Admittedly, the Weekly Index is becoming more of a biweekly index, but so it goes: thanks for tolerating its erratic schedule. Anyway, let’s jump right back into the annals of outrage.
In the past two weeks, President Donald J. Trump:
- Yet again claims that the Russia investigation is the “single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history — led by some very bad and conflicted people!”, after it is revealed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may now also be investigating the President himself for obstruction of justice.
- Tries to deflect attention by relaunching his Twitter wars against “crooked Hillary” and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
- Responds almost presidentially to news of the softball shooting (below).
- And then sits back while his progeny advance divisive conspiracy theories: Donald Jr. retweets a far-right pundit linking the attack to “NY elites glorifying the assassination of our President.”
- Celebrates his 71st birthday, and the move-in of Melania and Barron to the White House.
- Reintroduces restrictions on American-Cuban trade and relations.
- Has lawsuits filed against him by two state Attorneys General and, separately, by 200 Democratic members of Congress to contest his unconstitutional self-dealing and possible violation of the emoluments clause.
- Calls the House Republican bill (the American Health Care Act) “mean,” after celebrating it earlier in a Rose Garden ceremony during which he deemed it “incredibly well crafted.” Calls upon Senate to make their healthcare bill “generous, kind.”
- Names Eric Trump’s wedding planner to oversee federal housing programs in NYC. For real.
- Declares that he’s not going to deport Dreamers after all.
- Has, according to a White House official, become “glum,” trusts no one, gained weight, and “now lives within himself.”
- Calls an unusual Cabinet meeting, in which members go around the table recounting why they are “blessed” and privileged to work for his administration and detailing why he is a great leader. The whole room seems about to implode with attendees’ self-loathing, but they nevertheless play along with Trump’s own pride parade. Global pundits compare the scene to North Korea, Zimbabwe, Stalinist Russia, and other autocracies.
In other news,
- James Comey testifies before the Senate Russia investigation. Highlights include Comey’s confirmation that Trump asked him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, and that he considers the President capable of and likely to lie about the nature of their exchanges. It is gripping testimony, and an estimated 20 million Americans watch it live, including at the many bars that opened early for the spectacle (featuring drink specials like the “Comey Covfefe,” a modified Irish coffee).
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies–or, rather, mostly declines to testify–at an open hearing for Senate Russia investigation, instead claiming that he maintains his silence so as not to jeopardize Trump’s executive privilege. As one pundit notes, Sessions appears to have fabricated a new type of privilege: non-executive executive privilege. As such, he’s gambling that Senate Republicans will not challenge his newly created rule; as yet, they haven’t, at least en masse.
- An American lobbyist for Russian interests goes on record contradicting Sessions’ testimony.
- Four people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La), are shot at an early morning congressional softball practice. Scalise remains in critical care; the gunman dies. The gunman may have been motivated by anti-Trump sentiment: relatives have confirmed that he was a Bernie supporter.
- The same day, a former UPS worker in San Francisco opens fire at a depot, killing three workers and then turning the gun on himself.
- Five Michigan government officials are charged with involuntary manslaughter in relation to the Flint water crisis.
- A Republican state representative in Texas threatens to shoot his Democratic counterpart.
- A white man in Washington State is arrested for running over two young Quinault Nation men while allegedly war-whooping and yelling racial slurs. One man, Jimmy Smith-Kramer, dies in hospital after being backed over by the perpetrator’s monster truck. The national media largely ignores the incident; local police don’t register it as a potential hate crime.
- Veteran’s Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says that getting the numbers of homeless veterans to zero was not “the right goal.”
- Eric Trump calls the head of the Democratic Party a “total whack job” and says that “morality is just gone” from the Democratic party. “To me, they’re not even people.” Nice.
- In a conversation on NPR about food stamps, Nebraska Republican Representative Adrian Smith refuses to confirm that people are “entitled to eat” (and that the government has a duty to ensure that people have food).
- Batman actor Adam West dies. LA’s skyline lights up with the bat signal in memoriam.
- Uber CEO and über-dickhead Travis Kalanick goes on leave, just as one of his board members says–during a conversation on improving corporate culture–that bringing more women on board would merely lead to more chattering. Nice.
- A young Maine woman goes out for a jog and is attacked by a rabid raccoon, which she then drowns in a puddle.
- The police officer who shot Philando Castile five times at a traffic stop is found not guilty.
- VP Mike Pence hires a private lawyer in response to the widening Russia investigation.
- The Senate continues trying to ram through its healthcare legislation, which has been created and discussed only behind closed committee doors and has had no public hearings or transparent explanations of what it does and doesn’t advance. The expectation is that, like the House bill, it will remove healthcare from upwards of 23 million Americans; as such, there is widespread outcry that democratic process is being ignored and that a cloistered process is steamrolling over the public’s rights. Several Republican members of Congress have themselves voiced such concerns.
- Having called a snap election because of her confidence in winning a broader mandate, British Prime Minister Theresa May actually loses Tory seats on election day, and does not have enough votes to form a majority. With Britain in hung Parliament, May forms a shaky coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, a group even more conservative than May’s Tories. The Queen’s Speech–at which the new government would be ratified–is delayed. Britain’s position within the Brexit negotiations, slated to start on Monday, look all the more perilous now. And May is assumed to be operating on borrowed time. Que será, será, Cruella.
- British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is the winner of the night, kind of: although Labour didn’t win an outright majority, they gained both seats and influence. To celebrate, Corbyn accidentally cups a woman’s breast in a high-five misfire.
- A devastating fire at a high-rise tower block in west London kills at least thirty, with the number likely to rise dramatically: it’s expected that some missing people may never be identified. Political recriminations come swiftly and furiously, and May is attacked for issuing a delayed and distanced response to the tragedy. Meanwhile, singer Adele, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, and the Queen herself visit, mingle with, and comfort the victims. Adele for PM? (Just planting the seed.)
- Three men in London drive a truck into a group of people, and then run out and begin stabbing bystanders. Seven die, and London once more briefly shuts down. A man seen running from the attack while carefully protecting his pint becomes a national icon.
- Otto Warmbier, an American student, is released in an unresponsive state from a North Korean prison and returned home to his family and medical care. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denies that basketball player Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea could have impacting the release’s timing…because we live in a world where such statements need uttering.
- Rumor has it that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein may recuse himself any minute from the Russia investigation because he will need to serve as a witness over Comey’s firing.
- In all eleven Russian timezones, protests erupt on Russia Day, with over 1500 protesters arrested, including Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The flag-bearing protesters could be heard rallying behind chants like “Russia without Putin!” and “corruption is stealing our future!” Unsurprisingly, Russian state broadcasters pretended that nothing was amiss. Putin later underwent his annual four-hour Q&A phone-in, in which he fielded mostly softball queries like, “I live in Miami. How do I make my fellow Americans realize that Russia is not their enemy?”
And in good news,
- Let’s repeat it: Donald Trump is likely under investigation for obstruction of justice.
- Oregon governor Kate Brown signs an equal pay bill; Oregon also becomes the first state in the nation to offer a third gender on their drivers’ license.
- Danica Roem becomes the first transgender person to win a Virginia primary.
- The far-right National Front barely wins any seats in the French parliamentary election.
- A federal judge rules that the Trump administration did not follow adequate procedures to survey the environmental and tribal impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline as it passes the Standing Rock Sioux’s territory. The ruling doesn’t halt the construction, but it may open the door to its cessation.
- At the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which ministers to over 15 million Americans, leaders ratify a mandate to “decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy.” Their publishing arm also releases the Christian Standard Bible, a new adaptation that prioritizes gender-inclusive language.
- The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the ruling against Trump’s Muslim travel ban, leading to the best headline ever, courtesy of the HuffPo: “Trump Slips on Ban Appeal.”
- Fox News drops its “Fair and Balanced” motto.
- Pride Week ramps up across America, with intersectionality, remembrance, vigilance, and unity as foremost messages amongst marchers. “When you come for one of us, you come for all of us,” reads one sign.
- Wonder Woman storms the box office, the first big-budget superhero film directed by and starring a woman.
- New York art-lover and philanthropist Agnes Gund sells a Roy Lichtenstein painting for $165 million and uses the proceeds to start the Art For Justice Fund, which will fight for criminal justice reform, primarily at state and local levels. Kapow!
Week Twenty-One | Readings
- On the Russia investigation: in the NY Times, Frank Bruni writing beautifully on Sessions’ testimony and immorality. | “The trail of Sessions’ unanswered questions,” from Amy Davidson. | In the WaPo, Kushner’s relation to the Russia and the investigation. | A straightforward piece about Sessions’ lies, from Slate. | And from Dahlia Lithwick, why Trump’s tweets now matter more than ever. (Hint: they count as evidence.)
- On violence, guns, and hate in America: from the WaPo, the Scalise shooting is the 154th mass shooting this year. Here are the numbers. | Another piece on America’s gun violence numbers, this time from the BBC. | Baseball and guns: America’s national pastimes, writes Chelsea Parsons in the LA Times. | From the New Yorker, Jane Mayer’s exploration of the link between gun and domestic violence in Scalise’s shooter, and more broadly. | Oh, and just a reminder about where America’s love affair with weaponry places it in comparison to other developed nations.
- A few bits and pieces: a lovely piece from poet Charles Simic on late poet Phillip Levine as a “Voice for the Voiceless.” | From Marcia Angell, also in the NYRB, a useful history and context of the anti-abortion debate. | A fascinating piece about the push for gender-equal education, and its imperilled status in today’s curricula. From Elizabeth Weingarten in The Atlantic. | And a sobering, shocking piece from Alex De Waal, writing in the London Review of Books, about famine as a weapon of war, then and now, them and us.
- Finally, on a lighter note, Happy Bloomsday! Here’s a piece in the Smithsonian about why Joyce would’ve loathed the tradition. | Another piece, from Vanity Fair, confirming why Joyce would’ve enjoyed the silliness of Bloomsday but hated its hagiographic elements. | And so, to honor the silliness and vulgarity of Ulysses, and undercut the hagiography, here’s a classic short film about Joyce and Beckett playing mini-golf. Bon weekend, tous!
(Fecund in its nuttiness. Link here, just in case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p856CfM64w8 )