National News Roundup: Week 14 (April 23–29)
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!
- Visit Historic National Treasure Mar-A-Lago. The state Department took it upon itself to promote Mar-a-Lago this week in a blog post. While the implication that Mar-a-Lago is an embassy to a foreign state is amusing, yet another official government endorsement of a Trump product really, really isn’t, and the State Department was forced to take it down. At least one ethics complaint has also been filed.
- Ivanka’s Adventures in Germany. Ivanka took a trip to Berlin this week, and it did not go well for her. While Germans booing her opinion of her father isn’t exactly surprising — they’ve been letting us know their opinion of the Trumps for months now — I do want to know why she was visiting in the first place. What is her title again (besides Walking Conflict of Interests #2)? And what was she doing there? Was this some kind of weird Send the Blonde Jew to Germany ambassador program?
- The Flynn Story Somehow Got Sketchier.* I know, I know, I didn’t think that was possible either. But it did! He apparently was informed that he was not permitted to receive foreign moneys years ago, which he obviously decided was optional, and the Oversight Committee is now saying he may have broken the law. A Pentagon investigation has been launched on the topic, and Sessions has said he is going nowhere near it (which I think we can all agree is for the best).
- Dog and Warhawk Show.* Trump called the entire Senate to the White House to discuss North Korea this week, but rumors of a war briefing were greatly exaggerated. Also, apparently Trump himself was only present for about 14 minutes, which gives you some idea of how important he finds the whole thing. Despite this, a North Korean missile test later in the week ended in failure. All in all, there’s been a lot of sound and fury but not a lot of movement on this front, which is probably the best we can hope for right now.
- Correspondence Dinner Without Correspondence. Well, okay, that’s not fully true, strictly speaking — comedian Hasan 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.
- Obstructionist White House Blues.* In true Uncooperative Jackass form, the White House is refusing to cooperate with the Oversight Committee’s request for documents on Flynn. The committee is being careful not to call it obstruction (even though it totally is, and pretty blatantly at that), which is not exactly encouraging. I’ve heard some people claiming this means the investigation is dead in the water, but I think that’s an overstatement — especially with testimony scheduled regarding Flynn’s ties to Russia next week.
- There is a VOICE And I Must Scream. This week Kelly went ahead and rolled out VOICE, the office for victims of crimes committed by immigrants that is mentioned in one of the executive orders. Democrats are uniformly (and correctly) noting that the office is invasive garbage, and lots of citizens are venting their spleens in the most creative way possible — more on that below.
- Death of Taxes. Trump released a mess of papers he generously calls a tax plan this week, and it’s exactly as terrible as you expected it to be. Seriously, imagine the worst tax plan you possibly can. Okay, are you holding that half-formed tangle of bad policy in your mind? Congratulations, it’s still better than this tax plan. About the best thing I can say about it is that it’s probably not especially relevant, for reasons I’ll discuss below.
- 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 serious potential 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.
- No One Likes AHCA, Apparently Including Congress. Attempts to revive the AHCA this week failed miserably, in part because it’s still a fetid cesspool of a policy and in part because it became known that Congress was exempting itself from having to follow it. It remains to be seen whether they’ll try to revive this bill a third time. I doubt it will give the policy any charm.
- Bizarrely Productive Voting Happened: Despite threats to the contrary, Congress managed to vote to avoid shutdown on 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.