National News Roundup: Year 3, Week 51 (January 5–11)
Well, this week was… a little bit calmer? Not for me personally, sadly–but at least the news features less literal and figurative fire. We take progress where we can get it in this household.
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 campaign staffer!–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:
At the time that I type this, Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo is still paused in a tug-o-war but moving towards some kind of dissatisfactory resolution. Here’s a quick summary of the uncertainty:
- Congressional Tug-o-War Slows.* Mitch McConnell made it clear this week that he was moving forward with an impeachment trial pretty much no matter what else was going on, prompting Nancy Pelosi to flinch first and signal that she’ll send the articles along this week. Given the larger mess here, the House won’t have much time to prepare for said trial, which might be why Adam Schiff doesn’t want to call John Bolton despite the latter’s offer to testify if subpoenaed. Then again, it might also be because Trump said he would block Bolton’s testimony. We’ll see whether we end up with any witnesses at all; since the motion for that only requires a simple majority, there may be truth to the rumor that Senate Democrats are pulling together the numbers to force the issue. Needless to say, we can expect an eventful week but none of it has happened yet.
I’ve decided to just file the entirety of Iran updates this week under Disregard of Governing Norms, because that’s more-or-less what we’re seeing here. These are the updates:
- Iran Updates (cont).* After Trump threatened to bomb Iranian cultural centers at the top of the week, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper thankfully walked that back. Nonetheless, on Tuesday, Iran fired missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq from inside Iran’s borders. It was a tense few days, but Trump was surprisingly sanguine in response, likely because he believed there were no U.S. casualties, and indicated by midweek that he would keep his response to economic sanctions. Then we just kept getting news about the bad actions of both parties. Iran was eventually forced to admit that it shot down a Ukrainian plane by mistake, resulting in the deaths of 176 people aboard. Meanwhile, Trump’s claim that he was stopping an ‘imminent attack’ lacked so much credibility that it stayed a moving target for the rest of the week–first he claimed that Iran was was going to attack four embassies. Then when Mark Esper made him walk that one back too, Trump graduated to saying that “it doesn’t really matter” whether there was an imminent threat or not. And to cap off the week, he talked about selling troops on Fox News and tweeted an image of Nancy Pelosi in a hijab.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- 2020 Election Weirdness. This week saw multiple people drop out of the 2020 Presidential race. First to go was Marianne Williamson, and the only surprise there was that she apparently was still in the race at all. But Cory Booker dropping out made more waves, because he was the third qualified candidate of color to drop out. And Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were in the news for an apparent rift about the electability of women in 2020, though Warren is treating this like a non-story and I genuinely hope that it is. On the plus side, billionaire candidate Michael Bloomberg did say this week that he would fund whoever wins the primary in the fight against 45, even if it’s not him. So that’s something I guess.
- But Her Emails (are Not Noteworthy).* The Justice Department is winding down its investigation into Hillary Clinton, having concluded for the zillionth time that there was no scandal there to prosecute. In other news, water is wet.
- Earthquake in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico suffered a severe earthquake on Tuesday–the second in two days–and the island was still suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria when it happened. In the aftermath, over 300,000 homes and businesses are left without water, and frightening aftershocks mean people are still sleeping outside several days later. Folks over there are in a bad way, and know from their previous experiences that their crisis won’t be appropriately handled by this administration. If you want to help, the Hispanic Federation is taking donations, and the Chefs for Puerto Rico team run by World Central Kitchen can use help getting people fed as well.
- Bad Immigration News. There are rumors this week that the administration plans to expand its travel ban to include seven more countries, presumably to capture that good old fashioned Islamophobia in the lead-up to November. I’m generally reluctant to share things at the rumor stage, but given our last few weeks with Iran I think this one is more likely to have legs, and I want to keep an eye on it. Meanwhile, Texas also became the first state to refuse refugees under Trump’s fall executive order, which gave states tacit permission to refuse resettlement. Thankfully, 42 states have already given permission for resettlement, so there’s a limit to how many states can follow suit.
- House Pushback.Given Trump’s obviously cavalier attitude about Iran, it’s comforting to report that the House advanced a war powers resolution this week that limits his official power to attack Iran further unilaterally. Multiple Republican senators, who are disgusted with the way he handled his briefing, are expected to vote for the resolution when it hits the Senate floor as well–so I’m cautiously optimistic on this front for now.
- Recent Court Resilience.We did see some good court cases this week. The Second Circuit refused to set aside an injunction on the proposed new public charge rule this week, ensuring that immigrants can continue to safely access benefits without jeopardizing their applications for permanent residency. And another federal judge refused to dismiss E. Jean Caroll’s defamation suit, which Trump tried to dismiss on the grounds that he lives in DC and a lawsuit in New York was annoying–though admittedly, this might have been because they didn’t bother to write a motion on the topic.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry about the mess. For making it through, you deserve this story about vultures taking over CBP’s radio tower 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 good health for our household!