National News Roundup: Week 43 (November 12–18)
I would classify this week as a trash can fire rather than a full-blown dumpster fire, which is about the best I can say for it. You can only smell the noxious fumes from a room or two away, and the fire will be out soon. Next week is a new 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 week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a postal worker! — 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:
It was yet another vaguely surreal week on the Russia Collusion Investigation front. We didn’t see as much big news, but we’re still dealing with aftermath of a lot of different interrelated developments:
- Sessions Testimony Happened. As forecast last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the House Judiciary Committee, which appeared to be a frustrating exercise for everyone involved. As many outlets have noted, Sessions testimony has been inconsistent, which he contextualized in this week’s hearing as a lack of memory. Confusingly, he also said that he didn’t remember being asked about meeting with Russia but was confident that he shot down the idea. All in all, it was a lengthy but inconclusive hearing, and last week’s snark about the “I don’t recall” refrain turned out to be pretty prophetic. Sessions will probably be asked to testify again.
- Kushner Russian Backdoor What-Now?* Among the embarrassing fallout from the Trump Jr tweetstravaganza is confirmation that Kushner didn’t provide all relevant documents in his federal investigation — he was missing several items concerning Wikileaks and a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite.” Kushner now has until November 27 to get the rest of the documents in.
- Trump Jr. Fallout.* There was some fallout from Trump Jr.’s most recent mea tweeta other than Kushner problems too. Most notably, Dems in the Senate are calling for another hearing on the subject, and the House Intelligence panel is considering issuing a subpoena to Twitter for more information. Also, the Atlantic has pointed out that the news on its face likely violates campaign finance law. (And Daddy took the elephant corpses away, but more about that below.)
Your “Normal” Weird:
- DHS Learns How Postage Works. From the Surrealist Bureaucratic Nightmare department, the Department of Homeland Security tried to deny over a hundred “late” DACA applications that were postmarked before the deadline — in some cases, several weeks before the deadline. (Many of these initially-denied applications were also sitting in the department mailbox by October 5, but USCIS marked them late anyway after — I kid you not — failing to check the mailbox again in the late afternoon.) Thankfully, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security and Overall Less Rabid Official Elaine Duke ordered the DHS to accept these applications shortly before a complaint was due to be added to the DACA suits — which is the only reason this news goes in the ‘weird’ column instead of the ‘bad’ one.
- Increasingly Improbable Moore Strategies.* As the Roy Moore saga unrepentantly unfolds in real time, the establishment GOP is turning to increasingly improbable (and ill-advised) political strategies to try to contain it. Among the options being floated are asking the appointed interim senator to resign to trigger another election (which probably is unconstitutional), expelling Moore if he’s elected (which probably is constitutional, but hasn’t been done since the Civil War), and convincing Sessions to resign and run against Moore as a write-in candidate. The Washington Post names just ousting him once he’s elected as the most probable outcome, and they’re probably right, but as Nate Silver notes, Moore might not win in the first place. All in all, these are very strange times.
- California Shooting. A man went on a shooting spree this week in Rancho Tehma, killing five people and injuring several others. Though the shooting involved an elementary school, among other random locations, the school responded very quickly, and the shooter was only able to injure one student before moving on to a new location. More focus has been given on the domestic violence that apparently kicked off the shooting spree, the lack of appropriate police action around gun complaints previously filed, and the assailant’s prior history of violent crimes.
- Tax Reform Bill News.* There’s a fair amount of news on the tax reform bill front, and sadly none of it is good. On the Senate side, news broke that they plan to fold ACA reform into the tax reform bill, and more specifically want to repeal the insurance mandate — yes, again. This would have the practical effect of messing with insurance markets, so those of us in the health sector are still not fans. But the House side is even worse, because their version passed this week. As I noted last week, it has a lot of differences from the Senate’s version (not even considering the health insurance piece), but given that Forbes literally described the House version as “the end of all economic sanity in Washington,” that’s not much of an endorsement. Meanwhile, the Senate is busy yelling insults at each other while they move the bill to the floor, so it’s anyone’s guess what is going to happen from here.
- More Marchers in the Sexual Miscreant Parade. The latests on the list of people associated with sexual assault are Democratic senator Al Franken, which is definitely less than fun, and television personality Charlie Rose. Liberal people disagree about what to do with Franken from here, with some calling for his resignation or expulsion and others saying he should remain where he is, and I myself am so torn on this issue that I’m not sure I have any pithy advice on the topic. (Leann Tweeden accepted his apology, for what it’s worth, but I’m not sure that should be worth very much.) Meanwhile, Moore is up to nine women accusing him of assault or predatory behavior towards minors, and shows no inclination towards dropping out of the race.
- The Elephant in the Room. After the Interior Department announced it was lifting the ban on elephant corpse trophies this week, substantial resulting outcry from conservation groups caused Trump to put a halt on the process pending further review. Given Donald Trump Jr’s well-known love of gruesome hunting trophies, I’m enjoying imagining that this is how punishment looks in the dysfunctional Trump family — I doubt the Wikileaks hoopla went over well with the family patriarch.
And that’s what I have this week, in its inane, vaguely obnoxious mediocrity. Next week will be a new week, and I’m hoping it will be a good one (but I’ll accept anything shy of terrible). Either way, you’ll be hearing from me again soon!