National News Roundup: Year 2, Week 33 (September 2–8)
Hello again folks! The news this week went out in two sections, since there’s a holiday right on top of when I would ordinarily get this out to y’all AND this was an absolutely bonkers week from a Constitutional Crisis perspective. The ordinary-course-of-business stuff that happened went into the first update — because there was a fair amount of that as well — and the Trump shenanigans that constantly fuel the Constitutional Crisis Corner went out in the second one.
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 confirmation hearing! — 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:
As has become traditional, we saw a fair amount of Casual Disregard of Governing Norms this week, and most of it is in one way or another pretty horrifying. Here are the main things to know:
- Kavanaugh Horrorshow Concludes. Remember last Tuesday, when Trump withheld 100,000 pages of documents from the Dubbya era and we were talking about Kavanaugh’s alleged history of lying to the Judiciary Committee? And the 42,000 documents less than fifteen hours before the hearing was due to start? Yeah, that… didn’t actually get much better, though it did get wilder (which is saying something). Senator Leahy managed to get Kavanaugh to admit to the existence of committee-confidential email records from the Bush era during the second day of questioning, and by the third day, some of said documents got leaked to the press. The contents were predictably concerning, particularly when considered alongside his refusal to condemn attacks on the judiciary and reference to hormone therapy as an ‘abortion-inducing drug,’ though the biggest point against him was the strong evidence he had already committed perjury, which he then proceeded to lie about further. Unfortunately, despite the documents, the perjury inception, and closing testimony that was literally a warning from the guy who blew the whistle on Richard Nixon, none of this seems to have changed the minds of our few centrist senators. So a perjury complaint was filed by a Democrat contingent immediately after the hearing concluded, and ironically, it’s scheduled to land on Merrick Garland’s desk. Good gravy, what a week.
- Autocrat Watch Redux. Trump did a lot of stuff that seems designed to push us further towards autocracy again this week. First he graduated from criticizing news frontrunners to threatening networks’ broadcasting licenses (despite the fact that the FCC can’t revoke licenses for content, and also they don’t have a broadcasting license). But then he followed that up with flat-out suggesting that protesting should be illegal, which needless to say is pretty counter to American rights on a very basic level. Then he followed that up by threatening to shut down the government over his nonexistent wall for a billionth time, leaving Ryan and McConnell scrambling to talk him out of it (and even though they were mostly successful, he still left the door open, so there’s plenty of September left to change his mind). Then, immediately on the heels of walking back the shutdown threat, he told his supporters — and I can’t believe this is a direct quote, even after covering this guy for a full year — that it will be ‘[their] fault, cause [they] didn’t go out to vote’ if he’s impeached by Congress. Yeesh, no wonder #PlaidShirtGuy was making faces that whole rally.
- Your Week In Other People’s Trump Watching. Immediately on the heels of articles about the new Bob Woodward book, an unnamed Trump aide published an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” The op-ed author had about as much of a clue as you might expect from a Trump aide, but that didn’t stop the general public from speculating wildly about the author’s identity. Unsurprisingly, among the people going nuts about the author’s identity is Donald Trump, who escalated from saying he needed the identity ‘for national security’ to telling the Justice Department to investigate the author. Meanwhile, Bannon’s calling this a coup, Warren’s calling for the 25th Amendment, and the one-two punch of Woodward’s book and the mystery op-ed show a White House as scared of Trump’s violent nonsense as the rest of us.
The Russia Investigation was fairly calm this week, but we did still see a few blips. Here are the main things to know this week:
- Giuliani Jamboree, Part Bajillion. This has been quite a week for Rudy Giuliani, even by our previous low standards for him. First he claimed that Trump wouldn’t answer any Mueller questions, not even in writing, which obviously he had to walk back very quickly because that’s how we get subpoenas. Then he followed that up by claiming the White House would block the release of Mueller’s report when it eventually issued. Eventually Trump got interviewed on the topic and tossed his own word salad onto the mix, but it didn’t really make things any clearer (big shock, I know).
- Papadopoulos Plea Deal. The other big Russia investigation news of the week is that George Papadopoulos received a sentence — a whopping fourteen days of incarceration, which he’s almost certainly already served — and that likely means the investigation doesn’t need further cooperation from him. Interestingly, on his way out the door he stated he “can’t guarantee” he didn’t tell Mueller anything damning — which might be why Trump spent time on 9/11 talking about the investigation.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- NAFTA News.* Against the backdrop of everything else, it’s legit weird that we made progress on NAFTA talks, but apparently we did! To be fair, this was likely made much easier by removing Trump from the equation; this week he was much too busy screaming about op-eds and upcoming tell-all books to deal with NAFTA, so he sent our ordinary top trade negotiator instead. That said, there’s still a lot of tension between the U.S. and Canada — in large part because we can’t keep him from the process entirely, though also in part because the two countries’ goals don’t fully line up. So it will be interesting to see what happens from here.
- Kaepernick/Nike Kickoff. Nike debuted an ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick this week with the tagline, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The ad sparked all kinds of reactions, from twitter memes to marketing applause to conservatives ‘boycotting’ by destroying Nike products. Nike responded to it all by doubling down, airing its ad during the NFL season opener event on Thursday. The Thursday ad features athletes from several other leagues as well, some of whom have had their own issues with their respective leagues. Pretty much all aspects of this story are pretty surreal, but I’m glad Kaepernick is getting paid at least after two years of blackballing.
- ACA Assault in Courts. This past week, a federal court in Texas heard heard oral arguments in a case brought by twenty conservative states to scrap the ACA — or, more accurately, to put the law on hold until their larger case challenging its constitutionality is resolved. Early analyses seem to agree that the oral arguments didn’t go well (although a decision has not yet been released as I type this). This is probably at least in part because the Trump administration refused to defend the law, leaving that task to AGs from states that support the existing law — particularly frustrating because the lawsuit focuses on preexisting conditions protections, which remain popular among Americans as all of this happens. On the plus side, the timing and overall unpopularity of this move may have election consequences in a couple of months, so that’s a silver lining to this obnoxious, never-ending Groundhog Day.
- Immigration Updates. Immigration updates this week are particularly bad, and given that last week’s updates included trying to deport citizens that’s really saying something. The administration announced this week that it’s just going to withdraw from the legal settlement that keeps it from jailing migrant kids indefinitely. I’m sure some of you are sitting here wondering, “Can they legally do that?” And the answer is ‘no, no they can’t,’ though that doesn’t seem to stop this administration (especially when they signaled they would go there as soon as they were forced to abandon their separation policy). This will be challenged in courts very quickly, but it’s still garbage. And speaking of garbage, ICE is now subpoenaing voting records in North Carolina going back nearly a decade. Now, some of you playing the home game may be thinking ‘But only citizens can vote in federal elections, why does an immigration enforcement agency need to review citizen records?’ And the answer, as far as I can tell, is ‘because President Trump’ — as aggravating as it is predictable. News also broke this week that the Trump administration will no longer be honoring a 2008 agreement with Vietnam that lawful permanent residents who arrived before 1995 as refugees could not be sent back to Vietnam. Because sure, why wouldn’t we deport people who have lived in the United States lawfully for two decades, just because we literally gave them immunity by international treaty?
- Detroit Schools Don’t Have Water.* Detroit apparently shut off drinking water in 106 public schools, citing copper and lead levels in the pipes — and if lead in Michigan water sounds familiar to you, there’s a reason for that. The students are currently making do with water coolers, but needless to say, it’s not reassuring to see signs that Flint’s water problems are spreading.
- Recent Speech Resistance. Several different entities were in the news this week for making their voices heard, and some of the voices came from unlikely places. Gaining most of the spotlight was President Obama, who shed his general commitment to stay out of politics to lambaste Trump’s methods of governance ahead of the November elections. But we should also give our attention to the Miss America contestant — from West Virginia, a coal stronghold, no less — who opined publicly that Donald Trump was ‘the biggest issue our country faces today.’ Seriously, y’all, it’s truly brave to say something like that in the middle of a contest when the dude you’re criticizing was a giant name in that contest’s field until the year before he became President. And we should also give some love to #PlaidShirtGuy, the seventeen-year-old whose skeptical facial expressions both got him kicked out of a Trump rally and made him a twitter meme.
So that’s what I have for this week. On the plus side, the split schedule did mean two Nice Things this week! Your first fun link, per arrangement with a New Jersey buddy who fed me bagels this morning, is news that Einstein Brothers started making coffee bagels after Trump took office. (I’m choosing not to take this as coincidence because, well, as a member of Team Resist I have met us.) The second fun link was A Cockatiel Playing Newspaper Peekaboo. 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 nay vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation!