National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 23 (June 23–29)
Despite the conclusion of Pride, this week’s news isn’t exactly rainbows and sunshine — the thunderstorms yesterday felt like appropriate ambiance. Things are pretty grim but we’ll get through this, if we take action and just keep swimming. I’m here if anybody needs anything.
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 subpoena! — 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:
We have a bit more than average Russia Investigation news, and most of it is fascinating in one way or another. Here’s what I have for you:
- Mueller and Conway Subpoenas.* Both Robert Mueller and Kellyanne Conway were in the news for subpoenas in the past week, with apparently mixed results. Mueller will testify in an open session with several House committees on July 17, having clearly decided to comply once a subpoena was at play — and immediately following this announcement, Trump started accusing him of crimes. Meanwhile, Kellyanne Conway no-showed for a hearing on Wednesday as part of a much larger tug-of-war between the administration and the House, so the House responded by voting to subpoena her. We can expect this to be much messier than the process with Mueller, though Conway has not yet issued a public statement as I write this.
- Trump and the Russian Investigation (Again).* Trump brought up all kinds of things relating back to the Russia investigation when he met with Putin at G20, from joking about Putin’s election interference to comments about “getting rid” of journalists. But while he was in Japan joking about it, Jimmy Carter was saying that he thinks Trump didn’t actually win the 2016 election. (For those of you playing the home game, Carter saying this is no joke; the Carter Center has been doing election work for thirty years and he can be considered an expert on this topic.)
We saw a couple of Disregard of Governing Norms stories this week, and they’re about what we’ve come to expect — which is its own problem. Here’s what happened:
- Trump Transition Team “Red Flags.” It’s been almost an afterthought, but leaked documents about the Trump transition team were in the news this week. Apparently Pence outsourced vetting to the RNC, who had all kinds of things to say about members of the Trump team — many of whom went on to join the cabinet and were eventually forced out due to scandal. It’s yet another reminder of how many different ways the Trump administration is pushing our boundaries on what is acceptable government behavior.
- Trump Assault Conversation Continues. As we mentioned last week, the prominent writer who accused 45 sexually assaulting her noted in the piece that he had already been accused of such acts sixteen times to no effect. After Trump resorted to saying she ‘wasn’t his type’ in an attempt to discredit her as well, friends of Carroll’s came forward with more information about their recollections from the time of the event, and Carroll reiterated her observation that “nothing happens” when people report. And she’s pretty much right; as RollingStone reminds us, none of these women have seen any formal inquiries result from sharing their stories — even though the first allegations happened before he was President. That’s probably why Trump feels comfortable using defenses like “she’s not my type” (as opposed to “I don’t assault people”), and when you stop and think about that, it’s pretty disturbing.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Iran Tensions Simmer on Low Heat.* Tensions with Iran were reduced to a simmer after Trump drew back from the brink of attack, satisfying himself by issuing sanctions instead. That said, the relative calm is not for lack of yelling on Trump’s part, because he sure did post blustering tweets about how he would “obliterate” Iran if they stepped a toe out of line. It’s more likely things have quieted because Europe and China are backing away slowly, ignoring Trump’s sanctions in an effort to encourage deescalation from Iran — which seems to be working, for now at least.
- Dem Debates Take 1.* The first two Dem debates happened in the past week, and, well…they happened. Takes on who performed how are all over the map, but early polling suggests that Warren and Harris did particularly well, with Harris’s decision to challenge Biden on busing paying off for her. (A few others performed well in initial polling as well.) Conversely, Biden suffered for his lack of preparedness on the busing issue, or at least for his mention of states’ rights and self-censorship. You can (and should) read fact-checking reports on both debates online, though I’d steer clear of most of the op-eds, and we’ll all know more when we learn who qualifies for the next round at the end of July.
- Twitter Gets Upstaged. Twitter announced this week that they’re going to start putting a warning label on Trump tweets (okay, they said ‘tweets in the public interest,’ but we all know what they meant). They also said that tweets so labeled will be downrated so that they circulate less. And all this would be noteworthy, or at least moderately exciting, if they didn’t announce this in the same week that the popular knitting social media site Ravelry announced a straight-up ban of all support of Donald Trump from their platform, saying that supporting him is an open expression of white supremacy and that they cannot truly have an all-inclusive space if they permit said speech. So, y’know, you might want to up your game, Twitter.
- Even More Hellish Immigration News. Immigration news remains awful, and this week comes with its own content warning. Members of the House visited a CBP facility in El Paso and observed unsafe living conditions, saying that one woman was told by CBP to drink out of a toilet. Frankly this is kind of easy to believe, because on the same day ProPublica reported excerpts from a secret CBP facebook group so dehumanizing that it’s honestly nauseating, and the Inspector General reported that CBP agents are arming themselves at border stations because they fear riots. News did break that the interim head of CBP is stepping down, but it’s not clear whether anything will actually be done to improve things — Congress passed the worst possible version of a humanitarian aid bill this week, which puts virtually no conditions on the $4.6B they’re handing over to CBP, the Department of Defense, and ICE. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the DACA case next year, and that’s vaguely terrifying given how they handled the past week’s cases (but I’ll get to that below). And ICE arrested a student in apparent retaliation for reading a poem about them in public. About the best thing I can say on this front is that federal judges are still giving the administration hell, with one judge blocking construction on the wall and another ordering CBP to allow medical providers into the camps. There are so many things that we can and should be doing to address all this news, and in particular I want to draw folks’ attention to national #ClosetheCamps protests happening tomorrow. As always, I’m happy to remain a resource on this.
- Horrifying Alabama Case.* In addition to the SCOTUS cases mentioned above, Alabama was in the news for indicting a pregnant woman shot in the stomach and charging her with manslaughter. Notably, the actual shooter was not indicted for anything, with prosecutors claiming that “the only true victim in this was the unborn baby.” Reproductive rights advocates are saying that this is an early example of pregnancy criminalization, and they are absolutely right — we knew to predict this type of thing, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
- SCOTUS Nightmares. The Supreme Court issued the last decisions of the term this week, and they range from “unfortunate” to “truly horrorshow.” The most coverage has gone to the court punting on issues of gerrymandering, saying it’s a political question and therefore ‘beyond the reach of the federal courts.’ This will leave several states with severe gerrymandering in place (although some have separate challenges at the state level) so it has very real political implications, and it’s understandable that it is receiving this level of attention. And the citizenship question is staying off of the 2020 census (at least for now), which is moderately good news even though the decision is a chaotic mess. But I want to spend a few minutes on a case that got very little attention, but I genuinely think is indicative of serious issues with our system: With very little fanfare, the court shot from the hip to overturn a basic search and seizure protection that was only established in 2013. The decision is legal gibberish that completely abandons several basic principles of law, including the principle that judges don’t rule on things that were waived as arguments — the government in this case literally conceded that the warrant exception created didn’t apply and the court created it anyway. This is a big deal, even though it impacts such a marginalized population — arguably because it impacts such a marginalized population — when it’s a clear sign that the institution’s fidelity to itself is breaking down.
- Scoring Goals Under Pressure. Soccer midfielder and all-around rockstar Megan Rapinoe announced this week that she would definitely not be going to the White House when her team won their upcoming World Cup quarterfinal match, except her version maybe contained more expletives. She then proceeded to score two amazing goals in the quarterfinals and pose like a purple-haired god at the jeering French crowd, which is the kind of self-possessed big energy I’m here for in 2019. After the game, Rapinoe reiterated that she wouldn’t retract anything she said about Trump — except the expletive, because it made her mom sad. Then just for extra excellence, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez invited Rapinoe to tour the House on Twitter, which Rapinoe accepted. With a party emoji.
- Recent Court Resilience. Despite the SCOTUS news above, there were some good federal cases this week as well. In addition to the immigration cases listed, a federal judge allowed the emoluments case against Trump to go forward again, thwarting yet another attempt by this administration to make the unjust enrichment suits go away. I’m sure they’ll try again, but it’s still good to see the courts remain firm on this.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this cat in a sailor suit and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) 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 better news from the border!