National News Roundup: Year 2, Week 42 (November 4–10)
This week was easily three weeks long — when asked to summarize it at a party this weekend, all I could come up with was “Election Day happened, then Trump threw a temper tantrum, then things got weird.” And, you know, writing that summary out a day later? Honestly, I kind of stand by it. (Although you still get a full Roundup, because I’m not at a party anymore.)
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 an election! — 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:
Things are mostly slightly calmer on the Stochastic Terrorism front, which means we’re seeing an uptick in Threats to Free Speech. Main thing to know from this past week:
- Accosting Jim Acosta. This was a bad week for press credentials. First Trump lost his entire business on Jim Acosta and Yamiche Alcindo at a press conference, and then revoked the former’s credentials on a false claim that he had “put his hands on” a White House intern. To support this claim, the White House put out a doctored video that appears to have been created and originally aired by the conspiracy-theorist website Infowars. Needless to say, by this point several outlets have released side-by-side comparisons of the Infowars video and frame-by-frame reviews of it, which might be why Trump is now threatening to pull more reporters’ credentials. So that’s always fun.
We also saw some truly bonkers news on the Russia Investigation, which has been fairly quiet over the past few weeks:
- Roger Stone Circling Continues.* Two more of Roger Stone’s people testified about their ties to him before Mueller’s grand jury this week, inching Mueller’s investigation further towards completion. Relatedly, news continues to trickle in that Mueller is nearing the end of his investigation and will be finishing the report soon — not that he likely has a choice, given the news below.
- Sessions No Longer in Session. The day after Election Day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stunned America by resigning “at [Trump’s] request.” Ordinarily, this would be cause for celebration, particularly because Sessions took a parting shot at consent decrees that improve police brutality problems on his way out the door. But Trump tagged in an anti-Mueller crony so fast our heads spun, immediately putting him in charge of the Russia probe and it’s not looking likely he’ll recuse himself like Sessions did. Just for bonus fun, it also came out that the new pick, Matt Whittaker, had run a fraudulent company that was forced to pay out $26M in damages only a few months ago. Now everybody, including the courts, is asking what this will mean for the Mueller investigation. And Trump is apparently considering Chris Christie for Attorney General, among others, presumably because yanking away that football at the last second never gets old.
- Trump Called the Stormy Daniels Shots.* In news that I think frankly shocks literally no one, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that Trump played a central role in the whole Send Hush Money to Make It Go Away plan used on Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in 2016. Needless to say, this reopens questions of campaign finance abuses, potentially makes Cohen a useful witness, and probably would spell the end of literally any other Presidency. But here in Trumpland, this just makes it Tuesday.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- A Difficult Veteran’s Day. Today is a national holiday honoring our troops, but it’s been a truly weird and stressful time for American veterans. Likely the biggest issue is the technical problems within the Department of Veteran Affairs that have messed up housing stipends for hundreds of thousands of veteran students — an issue first uncovered much earlier in the year, but gaining new urgency as the semester draws to a close. Adding insult to injury, Trump has canceled state visits to two different veteran cemeteries this weekend — one in Paris which other state leaders still attended, and one in Virginia on Veteran’s Day itself. Particularly coupled with ongoing benefits issues, these repeat no-shows do send a message.
- RBG Scare. Ruth Bader Ginsburg scared the crap out of all of us this week by falling in her office and breaking several ribs. Because she’s the Notorious RBG, she was up and about and discharged to her home within a day. This woman is tough as iron, but we’re all sending her our hopes for a speedy recovery anyway, and I wanna be her when I grow up.
- Election Weirdness.* This was a strange, strange election season, so it’s not surprising that the results reflected that. The biggest thing to know is that we’re not yet done figuring out all the results, even a week later, because several races are in recount right now (and the day after election night, there were a whopping sixteen races too close to call). Though much of that has died down by now, we’re still seeing a lot of confusion and ugliness in Florida and Georgia in particular. In Georgia, which had a lot of different issues with voter suppression during the election season, Brian Kemp has claimed he won but Stacy Abrams isn’t conceding, because ballots are still being counted. And Abrams is suing to include more rejected ballots (which, given Kemp’s track record, easily could have really been unlawfully excluded). Meanwhile, in Florida, both the Senate race and the gubernatorial race are shrouded in uncertainty, with recounts now ordered on both races. We’re hearing about all kinds of shenanigans, and of course the area’s checkered history regarding voting process doesn’t help anything. We’ll all just have to keep watching these races to learn what’s going on.
- Thousand Oaks Tragedy. This was a week of intense tragedy in California, and particularly in Thousand Oaks, where a marine corps veteran opened fire in a crowded bar on Wednesday night. The shooter ultimately killed twelve people as well as himself, shooting with with what survivors described as chilling efficiency. Unlike other recent attacks, we don’t know if this was stochastic terrorism because we have no idea what motivated the shooter. Perhaps most upsetting is the fact that several people who survived this attack were also present for last year’s shooting in Nevada; we now have several people who have survived multiple gun massacres and one victim who didn’t make it out of the second one.
- Camp Fire Horror Stories.* Thousand Oaks also had a second tragedy only hours after the shooting, because it was one of several cities asked to evacuate ahead of the worst forest fires in recent California history. Unsurprisingly, Trump responded to the tragedy by blaming bad forest management and threatening to pull federal funding, because he’s never met a low road he’s not interested in taking.
- Immigration Updates. I know I say this practically every week, but it was another bad week for immigration. Trump signed a proclamation that illegally and dramatically limits people’s ability to seek asylum, which has been available to people fleeing credible threats to their safety under international treaty for over sixty years. (This was challenged in the courts near-instantaneously for very obvious reason.) ICE is claiming it’s not responsible for sexual abuses of detainees if they ‘consent’ to sexual encounters with staff, because nothing says “informed and enthusiastic consent” quite like “you might be let out of a literal cage if you agree to sex with your jailer.” And Motel 6 settled a lawsuit about routinely calling ICE on its Latinx guests.
- Election Highs.* Despite some uncertainty, there’s plenty from Election Day to applaud. The Democrats definitely took the House with 32 gained seats and counting; similarly, we know that the Senate remains in GOP hands (currently at 47–51, though two states still wait on final results). All told, we mostly saw major wins for Democrats despite the Senate results, and major wins for women in general. Referendum highlights include Florida voting to restore voting rights to people who have successfully re-entered society after completing a felony sentence; Massachusetts voting to retain civil rights for trans residents; and Louisiana voting to require unanimous juries for felony convictions. There were also a huge number of national historic firsts, such as the first Muslim female reps in Michigan and Minnesota; the first female Native American reps in Kansas and New Mexico (one of whom is also openly gay); and the first openly gay governor in Colorado. And to those of you reading this and wondering, ‘Wait, wasn’t Colorado where the Masterpiece Cakeshop case happened,’ yup, it sure was! So that guy who refused to make a wedding cake now has a gay governor, which is a slice of schadenfreude I’m definitely gonna carry everywhere.
- Recent Court Resilience. There were several different promising court cases this week. The Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court injunction prohibiting the Trump administration from improperly ending the DACA program, which the administration plans to send before the Supreme Court. A judge in Montana blocked the Keystone pipeline from moving forward. And in Maryland, a district court judge held that the emoluments lawsuit could proceed because Trump dared people to sue him via tweet. Hey, at least his tweets have proven good for something!
So that’s what I have for this week, all three weeks’ worth of it. For making it through, you deserve this all-trombone cover of Bohemian Rhapsody and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully less) 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 final updates on the election!