National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 49 (December 22–28)
It’s a quieter news week this time, especially compared to last week’s impeachment news. Frankly, I think we all needed a quiet moment, so I’m not sad about the calm–hopefully it’s not heralding a bigger storm.
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 windmill!–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:
Even with the relative peace and quiet we did see some Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo chaos, which I have separated out into wacky Dem proposals, GOP uneasiness, and Trump’s real-time witness tampering. Here’s what I have for you:
- Democrat Planning Sessions.* As the cold war between Pelosi and McConnell stretches out another week, Democrats are coming up with contingency plans, and some of them are more out there than others. On the more traditional side, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer took one look at the giant pile of incriminating emails released last weekend and announced that he wants more of the House records released–and given how much obstruction we’ve seen already, it’s reasonable to assume he might not get witnesses. Meanwhile, counsel for the House in the Don McGahn case is raising the specter of a second impeachment if they end up with more incriminating evidence of obstruction of justice. Presumably this is also a general Plan B if Mitch McConnell successfully kills the Senate trial, but honestly we’re so far off the rails already that it’s hard to even know.
- GOP Uneasiness.* As the week went on, we saw some interesting murmurings from the GOP side side of the aisle. GOP senator Lisa Murkowski went on the record as “disturbed” by Mitch McConnell’s cavalier coordination with the White House on the White House’s own impeachment, and some pundits and at least one Senate Democrat seem to think that where there’s disgruntled smoke, there’s concealed dumpster fires. And even Lindsey Graham appeared to walk back some of his deep-throated support of the White House in the past week, looking at recent articles about Rudy Giuliani’s sketchy back channels and publicly worrying that his information might be “Russian propaganda.” But it’s a giant jump to go from that to the idea that some GOP Senators would defect if they were allowed to vote in secret, particularly when Trump still wields so much power in the GOP itself. The GOP are like jockeys racing a rabid horse because the rabies makes it go faster–in the stable they may say, “This horse has a contagious disease and keeps trying to eat the stone floor,” but on the racetrack all we get is “Excuse me, how dare you inquire about Mouth Foam.”
- Trump Witness Tampering. If the House Democrats were hoping for more obstruction of justice evidence, Christmas came more-on-less on time for them in the form of Trump’s twitter account. Over the week, his account featured everything from asking why the House was ‘allowed’ to impeach him to insulting Nancy Pelosi to retweeting a bot account sharing a December 3 Washington Examiner article claiming to out the whistleblower’s identity. (I will not be sharing any publications that include the article, by the way, because outing a whistleblower is not the NNR way.)
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Trump Doesn’t Understand Wind.*This one technically happened at the very beginning of the week, when we were still being inundated by actual news, but it was too strange not to share today. In the middle of a rant about windmills delivered to conservative students, Trump informed the crowd, “I never understood wind.” (The Washington Post published an interesting article trying to analyze the bizarre speech, but even that author notes, “I was honestly a bit baffled despite priding myself on my ability to translate Trump’s energy-related rhetoric.”) I’m sure this will become a more streamlined soundbite eventually. But for now, it’s comforting to assume that much like the rest of us, wind never understood Donald Trump, either.
- California Privacy Law Tango.* You may have seen several websites email you about new privacy policies this week and wondered what was up–when I got the same email from Groupon, Spotify, Patreon, Paypal, and Mailchimp, I certainly did. It turns out that there’s a new privacy law in California that goes into effect January 1, which ostensibly will let consumers see what data is collected and stop companies from selling it. But since it’s basically the first law of its type and also has been amended several times, nobody’s quite sure what it requires. So we may see some growing pains in nation-wide companies on this issue.
- More Immigration Updates. Despite being a relatively slow news week, we still saw immigration news, because of course we did. News broke that ICE is already reopening Dreamer deportation cases, despite the fact that the Supreme Court only heard the DACA case last month and probably won’t issue a decision for another six months. This is horrifying, because DACA is still in effect while the opinion is pending, and literally the entire point of DACA is a promise of no deportation for its recipients. CNN also reports that a record number of immigration judges are quitting because the administration keeps trying to shove bad policy down their throats. Given the rate this administration is going, those judges probably can’t expect a new approach anytime soon.
- Antisemitic Violence. Five people were stabbed in a rabbi’s home on Saturday in what appears to be a hate crime, the latest in a really rough timein the area for antisemitic violence. It has been a difficult year for antisemitic sentiment in general, in fact, with national incidents rising at an alarming rate since the Tree of Life shooting in late 2018. That said, I would be remiss if I did not address a statement issued by a Department of Homeland Security official, who complained that the perpetrator is “the U.S. citizen son of an illegal alien.” While violence generally has absolutely nothing to do with immigration status, and immigrants in fact commit crimes at lower rates than citizens, this type of statement connecting antisemitism to people of color and especiallyhigh-profileimmigrants of color has seen a lot of use from the far right in the past few months-even in instances where the speaker is absolutely right and simply stating facts. It is compounded by recent high-profile antisemitic crimes involving perpetrators of color, which emboldens unfair targeting of other populations. The threat of violence against Jewish people is real, but using it to target immigrants of color is not acceptable, and we need to condemn it.
- Recent School Resilience. A district in Virginia became the first school district in the nation to give students one day off per year for civic engagement, which given our current political environment is likely very appreciated. The process involves filling out a form two days ahead of time, to discourage random skiving, and was inspired by student action after the Parkland shooting and the international climate change walkout. If done responsibly, it’s an excellent learning opportunity, and I hope more districts consider adopting it!
So that’s what I have for this week, even though it’s more bite-sized than normal. For reading during the holidays, you deserve this list of interesting (positive!) 2019 firsts and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with what will almost certainly be more 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 resolutions for 2020!