I promised myself I would still do the news over the break, because I want y’all to stay informed. But it’s the holidays, and we all want to take a little time to dream about a world that’s less of a trash fire than this one — and besides, loved ones have convinced me that Perhaps It is Good Activism to Take Some Time Off. So we’re doing a Holiday Special this week as a compromise: Brief bullets with the best, the worst, and the weirdest. I promise it’ll be better than Star Wars!*
Standard standing reminders still apply, though: 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 ambassador! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the Special!
- Voting by Fish Bowl.* A Virginia election initially went to a Democrat by literally one vote early last week, which would have given them a seat in the lower chamber of their House and eleven additional votes. But then the Republican incumbent convinced three judges that a random uncounted vote should go to him, we were back to a tie. Now, I kid you not, the plan is to decide who wins by drawing names out of a hat. I hope at least it’s a nice hat.
- I Guess We’re Fighting with the United Nations Again?* The United Nations collectively and overwhelmingly told Trump where to stuff his Jerusalem resolution this past week, voting 128–9 on a nonbinding resolution of their own to overrule it. Nikki Hadley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, handled this by telling the United Nations — a group we founded in 1942 — that she and Trump would be “taking names.” (Oh, and she said it on Twitter, because that’s the platform of choice for issuing international threats nowadays.) But 128 nations is a lot of names, so I’m not convinced the administration plans to follow up on that.
- Congress Punts on (Almost) Everything. After the tax bill happened (and there’s more on that below) Congress basically agreed to punt everything else until next year, putting a stopgap in place that funds the government until mid-January. That said, though, the stopgap bill also provides emergency funding for CHIP and community health centers until March, and they did “lay groundwork” for a DREAM Act bill sometime in the new year. So a few things got done, though not very much, before Congress began a ten-day break.
- Tax Reform Remix.* After some intrepid Democrat staffer found several Byrd Rule violations in the House bill after the House voted on it on Tuesday, it became clear that last-minute changes would need to be made to the bill. The Senate passed the cleaned-up version on Tuesday night, and the House vote went through a second time on Wednesday. Trump signed the bill on Friday, so this is now a done deal, and my header isn’t lying; it’s the actual worst. We’ll get it repealed in the new year.
- Mueller Mutterings.* Conservative criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller is reaching something of a fever pitch, prompting the top Democrat in the Senate Intelligence Committee to make a Senate speech warning against firing him. (I’m still holding out hope that Trump wouldn’t be foolish enough to try that, because it won’t be great for him either if he does, but that doesn’t always stop this administration.) On the plus side, the House Judiciary Committee Democrats voted in experienced NY Rep Jerry Nadler to replace the resigning John Conyer; Nadler has served on the committee for twenty-five years, and is an extremely solid choice for handling anything that comes up.
- A Very Mnuchin Christmas (and Other Petty Slights). Here at Schadenfreude Central, you can enjoy the fact that a guy sent Steve Mnuchin a gift-wrapped box of horse manure for Christmas this year, along with a note observing that he was returning the favor for the tax reform bill. Meanwhile, the UK government is trying to talk Prince Harry out of inviting the Obamas to his wedding, for the simple reason that he’s most emphatically not inviting the Trumps and they don’t want to deal with an orange-hued Twitter tirade. But since Prince Harry bonded with the Obamas at the Invictis Games this past year and appears to be actually friends with them — and his wedding is not an official state event — I hope he gets his way on this. The Trumps, by the way, are definitely not getting an invite, and nobody is acting like that option is even on the table.
- Some Actual Good News. The six J20 protesters charged with felonies for protesting on Inauguration Day were found not guilty this week, ending a four-week trial and a nearly year-long process. Incredibly, the prosecutor conceded in its trial arguments that there was no evidence that these six people committed any of the violent actions charged — two were street medics, and one was a photojournalist covering the protests — but argued that they participated in a protest where other people did, so they should be held accountable. (Quick editorial note from your resident attorney author: While it’s true in many jurisdictions that people who conspire to commit a felony can be charged for anything that happens during the commission of that felony — including murder if it goes horrible awry — it’s pretty disturbing both philosophically and legally to argue that a plan to protest is a conspiracy to commit a felony.) With all sincerity, these verdicts are an important bastion against the criminalization of ordinary protest, for the simple reason that there was no evidence any of defendants had done literally any rioting. If any of these convictions had stuck, they could be used to convict people simply pinned in the wrong spot when a protest goes south — an experience that happens to many, many peaceable protesters if someone in the crowd starts a riot.
And that’s the Holiday Special, folks! We’ll do A Very News New Year next week, probably on the ordinary release date, and then we’ll be back to our regular routine by 1/9. Until then, keep on keepin’ on!
*The Christmas Special, that is. No promises about Last Jedi; I still haven’t even seen it.