This week had unusually little active news, comparatively speaking, and it makes me nervous — I know we had a holiday, but that doesn’t always slow things down these days. Given the upcoming impeachment schedule, it seems safe to conclude this is the calm before the storm. Let’s enjoy it while we can, before we’re all back in the desk fort.
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a tax return! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Constitutional Crisis Corners:
Most of this week’s Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo was about anticipated deadlines, which are just not as exciting as live testimony. That said, there are still several things to know:
- Upcoming Schedule Notes.* This past week may have been a bit quiet, but there’s a lot to watch in the upcoming week as we enter a more public phase of investigation. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold its first impeachment hearing on Wednesday, after the Intelligence Committee report circulates internally today and votes on the report’s release tomorrow. The Judiciary Committee is giving the administration until December 6 to decide whether they want to present defending evidence. Since an appeals court has agreed to stay enforcement of the executive immunity case, there’s nothing forcing them to participate — so it’s not surprising that the administration has already declined in the most obnoxious way possible by the time I write this, a full six days before the deadline.
- Existing Impeachment Updates.* Despite the slow week, there were a few updates worth noting. Notably, the New York Times reminded us that Trump knew about the whistleblower complaint before his administration released aid to Ukraine. This is important because it implies that he already knew what he was being accused of when he had his “no quid pro quo” phone call, which was his main defense to the allegations. (Of course, Trump denies this fact, but since he literally lies twelve times per day, that isn’t exactly persuasive.) There were also deposition transcripts released that point a major finger at the Office of Management and Budget, where two officials apparently resigned because the office was withholding aid to Ukraine and there were all kinds of structural shenanigans in play.
- Administrative Anger Synopsis.* Speaking of Trump lies, he’s spent a lot of time this week apparently forgetting every order he ever gave Guiliani as more damning Ukraine information comes to light, going so far as to point-blank answer questions with “You know, Rudy has other clients, other than me…” This, of course, makes perfect sense read alongside the Republican report issued this week, which asserts that Trump did order an investigation but it was legal because Ukraine is sketchy. Meanwhile, our current Secretary of State is spreading the debunked theory that Ukraine hacked our 2016 election, so that’s encouraging.
This week’s Disregard of Governing Norms were not impeachment-flavored for the first time in months, but they were still deeply annoying. Here’s what I have for you:
- Fake Spying Claims. It’s not due out for another week, but news outlets are reporting that a forthcoming Department of Justice inspector general report is expected to find that the FBI never spied on Trump during his campaign. This, of course, does raise the question of why current Attorney General William Barr testified otherwise to Congress, if it never happened. Needless to say, this doesn’t inspire confidence in Barr, as last time I checked it is in fact against the rules of professional conduct to straight-up lie to tribunals.
- Trump Oddities. We had a lot of off-the-wall behavior from Trump and Co this week that wasn’t quite constitutional crisis territory, but was plenty obnoxious. First there were Trump Jr’s instructions to the GOP base that they should pick fights with liberals at the Thanksgiving table, which wasn’t a thing in our house but my condolences if it showed up in yours. Then there was Trump’s strange trip to Afghanistan over Thanksgiving, where he claimed to be reopening talks with the Taliban and posed for selfies with stationed troops. Finally, more Stephen Miller emails got leaked, reminding people that we should maybe not have a white supremacist setting immigration policy.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- 2020 Campaign Weirdness. There was a lot of campaign strangeness this week, but for once, it was mostly Republican candidates in the news: 1) The Texas GOP accidentally sent the Democrats their talking points (which, embarrassingly, is not even the first time this year this has happened); 2) Trump intimated he wants his pardoned war criminals to campaign with him, apparently seeking that “I’m not just the President, I’m also a client” vibe; 3) Ilhan Omar’s GOP opponent got banned from Twitter for suggesting that Omar should be hanged; and 4) Trump has announced he won’t let Bloomberg News into his events because Mike Bloomberg announced he’s running in 2020.
- Tax Return Stall. Shortly before the holiday, the Supreme Court issued a very short opinion that stayed implementation of a recent appeals court order regarding Trump’s tax returns. The decision effectively maintains the status quo while the Trump administration prepares a brief due Thursday, which will either convince SCOTUS to hear the case or make them toss it out the door. The interim decision isn’t designed to be any kind of final decision, and is just a pause while SCOTUS decides next steps — it ends immediately if they skip over the case, or ends when the judgment issues if they do decide to hear it. That said, the pause might be an early indication that SCOTUS wants to hear this case.
- Recent Court Resilience. Despite the iffy news above, we did have at least one good case this week. The House Oversight and Reform Committee is suing William Barr and Wilbur Ross over their 2020 census shenanigans, trying to get the subpoenas for information enforced. If this seems delayed to you, that’s because it is — the committee is using the lack of absolute immunity determined by the recent case brought by Don McGahn as a new basis for suit.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I swear I double-checked that there wasn’t more. For making it through, you deserve this video of a man and his raven 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 your leftover pie!