National News Roundup: Week 47 (December 10–16)

By Randall McNair (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

The theme of this past week’s news was largely “brace yourself for raining shoes” — and several boots and a sandal have yet to drop as I write this. This week, keep your eyes peeled for Mueller mayhem, final votes on tax reform, and personnel changes on Capitol Hill. But in the meantime, here’s some info on what has happened already.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not an FBI agent! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

This week was pretty quiet on the Russia Collusion Investigation front, in part because rumors started circulating that Mueller was about to be fired — but here’s what has happened:

  • Mueller Email Adventures. Over the weekend, the Trump administration accused Mueller of unlawfully obtaining tens of thousands of emails from them because he went through the third-party General Services Administration. But as several legal experts note, public email accounts have no expectation of privacy, and it would be prosecutorial misconduct not to request the records. These claims fuel concern that the President is looking for an excuse to fire Mueller, despite his lack of authority to do so (and his claims to the contrary).
  • The Latest in Harassment Personnel Changes. With last week’s sweeping resignations come new seat-holders, and boy howdy is some of the process looking weird! I think I touched upon this last week, but the governor of Michigan has announced they won’t hold a special election at all, opting to leave John Conyer’s former seat open for an entire year and simply having ordinary elections in 2018. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s governor has appointed Lt Governor Tina Smith to take Al Franken’s seat, but it’s unclear when Franken plans to leave (and her appointment has created chaos in the state’s politics). And it’s completely unclear who is favored to replace Trent Franks, despite a primary election happening in only two months. So it’s been a bit of a wild ride all around.
  • Tax Reform Remix. The tax reform roller coaster appears to be nearing a stop this week, but that’s not a good thing, as it’s currently slowing down right near a gilded circle of hell. Mnuchin released a one-page report this week, which Forbes (rightfully) says he should be ashamed of releasing; among other things, the report confirms that the tax cuts are so expensive that they cannot pay for themselves, and “welfare reform” (i.e. Medicaid and Medicare cuts) will be necessary to pay for it all. That, unfortunately, did not stop Bob Corker and Mark Rubio from eventually hopping aboard for the final version of the bill, leaving the GOP so confident they had the votes that they let McCain take the week off. Though the final version of the tax reform bill does soften a lot of the House version’s harshest edges, it still includes a repeal of the health insurance mandate, and it’s very likely to widen wealth inequality in the country. The Washington Post put out a good comprehensive summary of the final version, which is definitely worth a read (or at least a skim) if you get a chance. But the short version is: If you aren’t rich, it isn’t gonna be great.
  • Federal Judge Withdrawals. Several deeply embarrassing federal judge nominations went the way of the dinosaurs this week! The first to go were Brett “Does it count if my wife practiced law?” Talley and Jeff “I Literally Told You I Illegally Discriminate” Mateer, who were both unceremoniously screened out by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. But after another nominee, Matthew Spenser Peterson, couldn’t answer extremely basic questions about legal procedure — like “I don’t know what a motion in limine is” level of basic — he withdrew his nomination today. Hallelujah, it’s raining turkeys!

And that’s basically the news that was fit to email this week — some good, some bad, most unfinished. It’s like the Big Dig of news weeks! And speaking of unfinished, the next few weeks are going to be a bit wonky here at Roundup Center, because both Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on a Monday. The tentative plan is to issue the Christmas roundup on December 26, and I’ll check in from there on how to handle New Year’s. Until we meet again, happy holidays!

Resist ornament sewn by Benn Kessler

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