It’s hard to find any positive news on a week where 17 people lost their lives in yet another school shooting.
But vocal and sustained public outcry—including moving public statements from victims, their families, and the students at the Parkland, FL, high school, and a stunningly impactful display of three billboards reminiscent of the Oscar-nominated movie about a woman confronting the sheriff about his lack of investigation into her daughter’s rape and murder, in front of the Miami office of Marco Rubio, the senator who is one of the biggest NRA campaign-fund recipients, for his inaction—may actually effect some much-needed overhaul of gun laws. A prominent GOP donor has issued an ultimatum that he will not contribute to any politicians or election groups that do not support the banning of sales of military-style weapons to civilians. Even Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post splashed an editorial on its front page calling on Donald to enact an assault-weapons ban—an idea the same paper said made sense “only to the ignorant” four months ago. And students across the country are planning nationwide sit-ins and walkout in protest to demand more sensible gun laws (feel free to share on social media to help spread the word).
In the wake of the deadly Texas church shooting outside San Antonio by a dishonorably discharged Air Force veteran with guns he shouldn’t have been able to buy, the military has finally added the records of 4,000 dishonorably discharged veterans to the national background check system.
Public outcry continues from both sides of the aisle, and this mass shooting may be the tragic tipping point to force Congress and the administration to act beyond the useless “thoughts and prayers” of those who are funded so heavily by the NRA.
On to our progress.
Austin became the first southern city to mandate paid sick leave for workers.
Florida State House district 72 flipped blue in a special election, the 36th legislative red-to-blue switch nationwide since 2017.
Yet another federal judge has ruled to temporarily block the current administration from ending the DACA program.
And a second federal court has ruled that Donald’s Muslim travel ban is unlawful, additionally ruling it unconstitutional. The Supreme Court will hear the case in a few months.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted by a wide margin—and despite the opposition of AG Jeff Sessions, to advance legislation for the criminal justice reform that would reduce some federal sentences and implement reforms in the federal prison system.
New York senator Kristen Gillibrand joins three other sitting senators (all Democrats) who have sworn not to accept corporate PAC contributions.
But outside the Parkland tragedy, the week’s biggest news is Robert Mueller’s investigation, which took a huge leap forward this week, withthirteen suspects who worked in a Russian troll factory being indicted for interfering in the 2016 election to influence it in favor of Donald Trump—by the DOJ, it’s worth noting, the Department of Justice of the administration of the president who vociferously denies that there was Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Awkward…!) Here are USA Today’s rather stunning takeaways from the indictments. Last Tuesday, all four of America’s top intelligence officials—all of whom were appointed by Donald—told Congress that not only did Russia interfere in the 2016 election, but it is already meddling in the 2018 election by using a digital strategy to exacerbate the country’s political and social divisions. Even FOX News weighed in with a stunningly frank news lead by Shepard Smith that unambiguously states that there is no further dismissing that the investigation as a “hoax,” and that Russians meddled in our election, including directly with members of the Trump campaign. This was on FOX, y’all (though elsewhere on their site the story is buried and, when mentioned at all, focuses on attacks on the FBI). Even Donald’s own national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, said Russian meddling is “now really incontrovertible.”
Donald seems to be publicly panicking, with a nine-hour tweetstorm Sunday morning featuring profanity, and attacking the FBI, the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton, Senator Charles Schumer, CNN, and his own security adviser, H. R. McMaster. (While his own top officials tell the world to ignore his tweets.)
Rick Gates, former Donald campaign adviser and Paul Manafort’s codefendant, may be ready to enter a plea deal with Robert Mueller. Bannon, on the verge of a subpoena for refusal to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, finally showed up, though he still clammed up. However, he spent more than twenty hours this week closeted with Mueller. That’s a lot of hours for a guy who since having his umbilical to Donald severed has been singing like a canary.
As part of its response to libel suits based on its publication of the infamous “pee files,” BuzzFeed is rumored to have hired an unofficial investigator to look into the Steele dossier and verify its findings.
The controversy report for this week is broad, even for an administration with 40 percent of cabinet appointees having racked up ethics and legal controversies. Let’s bullet-point this week’s:
- The revolving door of staff at the White House has yielded a 34 percent turnover rate—more than three times as high as Obama’s administration at this point in his tenure, and twice Reagan’s, the previous record holder. Recent spotlights on staffers who did not have permanent security clearances, like recently departed accused abuser Rob Porter, have shed light on other missing clearances for high-profile White House employees—like senior adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner. In response, John Kelly has admitted to shortcomings in the White House’s security clearance procedures and announced an overhaul that includes more direct FBI involvement.
- House Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy (yes, Benghazi Trey Gowdy) has opened an investigation into the White House’s handling of Rob Porter’s hiring, missing security clearance and resignation in the wake of the FBI’s statement that they informed the White House of the abuse allegations against Porter months earlier, contrary to the White House’s (ever-changing) version.
- With Porter’s ouster revealing the large number of White House staffers who still don’t have permanent security clearance, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coates has recommended that Jared Kushner should not have access to classified information.
- Unrelated, a source close to the Trump family suggests that the IRS and the Justice Department have subpoenaed documents in Kushner family projects from lenders and investors.
- EPA head Scott Pruitt is under for his exorbitant travel costs, including flying first-class, unlike previous people in his position—a choice he justifies because someone yelled at him in coach, “Quit fucking up the environment.” Apparently it hurt his feelings.
- The head of the FCC who championed the rollback of net neutrality rules, Ajit Pai, is under investigation by the agency’s internal watchdogto discover whether he improperly influenced a change in rules regarding the number of networks television broadcasters can own to benefit uber-conservative company Sinclair Broadcasting, which made a major purchase that wouldn’t have been possible prior to the change.
- The White House finally agreed to release its visitor logs after consumer advocacy group Public Citizen brought a Freedom of Information lawsuit against it. Postings of the logs are slated to begin in about two months.
- Omarosa Manigault continues to hemorrhage at the mouth, spilling “secrets” from inside the White House about everything from immigration policies (“The roundup plan is getting more and more aggressive”) to Mike Pence’s belief that he says things straight from Jesus.
- Immigrant Melania Trump may have worked illegally in the country before receiving her green card, and her parents may be here as part of the “chain migration” as a basis for immigration that Donald has vowed to end, though the White House refuses to release information that would verify their status.
One possible silver lining of this misogynistic, patriarchal culture Donald and his minions have brought to the White House, according to this thoughtful New Yorker op-ed, is that it has prompted the awakening of women and the ascendancy of women’s rights.
Finally, a not insignificant percentage of Republicans appear to be identifying as independents in a continuing upward trend. And a blue wave of small-dollar contributions to Democratic candidates might help win those voters in upcoming elections.
Stay strong, warriors. No progress was ever made without pain and struggle, but our progress is real and, like Donald’s security adviser McMaster’s assessment of Russian interference that helped elect Donald, it’s incontrovertible.