National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 47 (December 8–14)
Welp, another week of bonkers impeachment stuff, with some bonus other bizarre news while we’re at it. I would say the news is getting repetitive, but to be honest it remains so larger-than-life bizarre that it’s still kind of fascinating to watch. (Here’s hoping next week is quieter.)
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 House floor vote!–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 Corner:
We made it out the other side of the Judiciary Committee, which means Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo is headed to the main House floor. Here’s a quick summary of its pathway:
- Tail End of Judiciary Committee.*After two articles of impeachment were issued on Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee began an extraordinary multi-day feud that showcased a staggering amount of GOP bad faith, some nasty ad hominem diversions on both sides, and more instances of the word ‘sham’ than I ever needed in my life. By 11:00PM on Thursday, at which point it became apparent that the GOP was trying to force a middle-of-the-night vote, the chairman adjourned the chamber and told everybody to try again Friday morning. Then on Friday morning the chairman immediately called a vote, and the committee passed both articles of impeachment along party lines. By Monday morning, apparently spurred by the repeated GOP arguments that Trump had committed no crimes and therefore couldn’t be impeached, the Judiciary Committee heads released a 658-page impeachment report for House review.
- So What Now? At the time that I write this, a report has just been issued and the House floor vote is expected on Wednesday. (Given the current makeup of the House, it seems very likely to passalongparty lines from there.) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are already getting embroiled in a Senate clash of wills, despite the fact that impeachment hasn’t landed there yet. McConnell is promising “total coordination” with the guy they’re supposed to be have on trial, which quite understandably has Democrats pretty uneasy; meanwhile, Schumer is creating a witness wish list. And Trump is apparently warming to the idea of a long trial, probably because he knows McConnell and the rest of the Senate GOP will allow him a full dog-and-pony show.
- Giuliani Life Choice Coda. With everything in the mix above, you’d think that people under scrutiny would not, y’know, do more crime things in public. But common sense has apparently never met Rudy Giuliani, who did in fact continue to do the crime things in plain sight. After he returned from last week’s trip to Ukraine, Giuliani headed straight to the White House, presumably offering some more of his free legal advice to Trump (which was also in the news this past week). But he also apparently is making a documentary of his own crime times, which according to Trump he plans to give to Congress, so the visit could have been about that as well. You know, occasionally I think about the fact that Giuliani used to be a criminal prosecutor, and then my brain tries to eat itself.
We also saw a handful of miscellaneous Disregard of Governing Norms stories this week, though impeachment really had center stage. Here’s what I have for you:
- To Russia with Love. Trump may not have met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky yet, but he sure met with top Russian diplomat Sergei Lavrov this week–and refused to let anybody else into the room for it. This is extra awesome, by the way, because the last time he met with Lavrov behind closed doors in 2017 he disclosed classified information. So that’s definitely not concerning as we gear up for an election Russia is trying to sabotage–although Lavrov says elections didn’t come up at all when they met.
- Be Best, Greta Thunberg. Trump was also in the news this week for attacking sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg again, presumably because she was named TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year and he is uncomfortable when we are not about him. Thunberg, illustrating why we stan royalty, immediately used his Twitter attack to clap back at him. Meanwhile, Melania Trump, who literally has a campaign about cyberbullying, publicly differentiated between Thunberg and her own child, noting that Thunberg “travels the globe giving speeches” like that somehow voids basic rules of Internet etiquette. As many outlets have noted, this is particularly annoying given her tweet about the Barron Trump non-controversy last week. But more to the point, the President of the United States is using a public platform to launch unprovoked attacks at international activists, and if we weren’t all living in the Trump Org Sponsored Bad Place that would be a major diplomatic misstep–especially with the recent United Nations climate change summit going as poorly as it did.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Disturbing Court Cases. There were several court cases that gained news attention this week for being, well, legally weird and disturbing (to use a technical term). The ACLU is trying to get the Supreme Court to hear a case involving a police officer in Louisiana who successfully sued the head of the Black Lives Matter movement–not for incitement or direct violence, but because the 5th Circuit decided merely being in charge of the movement meant he should be held liable for somebody else throwing a rock. This is pretty bizzonkers from a legal perspective, and I doubt it’s a coincidence that one of the three judges was a Trump appointee. Meanwhile, Wisconsin was in the news because a judge ordered the purge of over 200,000 voters because they didn’t respond to unsolicited and targeted mail asking them to reverify their address. (I’m not a voting rights expert, but that strikes me as pretty egregious.) And the Supreme Court made a lot of people nervous, including me, by agreeing to hear arguments on Donald Trump’s taxes in the upcoming year.
- Boris Johnson Borealis.* The UK had an upset (and upsetting) election this past week, with Boris Johnson’s conservative Tory party celebrating a clear majority while Jeremy Corbyn’s more progressive Labour party suffered major losses. This is disturbing, particularly given Johnson’s recent incompetency and uncertain Brexit plans–but it can be partially contextualized by a first-past-the-post election structure, gains within the Scottish National Party and Green party, and growing dissent about Corbyn’s leadership. Unsurprisingly, Jeremy Corbyn is stepping down, and we may be looking at another bid for Scottish independence. Since the original Brexit vote was viewed as a bellwether for U.S. politics, it’s a disturbing and noteworthy development.
- Painful Immigration Updates. We haven’t covered immigration issues in the roundup for a while, and there’s a fair amount to track, so I think it’s a good time to remind folks of some ongoing stories. The administration’s latest attack on indigent immigration, which attempts to price lawful permanent residents out of citizenship among other other major problems, is still pending–and the comment period has been extended to December 30th. If you believe this is unjust, I really encourage you to tell the government about it; there are some great click-to-commentresources out there that you can use if you’re unsure where to start! Border Patrol was also in the news for refusing to let doctors in to administer flu vaccines after several children died of flu in custody, which resulted in a three-day mass protest and four doctors’ arrests. And Buzzfeed ran an article about rampant medical negligence in ICE custody.
- Americans Lack Running Water.* The Washington Post ran a story this week on the two million Americans who still don’t have running water, basing its reporting on a data analysis issued last month by the U.S. Water Alliance. It’s a civic planning issue that disproportionately impacts Native American people, who are nineteen times more likely to lack access than the general population, though Puerto Rico still has major infrastructure problems also. Though the report was issued last month, it’s encouraging to see it making its way to large outlets like the Washington Post, as it’s an issue that really should receive more attention.
- Recent Legislative Resilience. There was some decent legislative news this week. Kentucky reinstated voting rights to people who have completed nonviolent felony sentences, leaving us with only one remaining state in the country that enforces lifetime disenfranchisement for this issue. And Congress appears to have finalized an actual spending deal, four whole days before a shutdown would commence–and the bill includes $25M in gun research, which is an issue that hasn’t seen funding in over 20 years. Nothing is final until the signed version is on Trump’s desk, so there’s still plenty of time for this to go awry, but we look to be in much better shape than we were this time last year.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think it was more than enough. For making it through, you deserve Sesame Street characters’ impressions of each other 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 hours in the day!