Yet another whirlwind week, filled with new legislation, Tweeted conspiracies, and a ballsy statement by a House Republican about how men shouldn’t have to pay for prenatal care.
To jump right in, Trump:
- Accuses, via four early-morning Tweets, President Obama ordered Trump towers to be wire-tapped during the election. “This is McCarthyism… This is Nixon/Watergate… A NEW LOW.” Following these astounding and unproven accusations, Trump returns to a favorite topic: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance on Celebrity Apprentice. White House does not retract his accusations.
- Issues a new travel ban, this time on six Muslim-majority countries (Iraq was removed from the list, as were greencard holders, dual citizens, and current visa holders). The ban holds for 90 days, with a moratorium on all refugees for 120 days. Some hail this as a partial victory, as the president conceded on several key points. But it is legally more airtight than the previous version (for example, it removes the exemption for Christians), and stands a somewhat better chance of being upheld in the courts. Its mandate will begin on March 16th unless it is blocked in the courts like its predecessor.
- Speculates that a wave of recent bomb threats against Jewish community centers and synagogues could, in fact, be a conspiracy against him to make his supporters “look bad.”
- Celebrates February’s job numbers–235,000 new jobs added–and unemployment rate of 4.7% as evidence of his own, rather than his predecessor’s, impact.
- Golfs, tweets, and lays comparatively low.
In other news,
- The GOP is quietly and intently working to undermine government regulation in the long-term:
- The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017 (REINS Act) passed the house in January and would make 1) it mandatory for new regulations to rescind enough existing rules so that any costs they incur would be covered by the savings from the rescinded rules; 2) “major rules” only go into effect if Congress adopts an additional statute approving it; and 3) every agency would have to send for reapproval 10% of its regulations per year, which means every regulation would need reapproval every ten years.
- The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 (RAA), the more serious and complex of the two bills, which passed the House on January 11th, adds so many preliminary procedural requirements that new regulations would become virtually impossible.
- Obama spokesperson denies wiretapping of Trump. Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says that the intelligence agencies he supervised did not wiretap Trump, nor did the FBI obtain a court order through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor Trump’s phones. NSC member Ben Rhodes tweets at Trump, “No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.” FBI Director James Comey, in a shocking rebuke to a current president, asks the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s accusations of wire-tapping. The Justice Department refuses to do so, setting the stage for possible governmental crisis. Many assume that the wire-tapping allegations are merely a distraction from the wider Russian investigations.
- VP Mike Pence, one of the foremost critics of Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, confirms that he did gubernatorial business using an AOL account, which had been hacked.
- Domestic and global outrage erupts over Trump’s new travel ban. The UN condemns it, refugee organizations are appalled at its ban on humanitarian immigration; Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (a dual Somali-US citizen) says that it overlooks the huge contributions that Somali-Americans and other immigrants are making to American society. Several court cases against it have already been filed.
- House GOP releases its answer to the Affordable Care Act, which trades healthcare subsidies for tax credits to individuals; which caps funding for Medicaid; which includes tax cuts for the wealthy and incentives for insurance industry leaders paid over $500,000; which pauses funding for Planned Parenthood; which scraps the ACA’s individual mandate (which most regard as the lynchpin to a functioning healthcare plan); and which retains coverage for under-26s on their parents’ plans and renders denial of coverage to those with pre-existing conditions still illegal. It will likely decrease the number of insured people by millions.
- Press Secretary Sean Spicer salutes the healthcare bill in a press conference by pointing to a large stack of paper (the ACA) and a smaller stack of paper (the GOP plan), and saying repeatedly, “This [large stack] is government; this [small stack] is not.” Says Trevor Noah of Spicer, “he parodies himself.”
- Objections to the GOP healthcare plan erupt on both sides, with progressives calling it a tax cut for the rich and blow to the poor, elderly, and infirm (some bitterly resuscitate the “death panel” analogy invoked by Republicans against the A.C.A.), and with the House Freedom Caucus (hardcore conservatives) saying that it still features too much government investment and regulation. The AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Children’s Hospital Association issue statements against the bill.
- The healthcare plan passes through two House committees–Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce–with few revisions or concessions to Democratic fears: votes are predictably down party lines. The Budget Office has not yet weighed in on its costs.
- Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut) says that the plan will be affordable to lower-income Americans as long as they choose between purchasing healthcare and a new iPhone. So there’s that.
- Bomb threats against Jewish community centers and synagogues continue. The entire Senate sends the White House a letter demanding “swift action.”
- Director of the EPA Scott Pruitt announces that he doesn’t “believe” in anthropogenic climate change and that there’s no scientific consensus around it. Hoardes of scientists, including many in the EPA, suggest otherwise.
- The White House proposes severe cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the lead climate change research agency. The cut is needed in order to redirect the funds towards “rebuilding the military,” says WH.
- The Justice Department responds “no comment” to a question about whether Trump is being investigated.
- The Supreme Court declines to hear whether Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy at a high school in Virginia, could use the boy’s room–a disappointment to transgender advocates.
- During 27 hours of debate on the ACA replacement bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Republican Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.) objects to men having to pay for plans that include prenatal care. Women, women’s health advocates, and thinking people get outraged.
- Ben Carson gives speech to HUD, in which he refers to slaves as immigrants seeking the American dream; he also invokes Martin Luther King Jr. “That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.” Yes, he really said that.
In other news,
- Wikileaks posts thousands of documents purportedly outline the CIA’s hacking techniques.
- Uber continues to employ defense lawyers and spokespeople at record rates.
- Middlebury College Professor Alison Stanger is attacked by student mob for hosting a conversation with ultra-conservative writer Charles Murray. Widespread condemnation of student response as illiberal and anti-intellectual.
- Arkansas schedules a spate of executions because its lethal-injection drugs are about to expire.
- In Kent, Washington, a Sikh man is shot in driveway of house and told to “go back to his own country.” He is an American citizen.
- Eric Trump declares his father’s brand to be at its zenith.
- Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin writes to Congress to inform it that the United States will reach its legal borrowing limit this coming Thursday. This could get real ugly, real fast.
- After giving a speech against Trump’s immigration bans, DACA Dreamer Daniela Vargas is detained as she leaves a civil rights rally in Mississippi.
- Across the nation, ICE raids continue, with a story emerging of terrified children spending the night at their school in Longview, Washington because an ICE van was waiting outside. Schools and other institutions across the nation distribute thousands of instructional cards detailing your rights if ICE is at your door.
Finally, in honor of International Women’s Day, one more reminder of presidential priorities. Please address your letters of continued outrage to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Any errors or omissions? Get in touch: weeklyindex [at] gmail.