National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 17 (May 10–16)
The news remains strange and a bit hard to fully process this week, in part because America feels like it’s on two different tracks at once. We’re still not in the clear, COVID-wise, but now we have a bunch of other Trump-era nonsense to contend with as well. It’s exhausting, and a part of “normalcy” that I would have happily left behind, but here we are.
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 college campus!–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:
I can’t say I missed the old Disregard of Governing Norms stories, but they’re sure back with a vengeance–so now we get to contend with that as well as the COVID crisis. Here’s what is happening:
- Retaliatory Firing (Yes, Again). The biggest story this week is that Trump unceremoniously fired yet another inspector general on Friday evening, this time from the State Department–which makes three watchdogs fired since the COVID crisis began. To make matters worse, said inspector was investigating Mike Pompeo for potential misconduct at the time he was fired, and it would appear that Pompeo was the one to suggest the firing. It’s noteworthy that this inspector general had nothing to do with COVID response, unlike the two before him–it’s a clear indication that the administration has returned to combating entities that combat corruption. Unsurprisingly, House Democrats have opened an investigation into the matter.
- Other Administrative Malfeasance.* It says something about this administration that “we fired the guy who was investigating us for corruption” is only the first sketchy news of the week. A Congressional oversight commission found that a $500B COVID fund basically hasn’t been touched since it was allocated in late March, and the terms of the program have kept changing without any disbursement. (The report is particularly bad because most of this fund was intended for state and local governments, which the administration keeps claiming it doesn’t have to help.) Official White House Son-in-Law Jared Kushner was reluctant to confirm we would have elections in November, which would concern me if it were remotely up to him. And Eric Trump announced that COVID would disappear after the 2020 election, but at least he appeared to believe the election was happening.
- Trump’s Messed Up COVID-19 Response. In case anyone was worried, Trump is continuing to be, well, Trump. He opined that the country should reopen “vaccine or no vaccine,” (no it shouldn’t) but said we’ll have a vaccine by January (no we won’t). Then he said even if we don’t have a vaccine, coronavirus will just go away (what). For an encore, he called testing ‘overrated.’ And just today, he announced he apparently is taking hydroxychloroquine as a COVID prophylactic, which is a bad idea on a truly impressive number of levels–but more on that below.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Election Oddities (Again). Election news is a study in contrasts this week. Despite everything else going on, the RNC is expecting 50,000 people to attend their convention in Charlotte in a few months. Democrats, conversely, are looking into remote voting for theirs. And in libertarian news, Justin Amash announced he isn’t running after all, so we’re down to just Trump and Biden again as we head into June.
- State of the COVID-19.* At the time that I type this, over 90,000 people in this country have passed away from COVID-19 and over 1.5 million people have been infected. The CDC has finally issued some brief guidance after a lengthy fight with the White House about them. Top health official Anthony Fauci testified before the Senate about the dangers of reopening the country too quickly, and ousted vaccine official Rick Bright’s testimony was similarly dire. Trump, for his part, called Fauci’s testimony “not an acceptable answer.” And hydrochloroquine was in the news as potentially killing people with COVID, which makes 45’s life choices interesting to say the least.
- Reopening Rodeo. Reopening continues to be an unsafe hot mess for a third week, despite how many states have started the process. In Texas, and Florida, cases are already rising, and that’s without full data even available. (Georgia is looking more promising, but again, early data may be incomplete.) In Wisconsin, a state supreme court decision that struck down the governor’s order has created chaos across the state. And scary protests are continuing in Michigan, one of the few states that isn’t reopening–hinting at dangers that exist either way. Many states lack benchmarks for progressing forward with the opening process, and it seems like something of a free-for-all. I agree with this columnist’s take that we seem to be moving to a harm reduction model of operations.
- Market Mess Continues.* Market news is a lot of ups and downs. House Democrats unveiled and subsequently passed a $3T proposal for coronavirus response, but Trump is threatening to veto it. Unemployment rates appear to be slowing somewhat, but three million new people still filed this week. The Dow is riding high after vaccine news made people optimistic, but several news outlets are suing the Small Business Administration over its messy loan practices. So it’s all kind of a mixed bag.
- Recent Court Resilience. There was a lot of promising court actions in the past week. The Supreme Court heard arguments about whether Congress can subpoena Trump’s taxes this week, though a final decision likely won’t be out for some time. The FBI obtained a search warrant and seized Senator Richard Burr’s phone to investigate his handling of stock trading ahead of the COVID crisis, forcing him to step down from his role as Intelligence Committee Chair. The Fourth Circuit more-or-less revived the emoluments case about Trump’s D.C. hotel, which is particularly timely given news about 45 making the secret service pay for golf carts this summer (yes, really). And the judge on Flynn’s case has invited other parties to weigh in, and has appointed someone to argue against dropping charges. So all of those things are promising!
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this otter birthday party and this message from Alice Cooperand 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 a governor who makes better decisions!