Year 3, Week 37 (September 29 — October 5)
Y’all, it hasn’t even been a full week since I last sent you an update, and yet we have three weeks’ worth of news. Much of it is venal nonsense, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant — unfortunately for us, we have to keep paying attention.
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 text message! — 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:
The main contents of the CCC this week are another wild round of Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo, which is the gift that just keeps on giving. (I’ve summarized as best I can since this story keeps on growing new heads, and have folded things relating back to the Russia investigation into this section.) Here’s what I have for you, and I’m sorry about the mess:
- Impeachment Inquiry Updates.* As the House committees proceeded forward with their inquiries, the impeachment process just gets more and more bonkers — and none of the malfeasance is the committees’ doing. Several committees subpoenaed Rick Perry, wanting to know about his May trip to Ukraine, and subpoenaed Mike Pence while they were at it. On Thursday, the Intelligence Committee released a cache of internal administration text messages that all but yelled ‘WE ARE SETTING UP SOME QUID PRO QUO NOW.’ (Seriously, one text literally says, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign” and the recipient replies, among other things, “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”) We also saw at least one more Ukraine whistleblower entered the scene, and they are being represented by the same legal team. By the end of the week, a federal judge had ordered Trump not to destroy evidence in a mostly-unrelated case; I guess she just watched this week’s news and figured she might as well.
- Dirt Excavation Synopsis.* Just like last week, a whole lot of (new) dirt shook out when Democrats and reporters started picking up rugs. Here are some of the things we learned: 1) Trump apparently may have asked Boris Johnson for help discrediting the Mueller report; 2) Mike Pence was definitely involved in some form, though it’s unclear whether he knew exactly what Trump was having him do; and 3) Trump is now fighting with Italy because he thinks without evidence that they spied on him in 2016.
- Administrative Anger Synopsis. I think Trump is starting to lose it, y’all (if he ever had it to begin with). Among this week’s impeachment lowlights: 1) The Trump administration continuing to refuse subpoenas, despite warning that it would be treated as obstruction of justice; 2) Trump losing his entire business at Reuters journalist Jeff Mason and threatening to sue several people in front of the poor President of Finland, who didn’t get much of a press conference but sure did get the meme treatment; 3) Nickelback demanding Trump stop using their copyrighted material to bag on Biden; 4) The State Department inspector general requesting ‘urgent’ briefing to Congressional staffers, which turned out to be weirdo deep state paranoia; 5) A brief disappearance of a firm website tied to Giuliani’s Ukraine work (which is fair, actually — I wouldn’t want to be linked to Rudy Giuliani either); and 6) Rick Perry getting thrown under the Ukraine bus because he’s leaving anyway so screw him, amirite?
- Brand New Additional Articles? In addition to everything else happening this week, there’s some question of whether we’ll have additional articles of impeachment after some of the week’s events. For one thing, Trump said the quiet part out loud on the White House lawn this week, telling reporters that China and Ukraine should both investigate Biden and removing literally all doubt about whether he had done that particular crime. But there are also updates with the IRS whistleblower I mentioned last week, because the Treasury’s inspector general is now investigating the complaint. So we’ll need to keep an eye on both of these.
This week also saw the return of Disregard of Governing Norms separate from the impeachment inquiry, because nothing actually keeps this government from diversifying its own corruption very long — and we had some really bad news on this front today. Here’s what happened:
- DOJ’s The Puppet.* The Washington Post ran a story this past week reminding us that the Department of Justice has intervened in at least three cases where Trump is suing somebody, and most recently intervened in the lawsuit about releasing his taxes. I honestly cannot overstate how very corrupted bananas this is — the Department of Justice is really not supposed to be the President’s personal law force, and ‘intervene’ is a fancy legal way of saying “showed up and demanded to be let in on the action.” This is a wild form of embezzlement that involves co-opting lawyers instead of state funds, and I can’t believe it’s not getting more press.
- Shameful Withdrawal from Syria.* Trump’s administration announced late last night that he plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, despite the fact that they have been stationed there to protect Kurdish allies fighting ISIS for years and Turkey has announced a massive strike is pending in the area. Many outlets have commented on the timing of this decision, which was issued shortly after Trump spoke with the Turkish President on Sunday night. Even Republicans are rebuking Trump on this, because it could have major consequences for the fight against ISIS as well as our Kurdish allies. Trump sort-of-maybe wavered today in response to the outcry, posting creepy dictator tweets about how he’ll “totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey” etc etc, but the withdrawal had already began when he said this. We’ll have to see what he does next, unfortunately.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Elizabeth Cougar Warrencamp.* We all had a moment of zen this week when Jacob Wohl decided to host one of his famous driveway press conferences again, which are always a bastion of journalistic integrity. This one featured a 24-year-old veteran who couldn’t give his statement with a straight face claiming that Elizabeth Warren started a BDSM relationship with him. Nobody would blame her for just ignoring this non-story, but of course Elizabeth Warren had a plan for that nonsense. Her single elegant tweet trolled Wohl, promoted a signature policy platform, and reminded us why we stan.
- Your Weekly Immigration Hell. This was another bad week for immigration, and I honestly don’t know how the administration even had the time for it. First they announced that they are going to start collecting DNA from detained immigrants, because that is super legal and definitely not a search and seizure violation of the 4th Amendment. Then they followed that news with an announcement that the State Department would start denying visas to immigrants who can’t show they will cover their own healthcare while visiting — which, for those of you playing the home game, is probably not legal and will definitely face a lawsuit.
- Guyger Scales Aftermath. Though it was validating when Amber Guyger was convicted of murder last week, many folks were frustrated by her very light sentence, which the judge on the case punctuated when she gave Guyger a hug and a gifted bible. Then, as an additional highlight of the systemic issues faced by Black Americans, a key witness on the case was fatally shot immediately after the trial concluded. Despite Guyger’s conviction, we have many, many issues of racism to address within our criminal justice system.
- Impeachment Tipping Point. The incredible outpouring of impeachment data has been overwhelming, but Americans are starting to respond to it. According to several polling organizations, public opinion now supports impeachment by a simple majority, with 74% of Democrats now supporting the endeavor. This is a promising sign, and it will encourage the House to keep issuing subpoenas to a recalcitrant White House.
- Recent Court Resilience. We did see one major symbolic court win earlier today — a federal District Court judge ruled that Trump must turn over his tax returns on the Manhattan lawsuit, rejecting the argument that his current position gives him criminal immunity. The administration immediately appealed, surprising no one, but the case is still a valuable data point in the ongoing debate about Presidential immunity.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, but there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve John Scalzi’s beautiful photos of flowers 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 Turner; I promise I’ll use it responsibly!