It’s that time again – your end of the week news roundup. We got a bit of a break from Russia news to begin the week, as the GOP’s efforts to repeal Obamacare turned rather dramatic. Sadly both Russia and health care reform were pushed aside mid-week by the terrible news of Senator John McCain’s brain tumor diagnosis. The only silver lining, if you can even call it that, was that it was a chance to see that these people – our representatives – are real human beings who have relationships with each other that transcend the partisan bickering.
I’ve written a fair amount about Sen. McCain on this blog, often critically – but as I’ve also said here before, he is a true hero to his country. I’m hoping for the best for him and his family. And now, what happened this week that you might have missed?
1. First, an update on some news DC Deciphered shared with you in the 6/30 What Did I Miss?. A bit of good news had occurred that week: the House Appropriations Defense sub-committee overwhelmingly approved (on a bipartisan basis) an amendment introduced by Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee to revoke the 2001 AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force) that was given to George W. Bush post-9/11 to target the terrorists responsible for that attack.
Since that time, the AUMF had been used (and many think, abused) by Presidents of both parties for all sorts of military actions unrelated to the intended mission. Barbara Lee had been introducing this amendment for many years, but this was the first time the committee had accepted it.
However, this week, Republicans in the House (Lee believes it was Speaker Paul Ryan) quietly removed the amendment from the spending bill it was attached to. According to Buzzfeed, Republicans used a procedural tool to remove the amendment without having to vote on it.
While Lee’s amendment appears to be dead for now, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — which, along with its House counterpart, is the body typically responsible for updating war authorizations — is debating passing a new AUMF. The committee held a public hearing on the issue on June 20, and expects a briefing from the Trump administration in the weeks ahead.
2. Another update, from an item in last week’s What Did I Miss?. Last Thursday, a judge in Hawaii broadened the class of family members that are exempt from Trump’s travel ban. After the recent Supreme Court ruling that allowed Trump’s ban to go into effect only for people who did not have a “bona fide relationship” with a person in the United States,* the Trump administration put out a list of which relationships would qualify.
But their list left off many close relationships like grandparents/grandkids and nieces/nephews, among others. Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii said last week that defied common sense and those relationships must be included on the list as well.
The Trump administration immediately filed a motion with the Supreme Court asking for a clarification on their ruling. This Wednesday, the Supreme Court upheld Judge Watson’s ruling on this issue (there was a separate part of the Court’s ruling, dealing with refugees, that went Trump’s way). And yes, the Court is on break right now. They issued a brief three sentence order to resolve this open question. The three usual suspects – Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch – dissented, saying they would’ve blocked grandparents, cousins, etc from entering the U.S.
3. Also on Wednesday: we had the first meeting of Trump’s “Election Integrity Commission.” VP Mike Pence and President Trump both spoke to open up the meeting. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump points out that while Pence is a seasoned enough politician to know he needed to sell the idea that the commission is really, truly about election integrity (we swear!), when Trump spoke, he gave away the game:
This issue is very important to me because throughout the campaign and even after, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities which they saw, in some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.
In other words, “a lot of people are saying” that they saw tons of voter fraud in the states that I didn’t win.
4. And it may have been their first meeting, but the commission is already facing at least seven federal lawsuits. The most recent lawsuit was filed by the NAACP, which alleges that the commission “was formed with the intent to discriminate against voters of color.”
The Washington Post catalogues the rest of the suits here.
5. Here’s some good news: Back in a March What Did I Miss?, DC Deciphered told you about a small group of Republicans in the House who were joining together to urge their colleagues to address climate change. This week, the group – led by Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo – had a rare victory:
Curbelo’s Climate Solutions Caucus, a group of 24 Republicans and 24 Democrats who are concerned about the impacts of climate change, voted en masse on Thursday against a proposal to nix a Defense Department report on the threats posed by climate change to military installations.
At the same time, it’s hard not to be discouraged – and pretty frightened – that the majority of the House Republican Caucus voted to have this report killed. It’s especially disconcerting since the report related to our national security, something which is supposedly at the top of the Republican priority list.
6. And here’s another tiny glimmer of bipartisanship: On Thursday, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Lindsay Graham introduced a new version of the DREAM Act, which would offer a path to citizenship for people who were brought to the country as children and who fulfill numerous requirements:
Under the 2017 Dream Act, immigrants would qualify for permanent residence and a path to citizenship if they are longtime residents who came to the United States as children; earn a high school diploma or GED; pursue higher education, have lawful employment for three years or serve in the military; pass a background check and pay a fee; show proficiency in English and U.S. history; and have not committed a felony nor posed a threat to the country.
Versions of the DREAM Act have been introduced in Congress in previous years, most notably in 2010, when it passed the Democratic House, but failed to pass the Democratic Senate due to a Republican filibuster. In 2012, President Obama signed an executive order (EO), known as DACA, that achieves some of the bill’s goals (it allows the DREAMers to stay in the country but doesn’t give them a path to citizenship), but also infuriated conservative opponents.
That EO is now the subject of multiple lawsuits, and it’s unclear if the Trump administration will defend against them. That’s why supporters of the policy want to pass legislation solidifying the provisions. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that Graham will be joined by many of his GOP colleagues on this bill. But big props to him for going with his beliefs instead of the political winds.
In any case, a White House official told McClatchy that Trump won’t support the bill.
7. And a small victory for transparency: Watchdog group CREW, joined by a couple other watchdog groups, had sued the Department of Homeland Security back in April for the release of Mar-a-Lago visitor logs, along with logs to the White House and Trump Tower. A federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration must turn over the Mar-a-Lago records by September 8th.
It seems like years ago now with all that’s gone on in the last few months, but you’ll probably remember that over the winter, Trump spent lots of time at his Florida club. And while there, he’d conduct White House business and even occasionally entertain foreign leaders and diplomats. But other than a few public spectacles, the American people never really knew who was visiting him there, whether it was business leaders, lobbyists, other politicians, etc.
So now we should be getting those records in a couple months. I can’t help but be cynical about whether those records were really carefully kept. But, I feel like even the fact that the court is ordering the transparency means something, even if it’s only symbolic.
8. FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon Jr. offers a useful 2-part guide on when to trust unnamed sources in a news report. This seems like a smart, grounded rebuttal to Trump’s complaints about the use of “anonymous” sources by the lying, corrupt media. And even though Trump complains simply because he doesn’t like the content regardless of the source (as we all know, he loves to use his own anonymous sources), Bacon Jr. makes it clear that there are actually times to be skeptical of sources who won’t go on record.
Part 1 of his post gives general guidelines for determining whether an unnamed source is trustworthy, i.e. clues to look for in the way the story is written.
Part 2 of his post looks at the different types of sources (e.g. organizations, politicians, law enforcement officials), and the signs to look for that indicate whether you should or should not trust them.
9. Tom Toro, political cartoonist for the New Yorker, has written a book called Tiny Hands. It’s about – who else – Donald Trump. Toro talked to the Huffington Post about his process for coming up with his Trump cartoons. Even if you don’t feel like reading the full article, click over just to take a look at the cartoons.
10. And finally, this unintentionally funny Fox News chyron pretty much sums up where we stand at the official 6-month mark of Trump’s presidency. Not exactly MAGA.
*Remember, this is a temporary order, in effect only until the appeal is heard by the Supreme Court next fall.