National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 46 (November 29 — December 5)
Another week of Trump temper tantrum is behind us, and I’m running out of ways to summarize the same exact news week over and over. I would apologize for boring y’all, but at least stale stories would suggest there isn’t new bad news. Mostly.
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 dubious election lawsuit!–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:
Here we go again with yet another round of Election Rejection, as Trump refuses to wind down and the GOP refuses to deal with it. Here’s what I have for you:
- Trumped-Up Election Challenges. Election tantrums continue for another week even though, as I mentioned last week, all six of the stateswhere Trump tried to contest results have certified their election results for Biden. Trump brought another lawsuit in Wisconsin, though it’s unclear how he expects the judge to do anything when the state has already certified, and engaged in lengthy video rants. But the biggest Trumpian effort of the week was his hissy fit in Georgia, where he ostensibly was stumping for the special election scheduled on January 5. In true Trump fashion, he instead used the opportunity to lie about winning his own election, pressure Georgian officials to throw out the election results, and have his team file yet another lawsuit. This move doesn’t exactly distance him from his former lawyer Sidney Powell, who along with fellow bonkers attorney Lin Wood spent the week telling Georgian Republicans not to vote unless the state refuses to acknowledge Biden’s win. Against that backdrop, it’s depressing but hardly surprising that over 200 Republican elected officials refuse to acknowledge Biden’s victory, and Trump is demanding the names of those 25 Republicans that did. Meanwhile, election officials worry about staff safety, particularly after armed protesters surrounded the home of Michigan’s Secretary of State.
That said, we also saw more Original Flavor Disregard of Governing Norms. Here’s what I have for you:
- Goodbye Barr? Between investigating potential pardon abuses and loudly proclaiming that there was no election fraud, Attorney General William Barr appears to be suddenly out of sync with Trump all over the place. (This may or may not be related to Trump pardoning Flynn, which almost certainly was not what Barr wanted to happen.) Unsurprisingly, outlets are already starting to report that Trump is less than thrilled about this. If Trump fires his sitting Attorney General (again) in the two or so months he has left, or Barr leaves on his own, that may derail the spate of executions currently scheduled to occur before Biden is sworn in. It’s worth keeping an eye on this and seeing how it develops.
- Your Ordinarily-Scheduled Corruption. Despite his busy anti-stumping schedule, Trump managed to find plenty of time to be sketchy this week. News broke that he is now allegedly looking into pardoning his three oldest children and Rudy Giuliani, the former of whom have not even been charged with a crime yet, although Ivanka was deposed in an AG investigation this week. He also threatened to veto defense spending unless Congress repealed legislation that protects tech companies from lawsuits. And finally, yet more people were fired from the Pentagon and replaced with loyalists; resident scary COVID advisor Scott Atlas also left a week early, although nobody seems too sad about the latter’s departure.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Unexpected Political Updates. There’s a lot of weird political news floating around right now, and I’m not sure what to make of all of it. Since the tentative stimulus package definitely won’t be ready before December 10, Congress will vote on a one-week stopgap measure this week to avoid a shutdown on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Georgia runoff election is taking all kinds of strange turns, including one of the candidates refusing to show up for the campaign debates on Saturday. (Incidentally, if you’re reading this from Georgia, today is the last day that new voters can register, and early voting begins next week.) Additionally, the Trump administration passed changes this week that make the citizenship exam harder and more Republican, presumably for funsies since Biden can start rolling that back only six weeks after it goes into effect.
Your New Normal:
- Transition Tidings Continue. There was a bit more Biden transition news this week, though not as much as previous weeks. He announced a plan to ask everyone to wear a mask for 100 days, which hopefully is not the sum total of his COVID messaging (although the CDC is finally admitting it’s important). He also announced several picks for top health-related positions: He is asking former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to reprise the role for his administration, asking Mass General Hospital’s head of its infectious disease division, Rochelle Walensky, to run the CDC, and he plans to tap current California AG Xavier Becerra as his Secretary of Health and Human Services. The first two are solid picks, but I have concerns about Becerra’s selection to head DHHS, which is an extremely broad agency that runs everything from the FDA to the CDC to Medicare and Medicaid to NIH. Health experts are saying the agency should have a health professional at the helm during the COVID crisis, and though Becerra has considerable experience litigating the Affordable Care Act, he has no background in healthcare or human services. He would, however, be the first Latino person to hold the position.
- State of the COVID-19. Unfortunately, COVID news remains bad. At the time that I type this, infections are still rising and so are death rates, with both reaching a new all-time high on Wednesday. Experts remain extremely concerned about the coming winter, and the director of the CDC has gone on the record as saying that it may be the worst period in American public health history. In response to the growing infection rates, California issued new stay-at-home guidance, tying the restrictions to ICU capacity. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has invited 900 people to his house for a holiday party, and Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for COVID. In vaccine news, Bush, Clinton, and Obama have agreed to take the vaccine publicly once it becomes available, trying to forestall mistrust of the development process, and experts recommend people get the vaccine even if they’ve already had a COVID infection. Congress is considering another modest relief bill, which appears to be enjoying more support than previous efforts and might actually pass. And finally, new research analysis suggests that many people do not remain contagious for longer than seven days, which has resulted in the CDC shortening their recommended period for self-isolation in cases of exposure.
- Recent Government Resilience. By this point, we know not to expect much from the executive branch, but we did see a few bright spots in both the judicial and legislative branches this week. Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly was sworn in this week, giving Arizona two Democrat senators for the first time in nearly sixty years, and the House voted to decriminalize marijuana (though that bill is likely DOA in the current Senate). On the judicial side, a federal district judge reinstated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, ordering the administration to accept first-time applications. Though DACA’s position remains precarious, this is still a step in the right direction.
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 Star Wars version of Carol of the Bells 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 holiday chocolate!