Somehow, it simultaneously feels like the impeachment inquiry has been going for ten years and five minutes — and so far we’ve only been climbing to the top of that first roller coaster drop. This week marks a turning point in the investigation nonetheless, as we transition from closed-door testimony to public hearings and start that wild freefall chaos. I’ll do my best to keep us all hanging on, though I make no promises about how stomach-turning it’s about to become. If you want to drink from the info fire hose, I also strongly recommend the impeachment archive run by the WTFJHT community!
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 public hearing — 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:
Another week, another full card of Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo — but this week both sides are beginning to take things public, which does change some dynamics. Here are the latest updates:
- Impeachment Inquiry Updates.* A number of transcripts of Congressional hearings became available this week, and they are about as damning as you might expect: 1) Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony outlined efforts to oust her with more specificity than her opening statement; 2) Former Ambassador Kurt Volker’s testimony indicated that the prosecutor Biden pushed to remove never even investigated Hunter Biden; 3) Former EU Ambassador Gordan Sondham’s initial testimony was joined by a “supplemental declaration” that reversed his earlier claim and admitted to quid pro quo, claiming prior testimony had “refreshed his recollection”; 4) National Security Council member Alexander Vindman’s testimony further implicated Mick Mulvaney when read in full; and 5) Former John Bolton aide Fiona Hill’s 400-page testimony revisited Bolton’s wariness of quid-pro-quo and featured a blow-by-blow of the GOP gatecrashers. The next step of the official inquiry is open Congressional hearings, which are scheduled to begin on November 13 — and if the last few weeks are any indication, they will prove fascinating viewing.
- Administrative Anger Synopsis.* As the House investigation pushes for more transparency, the GOP has mostly responded with varying levels of “you can’t make me.” First there’s Lindsey Graham, who has decided to deal with the transcripts above by refusing to read them. We also saw John Bolton semi-politely decline to show up for a deposition, reiterating that he’ll need a court to say it’s legal (or at least a subpoena). Meanwhile, current chief of staff Mick Mulvaney chose to hide behind the lawsuit as well, dodging a subpoena and ticking off Bolton in the process. Trump failed to talk his attorney general into holding a press conference to announce he broke no laws. And Senate Republicans want to use the impeachment inquiry to investigate the Biden family and the whistleblower, because clearly that’s the real scandal here.
As in previous weeks, Disregard of Governing Norms somehow continues on despite the impeachment circus also happening. Here’s what I have for you:
- Like a Lying Stone.* Roger Stone’s trial on whether he lied to Congress kicked off this week, marking the last legal moments of the Mueller era. Though it has been flying somewhat under the radar amid all the impeachment hoopla, it doesn’t appear off to a great start for Stone — he got food poisoning during jury selection and asked to be excused. Then Steve Bannon and Randy Credico testified, and Stone probably started missing the food poisoning. Oh, and poor Judge Jackson, who has already had to deal with quite a lot on this case, had to order the jury not to watch the Godfather because Credico referenced it too many times.
- Trump Court Cases. Speaking of court cases, 45 currently has enough lawsuits going on for 45 people, and we saw news on a bunch of them this week. He announced his plan to appeal last week’s 2nd Circuit decision that requires him to cough up tax returns, because a case described by the ruling judge as “repugnant to the nation’s fundamental structure and constitutional values” is definitely worth the Supreme Court’s time and attention. Of course, even as he announced this, a DC federal judge dismissed his lawsuit about how he didn’t wanna cough up said tax returns and told him to go file it in New York. Meanwhile, he was personally fined $2.8M after admitting that he used Trump Foundation donations — which were supposed to go to veterans, I might add — to fund his 2016 political campaign. And E Jean Caroll, who alleges that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room, is now suing him for defamation due to the insults he lobbed while denying her allegations.
- Trump Bad Book Tour. There also has been a lot of wild news this week about how the people working directly with Trump think he’s 25th Amendment bonkers. A new book by “Anonymous,” apparently the same Anonymous who wrote an op-ed about resisting inside the Trump administration, details cabinet members desperately trying to sew the Emperor some clothes. Anonymous even claims they contemplated a mass protest resignation (though, as the news cycle would suggest, this didn’t happen). At the same time, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N Nikki Hadley promoted her own book by noting senior cabinet officials asked her to “undermine” the President for the country’s own good. Though it’s not exactly news that Trump is volatile and makes bad decisions, it does seem noteworthy that multiple people are literally on book tours about it the year before an election cycle.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- 2020 Election Chaos. Presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke dropped out of the 2020 election this week, conceding that he lacked momentum (and hopefully redirecting his energies towards another Senate bid). Apparently former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg decided this meant there was a vacancy, because he’s now rumored to be planning to run. Meanwhile, former Alabama senator Jeff Sessions is making a bid for his old seat, airing a Trump-friendly political ad that some pundits found painful after Sessions’s years of mistreatment as Attorney General. (I would be remiss if I did not note that Jeff Sessions, who penned some extremely appalling policy during his tenure as AG, gets very little sympathy from me personally.)
- Climate Policy Polarization.* Trump began the process this week of formally leaving the Paris climate accords, a move which is deeply frustrating even though the withdrawal won’t be finalized for at least a year (and a subsequent President could undo it fairly quickly). The move feels particularly aggravating given a warning issued by over 11,000 scientists that our planet is facing a growing climate emergency. The scientists cautioned that policy must reflect our changing global needs in order to stave off catastrophic results, suggesting positive changes to carbon emission, population stabilization, and ecosystem disruption. So, basically, all the changes that this administration hates.
- Recent Court Resilience. A lot of this week’s federal court news somehow involved Trump, and thus has already been covered, but we did a few other highlights. Most notably, a federal judge blocked a ‘conscience rule’ that would have permitted medical discrimination for religious reasons — a significant victory for those of us who just want to get medical treatment in peace. In the sports world, the U.S. women’s national soccer team was also granted class status in their gender discrimination lawsuit this week, which will significantly broaden the scope of the suit. So that’s pretty exciting as well!
- 2019 Election Aftermath. Tuesday brought elections many places on the local and state level, and we saw some pretty interesting results! One of the biggest changes happened in Virginia, where Democrats now control all three state branches of government for the first time in over twenty years. In state elections in general, suburbs went much more blue than is traditional in many parts of the country. We also had two gubernatorial elections: Kentucky elected a Democrat governor, though the current governor is refusing to concede, and Mississippi stuck with a Republican ticket for their own gubernatorial race. The influx of blue makes some speculate that the Equal Rights Amendment may be back on the table, since we were previously only one state shy and Virginia just painted itself blue. Needless to say, this is worth watching.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think we can all agree that it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this beluga playing fetch 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 impeachment ice cream!