National News Roundup: Year 5, Week 4 (February 7–13)
Well, the full second impeachment proceeding of Donald Trump occurred over the past week, and it was a front-row seat to just how busted our government still currently is. There’s a lot to unpack, and we need to be talking about next steps from here as well.
Standard standing reminders still 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 impeachment trial!–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!
Cleanup in Aisle 45:
Needless to say, there was a lot of Election Rejection news this week, as most eyes were focused on impeachment. Here’s what I have for you:
- Constitutional Gatekeeping. Day one set the tone of the week with an entire day’s debate about whether the whole thing was constitutional. The impeachment managers showed an opening video that neatly outlined the events of January 6 alongside clear documentation of why constitutionality is not a quality legal defense. Trump’s lawyers, in contrast, uh, did not do that. One mistakenly called himself the prosecution of the impeachment and then praised the managers’ opening, and the other’s argument hinged on “cancel culture” and the Civil War. Eventually, the Senate decided that impeachment could continue by 56–44 vote, and at least one Republican who voted to proceed outright said it was due to the truly abysmal performance of Trump’s legal team. (News outlets reported that Trump was not happy, but thankfully we were all spared another tweet screed on account of he’s banned from Twitter for life.)
- The Impeachment Managers’ Arguments. On Wednesday, the impeachment managers’ case arguments kicked off with truly stunning riot footage, much of which had not been publicly available before it became part of impeachment proceedings. Essentially, the arguments focused on three stages of Trump’s behavior to show responsibility for the events of January 6: Trump’s tweets in the months leading up to January 6, which openly invited violence on that specific date; Trump’s inciting speech during early afternoon of January 6, which explicitly directed followers to the capitol and told them “to fight like hell”; and his inaction during the later afternoon of the same day. His behavior throughout these three stages, the managers suggested, makeTrump singularly responsible for the insurrection attempt. They then concluded on Thursday by noting the horrifying standard of Presidential misconduct created if Trump is not convicted, observing that an acquittal damages democracy and another insurrection attempt could happen if he runs and loses in 2024, especially as he shows no remorse for this one.
- Trump’s Attorney’s Arguments. In contrast, Trump’s lawyers took a hot minute on Friday to reprise a truly impressive array of nonsense defenses from their 78-page brief–claiming that Trump’s incitement is free speech (it isn’t), that he was denied due process (he wasn’t), and that it was “constitutional cancel culture” to impeach Trump (what does that even mean). Of perhaps more note than the arguments themselves was the fact that three GOP Senators apparently helped the defense team craft them–or at least, the two groups had a private meeting on the eve of the arguments.
- Confusing Saturday Backtrack. Against this backdrop, Saturday was a confusing and disappointing day. Based on potential testimony from a Republican lawmaker–one of several eyewitnesses who could potentially have testified–the Senate voted to call witnesses by a 55–45 vote. But later that day, the impeachment managers made the baffling decision to skip witness testimony even though it had been cleared by the Senate. Ultimately, the Senate voted 57–43 in favor of Trump’s guilt, which was not enough votes to reach a constitutional conviction. It’s worth noting that this was nonetheless the most bipartisan impeachment vote in history, because these numbers include seven Republican senators as well as all 50 Democrats–Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), Ben Sasse (NE), Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA) and Patrick J. Toomey (PA) all voted to convict. Adding to the chaos, Mitch McConnell gave an elaborate speech about how incredibly guilty Trump was right after voting to acquit him, saying that the trial was unconstitutional once Trump had stepped down even though McConnell was the one who delayed the trial.
- Impeachment Aftermath. Some consequences of the acquittal–such as Trump yelling about witch hunts–were pretty predictable. But even though conviction was a long shot, the past week raises a lot of questions. At a time when Republicans were already divided, what does it mean that almost a quarter of GOP senators have broken with leadership? What does it mean that three-quarters didn’t? News also broke this week that Georgia is criminally investigating Trump because of his election interference, and the impeachment process created a very clear account of January 6. Will that account be used to criminally charge Trump for his role in the insurrection? What will it mean for the Senate and for Biden’s rebuilding efforts that Democrats backed down from calling witnesses? All of these things bear careful consideration and will likely require advocacy from us; we need to stay engaged over the next few weeks.
We also saw a bit of movement on the Biden Rebuilding fronts. Here’s what has happened in the past week:
- Dismantling the Deportation Machine (cont). We did see a bit more movement on this front in the past week, as President Biden officially rescinded the emergency order that authorized building a wall at the U.S. southern border. It’s a continuation of earlier efforts to halt construction, and though it’s certainly not comprehensive on its own, it’s another piece of rebuilding a responsible and humanitarian immigration policy.
Your New Normal:
- Other Congressional Updates. Though Congress is now on a recess as I type this, we did see some movement worth noting throughout the week. Bernie Sanders signaled that he’s trying to preserve the $15 minimum wage provision in the stimulus bill, and House Democrats have been working to finalize a version of said bill. Meanwhile, Democrats are urging President Biden to replace the USPS board of governors, or at least get rid of malicious disaster man Louis DeJoy. And several lawmakers introduced a bill to address Black maternal health, which is an issue gaining increasing attention as racial health inequities take central stage due to the pandemic.
- State of the COVID-19. COVID was a mixed bag for another week. Several states had embarrassing management moments, as Governor Cuomo’s aide admitted that New York hid nursing home data and Massachusetts landed in the news for accidentally incentivizing elder-bribing for vaccine access. Meanwhile, new research suggests that the virus may mutate more in patients with autoimmune deficiencies, suggesting that vaccination for these individuals should be a high priority. The World Health Organization concluded that it was unlikely COVID came from a lab leak in Wuhan, which hopefully will help decrease attacks on Asian-Americans that have been spiking in recent weeks. The CDC has issued new guidance for safety protocols during schools’ reopen processes, as debates about how much to reopen schools rage on. And a new CDC study suggests that masks can be made more effective by creating a closer seal, either by wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask or by improving a cloth mask’s fit.
- Vaccination and Transmission News. Just like last week, case, death, and hospitalization rates have all been going down at the national level as well as worldwide. That said, testing rates are also going down, so the drop may be more modest than it looks, and we also need another week to see if Superbowl Sunday created any superspreader events. But even if these gains are modest, President Biden has indicated that he has secured more vaccination doses and the country has enough to vaccinate 300 million people by July.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it was more specific than normal but still more than enough. In the interest of engaged readership, however, you still deserve dessert links! I hope you enjoy this cranky owl along with our unquestionably better government. I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved 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 your favorite TikTok videos!