This upcoming week in the Jewish calendar marks the Ten Days of Repentance, a window of time between the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement. Jewish people consider this a time of reflection and renewal — an opportunity to think about how individuals and communities have done wrong in the past year, and how to rectify past misdeeds. So, given the news of the past week, this must be a weird time in Jared and Ivanka’s house.
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 subpoena! — 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, with everything even more dialed up to 11 than before. Here’s what I have for you, and I’m sorry about the mess:
Impeachment Inquiry Imparted. Since two thirds of House Democrats were calling for impeachment by the time the Democrat Caucus had an emergency meeting, it was exciting (but not surprising) when Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry on Tuesday evening. Support for the movement continued to grow after the announcement, until 223 members out of the 235 member caucus were supporting the inquiry. With such broad-based support, the House Intelligence Committee was also able to issue a subpoena for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as Rudy Giuliani and several additional State Department employees. Around the same time, the House and Senate successfully got the whistleblower complaint released, unimpressed by the White House’s ‘transcript’ of the call (which was really just a memorandum trying to recreate it). Before a two-week recess begin, the Senate and the House intelligence committees also began setting up interviews with the whistleblower, and acting intelligence chief Joseph Maguire testified for hours before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. (The House Intelligence Committee is working through the recess, by the way, so they will continue to do things while everyone is gone.) We also saw the resignation of our first official — Kurt Volker, special envoy to Ukraine — who is still planning to testify even though (perhaps because?) he resigned. It’s clear the impeachment train has left the station, even if we don’t fully understand where it’s going yet.
Dirt Excavation Synopsis. Between Maguire’s testimony, the publication of the whistleblower complaint, administrative gaffes, and good ole’ investigative journalism, we learned a number of new sketchy things in the past week — much of it so confusing that the Washington Post has made you a flowchart. Here’s a handy summary of the lowlights: 1) The administration definitely froze funds to Ukraine before the July phone call, and Ukraine in turn understood that they had to deal with the Biden thing to get the funds unfrozen; 2) Rudy Giuliani did inexplicably interface with Ukraine (and muck it up in the process), despite having no official position within government; 3) Records of the phone call were moved to a secret server in an explicit cover-up attempt, which is like ten times worse than the whole But Her Emails thing (and more on that last bit below); 4) Mike Pompeo was present on the line for the infamous July phone call with Ukraine; and 5) we might be about to do this again because there’s also an IRS whistleblowing complaint.
Administrative Anger Synopsis. The administration continued to escalate to new heights of dangerous nonsense this week as the impeachment walls closed in around them. Among the lowlights: 1) The Trump administration accidentally sending Democrats the White House talking points; 2) Trump’s early attempts at damage control, which included hinting that Mike Pence was involved and asking Nancy Pelosi if they could work something out; 3) The subsequent Trump Administration Threatens Everybody phase, which included threatening the life of the whistleblower as well as the people who gave information to them, threatening a civil war if impeachment is pursued, threatening to charge Adam Schiff with treason, and threatening to ignore subpoenas issued to Mike Pompeo and five other State department staffers; and 4) the current stage of proceedings, which appears to be Administration Investigations for Everybody — or at least, William Barr has been bugging Australia and a bunch of other countries to help him investigate our own FBI and CIA (but more on that below).
As forecast above, we also had a wild resurgence of the Russia Investigation, by which I mean this administration is investigating the Mueller investigation. I guess the best defense is a “good” unrelated offense, at least if you’re playing MAGA LSD Five Dimensional Chess. Here’s what they’ve been up to:
Trump and Barr Bother Australia et al. Both Barr and Trump were in the news over the past few days for trying to get Australia to help him investigate the tip that led to the Mueller investigation. Though conservative outlets note that it’s not unusual to ask for outside help with investigations, it is unusual to use external countries to help discredit a political opponent. When that fact is combined with the same super-secret storage process that was used for the call to Ukraine, this starts to look an awful lot like another illegal form of interference. Incredibly, Barr followed this up with outreach to multiple other countries, including outreach to Italy as recently as last week, which means they were still doing this after impeachment was announced.
But Her Emails (Reprise). Speaking of Butter Emails, the Trump administration has reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server for a zillionth time — I guess nothing says “our actions are defensible” quite like throwing an old kernel about a political enemy into the nonsense blender and seeing what kind of soup it makes. I can’t imagine this will go anywhere, but we should keep an eye on it just the same.
Somehow More Mueller Investigation . Politico broke a story in the last day or two that Trump lied under oath to special counsel Robert Mueller when discussing his knowledge of Wikileaks’ plans to leak Dem information during the 2016 campaign — which I guess is a nice complement to all the news above about the Mueller investigation itself. I legitimately don’t understand how the Ukraine-related impeachment inquiry keeps turning up Russia investigation news, but it clearly is, and here we are.
NRA as a Russian Asset.* There was also a lot of information released this week about the relationship between the NRA and Russia, which was revisited this week as the result of a Senate Finance Committee report. And, of course, it’s not surprising that the NRA was also in the news for offering to help Trump fight off impeachment — if he ‘drop[ped] the games’ about supporting responsible gun legislation. Nothing says ‘definitely not guilty of colluding with Russia’ quite like ‘financially bailed out by their asset,’ amirite?
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Universal Postal Union Scare. We had a brief scare this week when it looked like the U.S. might withdraw from the international postal scene, because Something Something Importing Fees (although it looks like it was really about China). Eventually we were able to reach a deal with the U.N. postal union, saving us from an embarrassing USPexit. Yeesh.
- Your Weekly Immigration Hell. Immigration news continues to be bad, although we did see some non-executive pushback this week. The Senate and House both voted to kill the emergency declaration along the southern border, which is a polite way of saying that they told Trump that his wall is bad and he should feel bad. (Of course, since he can just turn around and veto it, it’s really more of a symbolic move.) While they were doing that, the Trump administration announced they’ll let only in 18,000 refugees during FY2020, which for those of you playing the home game is the lowest refugee cap in our history, and just slightly above 10% of Obama’s number in FY2017. For an encore, the New York Times reported on Trump’s myriad violent proposals for border ‘security,’ which apparently included shooting migrants in the legs, electrocuting them, and siccing snakes and alligators on them.
- Recent Court Resilience. For all that we had obnoxious immigration news this week, we had some good court cases as well. The administration’s bid to get to hold migrant kids indefinitely was unceremoniously shot down, though I’m sure they’ll appeal that in a hot second. Many people were brought grave satisfaction when Amber Guyger, the police officer who came into a neighbor’s house and shot him, was found guilty of murder for said shooting. And though there was an appellate court case that partially upheld the revocation of net neutrality rules, it did overturn the ban on state regulation to keep net neutrality in place.
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 this doggo employing hug therapy 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 more ice cream, cause we still need it!