about their status while they’re seeking benefits, getting a driver’s license, or doing other things that involve ordinary day-to-day interactions with the state.) The order includes provisions protecting people who approach a police officer for help, are victims of crimes, or are witnesses to crimes. While it’s not a panacea by any means, it is a good start, and I definitely appreciate that it was issued.

And that’s what I got this week — and no, I can’t take it back again, much as I wish I could. I’ll do my best to keep touching on all the key points each week, but the news is still moving really fast, and we’re also increasingly seeing announcements at odd times. Daily news summaries like WTFJHT remain an excellent resource until we meet again.



Kara Hurvitz

Boots on the ground for social change, one step at a time.