National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 37 (September 27 — October 3)
I read my intro from last week as I began drafting this evening and had a good, long laugh–apparently, I thought that week’s news cycle was particularly accelerated. (Oh you sweet summer Kara.) Needless to say, we’ve all aged a hundred years since I wrote that, and news stories are flying incredibly fast. Daily summaries like WTFJHT remain particularly helpful as we all try to make sense of the chaos.
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 rose garden!–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:
Given everything going on, nobody is talking about Trump’s tax returns anymore, which is itself a new low for Disregard of Governing Norms–but the current chaos on this front is so bad that it might not even matter. Here’s what I have for you:
- COVID in the White House. News broke at about 1:30AM Thursday night that Melania and Donald Trump had tested positive for COVID-19–apparently for the second time that day, though we didn’t learn this until much later. At first he was expected to remain at home, but he was eventually taken to Walter Reed hospital on Friday afternoon with fever and congestion, and we later learned he was given supplemental oxygen as well as an experimental antibody cocktail before the transfer. By the next day, he was being given Remdisivir and dexamethasone, both of which can potentially signal serious health complications. Now, you might be reading this and thinking, “That’s an awfully fast onset of severe symptoms,” which is certainly what I thought at the time, but it turns out the news has a response for that! First Chris Wallace admitted that Trump had dodged the on-site test at Tuesday’s debate, and then on Saturday Trump’s own doctor said that he was doing well “just 72 hours into his diagnosis” on Saturday–which, for those of you doing the home game, was definitely not 72 hours after early Friday morning. Though his doctor later insisted he misspoke, it appears increasingly likely that Trump had probably been COVID-positive by the time of the debate, whether he knew it or not, and it would also appear that he is seriously sick as I type this. Nonetheless, he took a trip around the hospital on Sunday, and was discharged from the hospital a few hours ago, even though many experts agree on the increased risk of the second week of infection. The administration is adamant that Pence will not be taking the reins anytime soon, despite the many difficulties of Trump governing while all of the above is happening.
- GOP Superspreading. Trump was far from the only high-profile member of the GOP to test positive for COVID this week, and it’s looking increasingly likely that the Rose Garden event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Comey Barrett on Saturday was a superspreading event, although the White House refuses to use contact tracing for it. (Coney Barrett herself apparently had COVID this summer, and has not tested positive at this time.) At the time that I type this, eleven high-profile people who were present on Saturday have tested positive, and fifteen people affiliated with the White House have contracted the virus overall. Among those on the list: 1) Trump advisor Hope Hicks; 2) former counselor Kellyanne Conway; 3) campaign manager Bill Stepien; 4) former NJ governor Chris Christie; 5) WI senator Ron Johnson; 6) Utah senator Mike Lee; 7) NC Senator Thom Tillis; and 8) White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnaney. Additionally, IA Senator Chuck Grassley was also present and refused to get tested, so he might be positive as well, and there were also several outbreaks at the Secret Service training center. Joe Biden is still testing negative at the time that I type this, though he could still be in an incubation period.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Election Oddities (Again). With everything going on, it’s easy to forget that the first Presidential debate on Tuesday was less than a week ago–and the entire country watched Trump fail to condemn white supremacy, instead telling the Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by.” (The hate group, for their part, immediately made it clear that they’ll be taking these statements as a set of marching orders.) There was also news about a massive Trump campaign strategy to deter Black Americans from voting in 2016, as well as news about a massive gubernatorial strategy now to make dropping off ballots in Texas increasingly difficult for marginalized voters. And, of course, people are starting to wonder what it will mean for the election if Trump isn’t able to run, given that voting has already begun in many states.
- COVID and Congress. All of the COVID news above has implications for the legislative branch as well. In relief news, the House passed a second COVID relief bill, with Nancy Pelosi meeting with Steven Mnuchin since Trump is, uh, indisposed right now. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has postponed the Senate’s return by two weeks, calling everyone back on October 19–but he still wants to have confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett on October 12 as originally planned. The astute of readers may note that two of the infected GOP senators are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, while four more were present at the Comey Barrett event on Saturday–and the whole committee is only nineteen members. If Democrats refuse to participate and any GOP members are still quarantining on Monday, the committee may not have quorum to proceed, and Mitch McConnell may learn it’s nice to want things.
- Black Lives Still Matter. Information about the Breonna Taylor grand jury proceedings was released this week at a grand juror’s request, and unsurprisingly, the records show that homicide charges were not even presented as an option. Meanwhile, protests continue in Portland, where a local police officer drove his motorcycle into a protester and the total arrest toll has crested 1,000 people. Also, the Proud Boys did indeed show up in droves to join the fray, as discussed in last Tuesday’s debate–and speaking of Proud Boys, gay twitter co-opted their hashtag this week in glorious retaliation for the hate group’s recent everything. In other positive news, California passed a law this week establishing a path towards reparations for Black Americans impacted by our history of slavery.
- Appalling Immigration Updates. Despite Trump’s hospitalization, we still had an influx of impressively bad and occasionally weird immigration news. The administration announced that only 15,000 people maximum would be admitted as refugees for Fiscal Year 2021, which for context is only slightly over one-tenth of the number admitted in Obama’s final year–definitely a historic low in every sense of the term. We also started to hear about ICE raids planned in sanctuary jurisdictions yet again, though it’s unclear whether that will move forward with everything else going on. And just before she tested positive, tapes leaked of Melania Trump dropping f-bombs about both concern about migrant children and, improbably, Christmas.
- Recent Court Resilience. There were a few bright spots from a court perspective this week, though much of the news was a hot mess. The judge who blocked the administration’s attempts to curtail census counting has issued a clarifying judgement making it extra super-duper clear that yes, the census counting must continue until October 31 despite everything going on. And in Florida, a movement in response to a recent court decision has donors supporting re-enfranchisement efforts for those convicted of crimes, including paying court fees so that people are eligible to vote. It’s a coalition effort that is making a real difference for the collective re-enfranchisement of a very marginalized group–one that had been denied the right to vote for life for a long time before the right was granted by majority referendum. Especially in 2020, it means a lot to see groups pushing back against court efforts to overrule that collective will.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think we can agree that it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this turtlesukkah and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully less chaotic) 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 caffeine because I will obviously need it!