National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 50 (December 27 — January 4)
Happy 2021! To celebrate the new year, I got you a news cycle that is somehow even more 2020 than the past month combined. (The things we do for auld lang syne, amirite?)
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 an electoral college!–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 what is unquestionably the worst round yet of Election Rejection, as it appears to literally violate federal election law. Again. Still. Here’s what I have for you:
- We Found the Election Fraud. On Saturday, Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and, in a surreal, audiorecorded hour-long conversation, appears to pressure the sitting Secretary of State to “find” 11,780 votes in his favor or suffer unnamed political consequences. A transcript is available of the entire call, but you can also read or listen to some choice bananas quotes if you don’t want to wade that far in. Apparently, Trump tried calling Raffensperger 18 times before he gave in and answered the phone, which sends its own message, and I don’t blame Raffensperger for being ready with a tape recorder when he finally answered. Although the New York Times cautiously says this call “might” violate state and federal law, that underplays the seriousness of what just happened–as the GA elections board member requesting investigation has noted, the whole call is extremely textbook illegal election tampering. It’s unsurprising that the executive director of CREW, an ethics nonprofit in DC, already notes that the call constitutes another impeachable offense.
- Your Ordinary Trumped-Up Election Challenges. Honestly, after that this next paragraph is going to feel like Mrs. Lincoln summarizing the play, but the other election obstruction news is still important in its own right anyway. On Wednesday, junior senator Josh Hawley announced he was going to object to the election results when they are certified later this week, and he managed to get twelve other GOP senators to join him. Vice President Mike Pence, who will be overseeing the count, has signaled that he supports this nonsense, even though he felt differently about the lawsuit to force him to change the results (which by the way, was dismissed this week as well). The objection isn’t likely to change anything–it will just force a vote on the issue–but it’s a form of grandstanding that presumably appeals to Trump’s base. At the time that I type this, enough GOP senators have gone along with this ridiculous plan for the Washington Post to start a tracker of who is doing what. Meanwhile, all ten living former Secretaries of Defense have authored an op-ed reminding the current one that he’s not supposed to get involved in a free election, which hopefully will not prove topical.
That said, we also got a bit of Disregard of Governing Norms, though nowhere near as much as last week. Here’s what I have for you:
- Your Ordinarily-Scheduled Corruption. News broke this week that Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Republican Congressperson Devin Nunes, for… reasons? He’s not really being clear on the logic there, and Nunes certainly hasn’t done anything to suggest he’s worthy of a Presidential Medal of Freedom, so we’re forced to speculate. My pet theory is that it’s for the bravery Nunes showed while repeatedly suing @DevinNunesCow.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Congressional Updates. In addition to the election news above, there was a fair amount of other unusual Congressional action. After the House overwhelmingly voted to override Trump’s veto on his own defense budget, the Senate managed to function like a government for five minutes and overwhelmingly voted the same way. Then they promptly adjourned without even considering the $2,000 standalone stimulus that was passed by the House this week, because Mitch McConnell had already blocked consideration of the bill. Surprising no one, Trump continued the chaos on the topic of the $2,000 stimulus by attacking and splitting his own party. All told, the week held a strange combination of fractious interactions and rare unity.
- Runoff Election Watch. Needless to say, the Georgia Senate races have taken some strange turns, and only some of them are because of Trump’s illegal campaign techniques. Early turnout has already been quite high as I type this, particularly among young voters, but there is still a large turnout expected in-person tomorrow. Both Trump and Biden are holding rallies tonight ahead of Election Day, though Trump has publicly called the Senate races “illegal and invalid”, so who knows how that rally is gonna go. And Senator Perdue started quarantining over the weekend because he was exposed to the coronavirus over the week, so here’s hoping he doesn’t show up to the Trump rally.
- Bean There, Dad That. It’s not my usual fare, but popular demand has politely requested that I cover the bizarre controversy that overtook Twitter yesterday. Podcaster and insufferable blowhard John Roderick decided to share a “heartwarming” saga about his daughter’s six-hour struggle with the can opener, taking twenty-three condescending tweets to argue that it was a great triumph for “apocalypse dads” when his very hungry child eventually wrenched the can open with zero help from him. (If you are asking ‘why didn’t she just make herself a PB&J,’ as I did, his own account answers this: He informed her that “neither of us will eat another bite today until we get into this can of beans.” And by “we,” he meant “her,” because he was busy doing a jigsaw puzzle.) Needless to say, twitter rapidly informed him that HWTA, and then the backlog of racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist tweets emerged, and by the end of Sunday evening Bean Dad was so canceled that My Brother, My Brother, and Me had a new theme song.
- State of the COVID-19. This was another weird, bad week for COVID news. We’re starting to see impact from the unusually high travel rates for Christmas, and the results are not encouraging–hospitalizations continue to rise, we’ve eclipsed 20M cases, and the presence of a new, more contagious strain of COVID isn’t helping anything. Meanwhile, vaccine distribution has encountered a number of issues: 1) Several states are not following CDC guidelines; 2) In West Virginia, people were accidentally given antibodies instead of the vaccine; 3) There’s renewed concern about whether pregnant women can take the vaccine; and 4) Over 500 doses of Moderna vaccine were intentionally destroyed by a pharmacist in Wisconsin, who has since been arrested and charged with recklessly endangering safety. There was also a story about distilleries who emergency-produced hand sanitizer being charged heavy fees for their production, but thankfully that decision was reversed by Health and Human Services a day later.
- Recent COVID Resilience. We did see some positive policies relating to COVID this week, and it’s worth drawing attention to them. New York held a special legislative session to extend their moratorium on most evictions during the pandemic, which would have otherwise expired on December 31. And in Washington DC, a new law was passed this week facilitating early release for old or ill prison inmates who are particularly high-risk for COVID complications.
- Recent Organizing Efforts. Employees of Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google, also announced today that they are organizing an Alphabet Workers’ Union in conjunction with Communication Workers of America. The new union represents years of work within the company, and the Alphabet Workers’ Union already has over 400 members as I type this. This is really encouraging news, and I hope we see a cascade of organizing efforts as a result.
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 these cats clearing an obstacle course 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 a time machine and a better printer!