National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 48 (December 13–19)
Somehow, election news still isn’t over, and not just because of the Georgia election’s unprecedented early voting. I’ve outlined the latest hysterics below, which might be funny if they weren’t so unsettling. We need to continue to keep an eye on this, 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 vaccine vial!–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. Again. Still. Here’s what I have for you:
- Trumped-Up Election Challenges. In the day or so after the electoral college certified, Trump was telling his base to “fight on” and was still saying the election isn’t over. It turns out we didn’t have to wonder what that meant for very long–within a day or two, he had newly-pardoned former national security advisor Michael Flynn on television saying that Trump should seize voting machines and declare martial law to force another election. Flynn was then back at the White House by Friday to discuss hiring apparently un-disgraced Sidney Powell to lead an investigation into voter fraud, which apparently involved advisors yelling and screaming at each other because that’s how they do over there. Recently-fired-slash-resigned William Barr, meanwhile, had no problem at using one of his final press conferences to dismiss Flynn’s dangerous nonsense.
That said, we also saw more Original Flavor Disregard of Governing Norms.Here’s what I have for you:
- Your Ordinarily-Scheduled Corruption. Jared Kushner was in the news this week for apparently creating a shell company that paid the Trump family from campaign funds over the 2020 campaign–which, as the Washington Post op-ed notes, may or may not be legal, but is definitely sketchy. And down in Florida, Mar-A-Lago residents are suing to keep Trump from moving there full-time once he vacates the White House, anticipating that he will violate his own real estate contract before he even leaves. And, of course, several outlets are anticipating a pardon free-for-all over the next few weeks, as the Trump administration (hopefully) winds down its term.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Unexpected Political Updates. In weird and semi-political news, a beleaguered U.S. Postal Service is struggling to meet mailing demand, as the holidays plus the pandemic plus remote voting for the Georgia election create unprecedented amounts of mail. Folks can expect all kinds of delays on delivery over the next few weeks as a result, which on the plus side is a great excuse if you didn’t manage to get your holiday shopping done. (Your gifts are in the mail though, loved ones, I swear!)
Your New Normal:
- Transition Tidings Continue. President-Elect Joe Biden nominated a few more appointees this week, and unsurprisingly they are a mixed bag. I am legitimately excited about his suggestion for Secretary of Interior, Rep Deb Haaland, who will be the nation’s first Native American to fulfill the role. I am less excited that he tapped Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation, as South Bend has a grand total of 60 busses and, apparently, a pothole problem.
- State of the COVID-19. We continue to have horrifying new records of daily death, infection, and hospitalization counts in this country, which remains in worse shape than most of the world. On the plus side, the House did manage to pass another modest COVID relief bill today per Congressional deal; the bill provides more support for unemployment, rental assistance, and childcare as well as another round of stimulus checks, and the stimulus checks might go out as soon as next week. On the less plus side, the stimulus checks in question are only $600 per person, which doesn’t contrast so favorably with the $1.4B to build Trump’s vanity wall which the bill also contains. And in unsurprising-but-horrifying news, the House subcommittee on COVID crisis released a memo illustrating that a former Trump advisor was actively trying to get people sick with COVID because he (falsely) believed it would lead to herd immunity.
- From Russia, We Think (cont).* We continue to learn more about the spy campaign that targeted several U.S. agencies, and the news keeps getting worse. Our State Department retains confidence that this was an act of Russian espionage, though Trump is of course claiming it “may be China” with absolutely no evidence to support his claim. At this point, it looks like forty different organizations were targeted, hitting several different countries (although the majority of the organizations are mostly U.S.-owned). Needless to say, Russia spying on our internal emails at several different U.S. agencies, including the Commerce Department, National Security Council, and Department of Homeland Security, is not great news. This is especially true when the head of cybersecurity at DHS was just let go for saying there was no election fraud.
- Second COVID Vaccine Approved. We got a bit more positive COVID news this week, as Moderna’s vaccine was approved by the FDA as well. This vaccine also can be stored at ordinary refrigeration temperatures, which should help distribution effects considerably; the first shipments have already begun to go out as I type this. And in true Hanukkah fashion, pharmacists figured out how to get 40% more vaccine out of Pfizer’s vaccine vials, expanding access during the first phase of vaccination.
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 otter enjoying an ice snack 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 mail after the holiday!