National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 33 (August 30 — Sept 5)
Well, if I had been foolish enough to hope that the news would improve during my break, I certainly would have been disappointed. We continue to scrape the bottom of the existential barrel, and this isn’t going to let up as we move towards November. My advice is to just go ahead and invest in ice cream now, y’all.
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 census!–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 seem to be seeing an uptick in Disregard of Governing Norms, which is another thing we can expect to increase as we get closer to the election. Here’s what I have for you:
- Your Regularly Scheduled Illegality. By this point, the Trump administration blatantly breaks laws so often that the question isn’t whether they did anything illegal this week, it’s simply a matter of what. The first story of the week, unsurprisingly, involves Postmaster General Louis DeJoy yet again. This time, he’s in the news for pressuring workers at his former company to donate to GOP campaigns, which would then be ‘rewarded’ with reimbursement bonuses. (For those of you playing the home game, this is pretty obviously illegal even in a private context, as it appears to be a way around campaign contribution limits). Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is already calling for an investigation, which Trump doesn’t appear to be blocking. To be fair on that last point, though, Trump may be distracted by this week’s failed attempt to end the Census early, which is the second illegal activity of the week. I say “failed” because a federal judge ended up weighing in on this one, issuing a restraining order that keeps the administration from changing anything before a hearing can happen mid-September.
- Trump vs the Military. Trump managed to sink his relations with the American military even further this week, which is rather impressive all things considered. First the Atlantic ran a story that Trump referred to fallen soldiers as “losers” and “suckers” when refusing to visit an American military cemetery in Paris in 2018. An AP reporter confirmed the story, and so did the National Security correspondent at Fox News. Trump then responded by calling for the Fox News staffer to be fired. Folks, I know it’s 2020 and we get inured to a lot of nonsense, but I want to take a step back and really look at that last detail for a moment–a sitting U.S. President called for a journalist to be fired because she publicly confirmed sources on a story about him that she didn’t even write. (Needless to say, Fox supported its correspondent on this one.) The whole thing also made more people notice the administration’s attempt to cut funding to a military newspaper, the Stars and Stripes, which Trump announced would be walked back.
- “Anti-American” Diversity Training. Because the first two paragraphs weren’t enough for one week, the Trump administration also announced by memorandum that federal employers may not conduct diversity trainings, which the memorandum refers to as “anti-American propaganda.” The memo also instructs federal agencies to come up with a list of all training contracts that include the terms “critical race theory” or “white privilege.” Y’all, if I were reading this in a story, I would be really mad about how lazy and one-dimensional this was.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Election Oddities (Again). Other than a bright spot when Ed Markey won the Democratic primary here in Massachusetts, this week was a surreal nightmare on the election front. Trump decided to fight mail-in voting by suggesting to his supporters that they should try to vote multiple times, presumably because there will definitely be evidence of voter fraud if his followers create it. This left officials in multiple states scrambling to remind constituents that this is, in fact, illegal. It is also closely related to the current Russian tactic for interfering with our election, shocking no one.
- State of the COVID-19.* COVID news is a bit more mixed than usual today, which might be attributed to the approaching election as well. The CDC issued a nation-wide eviction moratorium, which will prevent nonpayment evictions until the end of the year. And new studies confirm that steroids can help people who become severely ill due to COVID infection. But Trump has refused to work with the WHO to develop and distribute a vaccine, and yet his CDC is telling states to prepare for its distribution as early as October–which, incidentally, is a good six months before the WHO thinks vaccines will be ready. Meanwhile, FEMA is saying it will no longer fund cloth masks for schools, despite the increasing chaos at college campuses. Finally, at least one federal official has started advocating for a herd immunity strategy, which is both ignorant and evil from a public health perspective–at this point, any time you see a news outlet call an approach or statement “controversial,” you can just go ahead and assume that’s news code for “this is in some way terrible.”
- Black Lives Still Matter. This was another rough week for brutality against Black Americans. In Rochester, New York, a video was released from March that showed police fatally suffocating 41-year-old Daniel Prude with a “spit hood.” Prude was apparently one of several Americans who have been injured or killed by this type of restraint, and he’s also one of many Americans killed by police while in mental health crisis. Meanwhile, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend is suing the Louisville police for misconduct. And in Portland, police fatally shot a man suspected of shooting a conservative counterprotester, rather than apprehending him alive.
- No More ICE Academy (for now). This week, ICE announced that it will be postponing its plans for a vigilante group in Chicago it was calling a “Citizens Academy.” Though ICE is claiming the postponement was due to COVID, it seems equally likely that the sustained advocacy campaign against the project had something of an effect. Either way, we now don’t have to worry about this particular form of threat until the spring, and I’ll take it.
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 and kitten grabbing a catnap and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully more tolerable) 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!