Monthly Archives: May 2017

Weekly Roundup, May 7th – 13th

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.

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Weekly Roundup, April 30th – May 6th

The threat of a government shutdown has been averted, though it may resurface in the near future. After passing the senate, the congressional spending bill was signed and approved by the president. This could potentially prove a mere stopgap though, as this arrangement will only hold the government through September, and the president has posted online that many compromises will be reevaluated during the next vote.
While last week raised some questions regarding privacy and disclosure of surveillance, this week the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its annual transparency report regarding the practical applications of surveillance law in 2016. Jordan Brunner provides an overview of the report’s findings, as well as some discussion of some of the major statistics. Many find it alarming that the report includes mention of over 151 million call records collected, leading others to consider whether any other number would be more appropriate.

Amid the latest round of Executive Orders, the “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” seeks to “encourage energy exploration and production” by clearing millions of acres of offshore waters for oil and gas leasing. Some legal voices are already questioning whether the president’s powers allow him to remove protection from a previously-protected zone. While some have used this as an opportunity to project growth in mining sectors, some coal insiders suggest that the president “temper his expectations… He can’t bring them [mining jobs] back.”

At the end of the week, the House of Representatives passed the latest draft of the American Health Care Act. Alison Kodjak breaks down the text of the bill and considers what it could mean to the average citizen impacted by proposed changes. Matthew Fledler considers the potential for abuse within some of the healthcare act’s wording. John Whitesides and Sarah N. Lynch consider the bill’s construction, and ask whether any legislature that determines women’s health options ought to be constructed by an all-male group.

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Weekly Roundup, April 23rd – 29th

Another executive order is facing at least a temporarily block from the judicial branch. San Francisco filed a lawsuit in January requesting an injunction against the executive order that would, in part, seek to strip federal funding from sanctuary cities declining to comply with ICE detention requests. On Tuesday, Judge William H Orrick agreed with the city and ruled that the financial threats contained within the order may be unconstitutional. Kartikay Mehrotra speculates about the ways in which this might boost California’s efforts to become a leader in the political resistance against the presidential administration. Darla Cameron has compiled a breakdown of “sanctuary cities” and their function. President Trump intends to argue this ruling in the Supreme Court.

Despite the administration’s commitment to finding funding for a border wall, the congressional spending bill inspired bipartisan discussion attempting to deflect the threat of a government shutdown. Some Republican senators dismissed the commitment entirely, stating that “There will never be a 2,200-mile wall built, period” as South Carolina senator Lindsey O. Graham did. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) seemed to take the wall discussion more metaphorically: “I think you’re going to get a down payment on border security generally.” Ultimately, Congress negotiated a spending bill which was approved by the president late in the weekend. This plan is still pending approval from the full House and Senate.

The National Security Agency released a statement announcing its intent to cease collecting an element of “upstream” communicative data to foreign targets. Whereas previous guidelines required collection “to, from, or about” a target, the NSA will eliminate “about” surveillance.  Charlie Savage provides an overview of this decision’s place in American surveillance.

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