National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 34 (September 8–14)
It has been another long week, and increasingly it’s easy to forget there was ever any other kind. Here’s hoping that next week is better than this one, because I’m here to tell you I prefer fewer constitutional crises with my breakfast cereal.
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 Judicial Committee member! — 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’re starting to see more movement on the Russia Investigation, though as with all things we see pushback whenever we see progress. Here’s what I have right now:
- Impeachment Investigation Update.* As predicted at the top of the week, the House Judiciary panel did pass a resolution to officially start its impeachment investigation on Thursday. Needless to say, Nancy Pelosi was not impressed, but the committee is already negotiating Jeff Sessions’ testimony, so that train is pretty clearly leaving the station whether she’s on it or not.
- McCabe is the New Comey. Apparently not satisfied with the Inspector General’s report on James Comey, the Justice Department announced this week that they are authorizing an indictment of Andrew McCabe, because Reasons. Given the overt political connotations of this move, as well as the larger history, we should definitely keep an eye on it.
There was also a fair amount of Disregard of Governing Norms, and some of it is pretty extreme. Here’s what I have for you:
- Kavanaugh Hell Comeback.* After the New York Times released a new piece on Brett Kavanaugh’s history of sexual assault at Yale, his sketchy past regained the public eye — and more to the point, the gaps in the FBI investigation from last summer did too. In light of the new allegations, Trump is saying the DOJ should ‘rescue’ him and Democrats are saying that Kavanaugh should be impeached. It’s honestly kind of an open question what happens next, especially with a Democrat-controlled House.
- This Week’s Trump Malfeasance. In a shocking turn of events, Trump was horrifying again this week. First there was more news about his behavior at the G-7 Summit, where he called the Egyptian President “my favorite dictator.” And he also called homeless populations in California “a disgrace to our country,” apparently while considering just razing tent cities as a solution to the problem. For the icing on the rotted cake, he’s also considering monitoring people with mental health issues because something something NRA funding. (And this is where I remind the audience that folks living with mental health issues are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than to perpetrate it — the most reliable marker for gun violence is a history of domestic violence, not mental health issues.)
- Yet More White House Staff Shuffle. One of this week’s weirder stories is Trump tweet-firing national security adviser John Bolton, which Bolton claims happened just after he tried to resign — and neither side is backing down about whose idea it was. At any rate, outlets are also reporting that Trump has been calling former adviser H.R. McMaster and telling him he misses him, so I guess we’ll see if he’s offered the job again.
- North Carolina Remembers 9/11.* The North Carolina GOP was in the news yet again for sketchy practices, only a week or two after the latest judicial order to fix their incredibly gerrymandered maps. This time, the charming practice in question was holding a vote during a 9/11 memorial service so that they could override the governor’s budget veto while all the Dems were elsewhere. (Before you ask, yes, that is the same governor they tried to legislatively hamstring before he even took office.) Since North Carolina’s government has often been a bellwether for what kind of chaos we can expect on the national level, we should pay attention to this kind of cheap tactic.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Purdue Declares Bankruptcy.* Purdue Pharma — the major pharmaceutical company widely regarded as responsible for sparking the opiate crisis — filed for bankruptcy this week. This may be an attempt to get out of the $1.2B settlement they agreed to a week or two ago, but it also might simply be true that their many lawsuits have bankrupted them. Either way, it almost certainly marks the end of the company, which brings grim satisfaction to many people touched by the opiate epidemic.
- Your Weekly Immigration Hell. The Supreme Court issued a ruling this week on an asylum-related injunction, and Elena Kagan and I are fighting now. In a 7–2 decision, they gave the Trump administration authority to resume denying asylum applications to people who traveled through Mexico without applying there while the case makes its way through the court system. This new rule violates existing federal legislation, and it’s going to get people killed, and I’m honestly really upset about it.
- Synagogue Fire. A historic 119-year-old synagogue burned down this week in Minnesota, marking the destruction of the last historic prayer center of its kind in the region. Reports differ on whether it was arson or an accident, but the main suspect is not being charged with a hate crime. Even so, the fire is a painful loss felt more keenly because of the political atmosphere of 2019.
- Stores Take a Stand (continued). Modern businesses again expressed opinions about gun law reform this week, this time with a letter to Congress signed by CEOs of 145 different companies. The letter called the Senate’s current inaction “simply unacceptable,” urging them to enact existing House bills requiring expanded background checks and stronger red flag laws. We’ll see if anything comes of this, but even if it doesn’t, the sheer number of companies indicates that public sentiment is not in McConnell’s court here.
- Recent Court Resilience. This was a good week for New York court cases, I tell you what. Another emoluments suit survived a standing challenge this week, with the Second Circuit appeals court reinstated a case the district court had dismissed. Meanwhile, the Manhattan District Attorney has subpoenaed Trump’s tax documents from the past eight years pursuant to a criminal investigation of the Stormy Daniels payment. This is a big deal, because the Congressional subpoenas are tied up with lawsuits and the Manhattan case potentially has a lot more jurisdiction to obtain them. I’m excited to see what happens on this!
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think we can all agree that it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this excited pup going down a slide 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 more ice cream, cause we’re gonna need it!