Monthly Archives: March 2017

Weekly Roundup, March 19th – 25th

This week raced to start, with a House Intelligence Committee hearing taking center stage early Monday. During the proceedings, FBI Director James Comey confirmed the existence of an ongoing investigation regarding ties between the Russian government and the 2016 US Election, which Benjamin Wittes warns may be a herald of forthcoming criminal investigations. The concerns regarding wiretapping were dismissed, though many analysts remain wary that the discussion has hinged on particular semantics and may not be completely disclosing the full issue of intelligence leaks and a potential abuse of power. Helen Klein Murillo examines this in conjunction with perjury law, noting that the goal ought to be for “the executive branch, and the White House in particular, to share information with Congress, not just on subpoena but freely and on an ongoing basis.”

One of those concerned parties became a conflicting figure later in the week, as House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes delivered an impromptu press conference midweek to announce that communications from then-candidate Trump and his team were intercepted during larger surveillance practices. Given the potential disruption of what was confirmed to be an ongoing FBI case, many have speculated that Nunes cannot be considered impartial regarding the current administration. Some see Nunes’ rhetoric as damage control intended to mitigate the public relations faux pas.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil M. Gorsuch delivered the opening statement of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The week’s hearings included statements on the nominee’s stances regarding abortion law and past rulings in favor of corporations. Some senators have noted an intent to filibuster the nomination entirely, leaving many to speculate about the possibility of the “nuclear option” which would allow the nominee into the Supreme Court with only a simple minority vote rather than the current supermajority requirement.

Though the travel ban has remained quiet, a new “electronics ban” was issued, limiting the carry-on items allowed on international planes from Middle Eastern and North Africa-based airlines bound toward the US and UK. Katie Reilly attempts to explain, citing precedent from prior security incidents.

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Weekly Roundup, March 12 – 18th

Once again, the “travel ban” has maintained its position in the public eye. Federal judges from Hawaii and Maryland issued a nationwide order blocking the second iteration of the executive order limiting immigration from six majority-Muslim countries. The Justice Department is presently engaging in the appeals process, leaving some analysts to speculate that the judges may be overstepping their legal boundaries and ignoring due process. Given that the executive branch continues to insist that the ban is necessary, Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic analyze the potential reason behind such an aggressive judicial perspective.
It is possible that this enmity is filtering into other elements of the judicial system, as the Attorney General requested formal resignations from 46 US attorneys, effective early in the week. New York Attorney Preet Bharara attempted to resist this request by refusing to submit a resignation, and was subsequently fired in a more final way. Patrick Collins speculates that the move was poorly timed, and may cause more problems than it resolves.
The issue of funding the southern border wall continues to receive a mention in some outlets. The Trump administration has noted plans to shift $5 billion toward hiring additional agents for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with a significant portion of the funds intended toward the construction of the long-promised wall. This money would come at the expense of the Coast Guard, TSA, and FEMA, in a move that Paul Rosenzewig warns could result in “less security, not more.”
Similarly, budget proposals would cause a cut in funding to “soft” organizations, such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and Meals on Wheels. Given the ongoing struggle to establish a healthcare bill that manages to please all sides, the issue of funding may continue to be contested for weeks to come.
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Weekly roundup, March 5th-11th

As expected, the week began with a revised executive order seeking to reinstate a version of the maligned “Travel ban.” Once the order was made public, many experts found the text to be crafted with the intent to reach the same results while avoiding the legal challenges that plagued the first draft. And though some cite the judicial branch’s history of deference to immigration restrictions, that has not deterred states from voicing their concerns. Hawaii led the charge, becoming the first state to file a legal challenge against what Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin considers to be a “sweeping shutdown of refugee admissions.” Over the course of the week, four other states announced the intent to support Hawaii’s suit and will endeavor to prove that the new order is also unconstitutional.
While this dissent is still hotly debated at the federal level, the New York Police Department submitted to stronger civilian monitoring of its surveillance on Muslim communities. David Kimball-Stanley attempts to dissect the details of the settlement and the potential of New York to be able to “lead by example” and encourage national security to be more forthcoming about the nature of its perceived threats.
President Trump’s wiretapping allegations attracted much attention over the course of the week, prompting Julian Sanchez to explain the legalities and limitations of wiretapping, while simultaneously attempting to find sources for the president’s claims. And though many news outlets have jumped at the chance to label the President’s concerns as “baseless” and bordering on libel, Stewart Baker urges us to consider a nonpartisan approach that may allow us to reach a more complete understanding of the situation as it develops. The FBI has requested that the Justice Department issue a statement denying the president’s accusation, but the department has yet to respond.
While there is much to be said about the flurry of partisan battling, the presidential team has made healthcare their topic of choice. Intended as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, the American Health Care Act attempts to allay concerns about the oft-criticized “Obamacare” plans. The resulting document was steeped in concessions that satisfied politicians on neither the right nor left, with even the American Medical Association speaking out in opposition.
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Weekly Roundup, March 5th 2017

In a week following the fatigue from President Trump’s anti-media crusade, the issue of Russian contact with White House staff continues to make headlines. After Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the ongoing investigation and a former Trump advisor deleted incriminating tweets, Andrew Kent attempts to evaluate the nature of credibility in investigations such as these. Jane Chong considers that the White House and Justice Department may want to re-evaluate their communications practices. This seems particularly apropos in light of Vice President Pence’s own email scandal earlier in the week.

While the focus has been set on interactions with Russia, President Trump has attempted to shift focus to an alternative scandal, declaring that his home had been subject to wiretapping during his campaign.
A revision to the travel ban is still pending its final state. Some elements of the revision were leaked around midweek, which was subsequently reviewed by legal experts. Amid the chaos, and despite a protest jointly signed by more than 60 police chiefs nationwide, the president has announced that he still intends to unveil a new executive order regarding travel and immigration on Monday.
Anxieties continue to mount among scholars. Yale’s Timothy Snyder compares current events to the early stages of other countries’ shifts toward tyrannical regimes. Kenneth J. Uva is similarly concerned that the result of these early stressors may result in a push toward autocracy. instead. Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic believe that this atmosphere is emblematic of a deeper violation of the constitution, wherein the American system falls apart when the public does not believe that his oath was taken in good faith.
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