National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 25 (July 7–13)
My sense this week is that much like my car, we’re all out of gas right now. It’s okay to rest and refuel, folks — in fact, it’s important, because this dystopia is an ultra-marathon and we all get tired sometimes. Take the time you need and come back ready to fight. (In the meantime, sloth party at my place!)
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 Twitter tantrum! — 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 actually a pretty quiet week for the Russia Investigation, all things considered, but we did see a couple of things. Here’s what happened:
- Criminal Contempt News.* The House will vote this week on whether to hold William Barr and Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress. It’s a move full of sound and fury but likely signifying nothing, since there aren’t any real-world consequences for it. Still, I’ll keep you posted.
- Waiting for Mueller. We’ve all spent a lot of time waiting for Muellertime like we live in a Beckett play, and the House Democrats have apparently decided to lean into it. After subpoenaing him for an emoluments case, the House announced an additional week delay to allow for a longer and more thorough information-gathering process. So we’ll see where we are in a week, I guess. (We always find something, eh Didi?)
We did see a couple of bizarre actions on the Disregard of Governing Norms front, in contrast. Here’s what happened:
- Racist Trump Tantrums. Sunday morning, the president went on an aggressively racist twitter rant against ‘The Squad’ of congressional freshmen, who just so happen to all be women of color. The first rant suggested they “go back” to the “crime-infested” countries they were “originally from” (and never mind that three out of four were born here in the U.S.). This prompted a rare moment of solidarity in the Democratic party, along with another round of Twitter refusing to enforce their own policies. Trump, meanwhile, ratcheted up the stochastic terrorism by insisting that the House freshmen “hate our country,” the mainstream media struggled with using the word ‘racist,’ and the GOP shuffled their collective feet and mumbled excuses.
- Census Fight Continues. We’re in a second week of weird census news. After two judges rejected the administration’s attempt to sub in new attorneys on the case, Trump looked like he was conceding the point a second time, saying he’ll just get the data from existing records. But some experts (including me) think he’ll try for a Round 3, especially because he’s considering throwing over his buddy Wilbur Ross — so I’ll keep folks posted.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Epstein/Acosta Mess. After Jeffrey Epstein was arrested for his involvement in sex trafficking of minors, people began to question the sweetheart deal that was put in place for him a decade prior under Alexander Acosta — who went on to become our Secretary of Labor. Continuing the sketch parade, Trump had publicly supported Epstein’s behavior in the past, was accused of raping a teen at one of his parties, and publicly praised Acosta in response to growing calls for the secretary to resign. Nancy Pelosi refused to consider impeaching Acosta (big shock there), saying that Trump will handle it if he wants to, and Attorney General Barr also refused to recuse from the inevitable investigation. Around the same time that allegations of witness tampering started coming out in the Epstein case, Acosta finally just resigned. (Personally, I think he was probably scapegoated to keep everyone from looking too closely at Trump’s role in the whole thing.)
- Weird Health Law News. This was a weird, bad week for healthcare news, I tell you what. First a federal judge blocked a Trump order that would have required pharmaceutical companies to disclose how much their drugs cost in their advertisements — no, I don’t know what the catch was, either, so I regretfully report that we may have to be sad about the administration’s loss here. Meanwhile, a federal appeals court also heard arguments on the court case challenging the Affordable Care Act, which would potentially create all kinds of chaos if the lower court decision is affirmed. So there’s a lot of uncertainty and I’ll keep an eye on this.
- 2020 Candidate Exchange Program. Only a day after Eric Swalwell dropped out of the Democratic primary and pledged to run for Congressional re-election, random billionaire Tom Steyer announced his own candidacy on a climate action platform. Thank goodness he was here — otherwise, we might have had a primary field with fewer than two dozen candidates…
- Even More Hellish Immigration News. After threatening that more ICE raids would occur this weekend, the administration left everybody to stew in their own anxiety, arresting a few people in a handful of cities but mostly just using a culture of fear to keep people on edge. Meanwhile, the camps remained in the news, as Mike Pence visited and said how great CBP staff were while more reports of officers sexually assaulting kids trickled in. Then to cap off the week, Trump announced he wants to effectively end asylum at the southern border, which is definitely very illegal and likely to be successfully challenged in our court systems. That said, the back-and-forth created by decrees followed by legal challenges can create a lot of difficulties for asylum seekers, who need to apply within one year of arriving and will be stuck in limbo until it’s overturned — this is likely to mess up a lot of people’s claims in the short term, which is probably the point.
- Emoluments Loss. An appeals court blocked one of the emoluments cases from going forward this week, claiming that Maryland and DC had no standing to sue on this issue. (Incredibly, one of the three judges on the panel was appointed by Trump, which explains why I can’t follow the legal logic here at all.) Thankfully, there’s still at least one emoluments case that has been allowed to proceed, so this isn’t the last we’ll see of this issue.
- Recent Court Resilience. A federal appeals court ruled this week that Trump cannot legally block people he disagrees with on Twitter, because it violates the First Amendment. (Of course, two dudes immediately turned around and sued AOC under the same legal theory, but that’s a cost of doing business in 2019.)
- Champion Celebrants. When the US Women’s soccer team won the World Cup, beating the Dutch team 2–0 to secure America’s second consecutive World Cup and the team’s fourth win ever. Members of the team used their platform to raise awareness of the class-action lawsuit they filed in March against the U.S. Soccer Federation, citing gender discrimination in pay and support. The parties allegedly reached an agreement last month, but the USWNT players brought the lawsuit back to the spotlight by using copies of the suit as victory confetti. Because they are soccer baller.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve these calves with knitted earmuffs 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 our interior!