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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