This week, the Fourth Circuit heard arguments in the appeal to District Judge Theodore Chuang’s preliminary injunction to the president’s revised “travel ban” order. Key testimony was provided by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who noted that she informed the president that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail. This corresponds to reports from former Obama administration officials who report that the previous president had similar concerns. Some critics have analyzed Yates’ testimony and noted several inconsistencies between her current testimony and public statements released in January. Others have seen this as a means by which we can receive insight into the inner workings of the Department of Justice. Peter Margulies considers the language of the testimony and speculates whether the intent of the argument is based on the text of the order itself. Dawn Johnsen argues that the president’s candor might have effectively surrendered his ability to rely on the judicial deference that was the norm for his predecessors.
On the heels of that testimony, however, the president sidelined media discourse for the remainder of the week by abruptly firing then-FBI director James Comey. The move led to a week of speculation and contradictory information. Both the attorney general’s recommendation and president’s memo are publicly accessible, though the president appears to be of two minds regarding whether his decision was independent or at the behest of his advisers. Given that this firing occurred the day before a closed meeting with Russian officials, some have interpreted events as related, with others equating this as a parallel to Watergate or at least an impeachment-worthy offense. Concerns have also been raised regarding how Jeff Sessions’ recommendation might impact his request for recusal from the Russia investigations.
The Environmental Protection Agency administration has decided not to reappoint nine scientists to its Board of Scientific Counselors. It has received some attention from critics who conclude that the decisionmaking process is being filtered through a willful lack of comprehension about long-term environmental effects.