While You Were Offline: Trump and Pelosi's War of Words Continues
Man, it's been a long week. Does anyone even remember it started with former White House counsel Don McGahn defying a Congressional subpoena at this point? Or that New York State had effectively closed a legal loophole that would allow them to charge people President Trump pardoned on a federal level? Does anyone recall the glee that was felt around the unexpected return to national prominence of denied Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland? That happened last week as well! And then there was Facebook announcing it had quietly deleted almost 3.4 billion fake accounts in the last half year, while Twitter banned the Krassenstein brothers for operating fake accounts in an attempt to build an anti-Trump movement. Still, at least Richard Ashcroft got songwriting royalties for "Bittersweet Symphony" after all these years, right? But that's just the beginning. Here's what else people have been talking about online for the past seven days.
No Shelter in the Storm
What Happened: The Trump administration proposed a new law that could effectively deny trans people equal access to homeless shelters.
What Really Happened: For those looking for a reason to dislike Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson that goes further than, "He doesn't know the difference between a term used for foreclosed properties and a cookie" this week provided a very real one.
The timing of the news was notable, considering what had happened the day before.
The proposed rule isn't in effect yet, but it attempts to roll back transgender protections at homeless shelters. This is, unmistakably, a big deal.
Understandably, people saw what was happening for what it really is.
Despite widespread outcry, there’s been no apology from HUD, nor an attempt to roll back the proposed changes. As of this writing, it's being reported that trans protections are being rolled back in healthcare, as well.
The Takeaway: So, what can be done in the face of this? The same as people have been doing for the past two years in response to the Trump administration's moves: Make yourself heard.
I'm Rubber, You're The Leader of the Free World
What Happened: The apparently ever-ongoing standoff between President Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi got a little bit more tense this week, when Pelosi spoke the truth and hurt the president's feelings.
What Really Happened: Turns out, the President of the United States—one of the most aggressive politicians on the planet when it comes to bad-mouthing anyone who dares disagree with him—can't take what he dishes out particularly well. On Wednesday morning, Nancy Pelosi was asked by the press what she thought about the Trump administration's continued attempts to prevent any kind of investigation into what are clearly troubling practices. Her answer was unusually blunt.
Notably, this statement was somewhat bold considering that Pelosi has been counseling Democrats not to push for impeachment, and also that she said that just hours before a planned meeting with President Trump to discuss infrastructure plans—something that they were not a million miles apart on, the last time the subject came up. Later that morning, the wisdom of her decision became apparent when, at a point when the president was supposed to be at that very infrastructure meeting with Democratic leaders, the White House Press Corps got a surprise summons.
What could it be? Why was the president going to be talking to the press, instead of the Democrats? OK, so that last one had a pretty straightforward answer, given Trump's love of the former—or, at least, talking at them, which often includes calling them the enemies of the people—and dislike of the latter. But the press conference, such as it was, wasn't subtle in turning what should have been subtext into outright, plain as anything, text.
Turns out, that was right on the money.
OK, so maybe he's just a little hypocritical. But, now that he’s out in front of the press, surely he would be willing to do more than just attack Democrats for conducting investigations, right?
Speaker Pelosi's response to the doomed meeting was … somewhat different to Trump's.
Maybe the two will come to some kind of consensus now that they've both declared where they stand?
Just kidding; things actually escalated through the week.
This will end well.
The Takeaway: If this ends up being a battle of wits and will, I suspect we already know who's going to win.
Rex Tillerson Talks to Congress
What Happened: What happens when one of the few people who got to see Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin interact testifies before Congress? Judging by what happened last week, the answer is, "The President of the United States starts spiraling out."
What Really Happened: Something that often slips the mind about the Trump administration is the number of people who were once present in high profile, very important, jobs but have since disappeared back into the shadows after being fired or forced to resign in disgrace. That was a thought that came to mind last week when it emerged that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had met with Congress to discuss that whole Russia thing.
Well, that seems like it might be a thing. I wonder what he said specifically? Despite it being a closed-door meeting, there were, of course, leaks that revealed everything, and it didn't look good for the president.
With such an embarrassing story being shared widely, the president's first response was almost immediate—and almost certainly not written by the president.
How can we tell this probably wasn't written by Trump? Because he offered his true response the next morning on Twitter.
Now we know what he really thinks. The rest of the Twitterati obviously couldn't let this particular line of attack go unremarked.
Of course, when it comes to Trump's defense, the facts don't back up the president's version of events.
The Takeaway: There's no way for this to make sense without the hypocrisy of the president being apparent, but that doesn't mean the administration won't try.
Julian Assange and the First Amendment
What Happened: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was charged with 17 new counts by United States authorities, and no matter what side of the Assange aisle you may sit on, these new charges should be just a little concerning.
What Really Happened: We've previously covered the fact that Julian Assange had been removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London and arrested by British authorities, pending potential extradition—but to where remains an unanswered question. Swedish authorities re-opened their investigation into sexual assault allegations, while the US … Well. Let’s just cut to Thursday afternoon last week, shall we?
The charges got a lot of coverage, understandably, and regardless of how people feel about Assange, it was the First Amendment part of the equation that got plenty of people concerned.
But is this kind of response an overreaction?
So, an overreaction? Possibly, according to one of the US Attorneys assigned to the case.
Even if that's true—and, to be blunt, that response pretty much falls under the "Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?" school of thought—it shouldn't be overlooked that no matter the intent behind this trial, the result could set legal precedent for future prosecutions. Which is why it's important people pay attention to what's going on, and speak out if and when necessary.
The Takeaway: No, really; this is a big deal, and could end up being a very, very big deal considering the current president’s distaste for the free press.
So Long, Prime Minister
What Happened: Because the British political scene didn't have enough uncertainty what with Brexit and all, Prime Minister Theresa May resigned on Friday, ensuring not only a new leadership election, but perhaps a new general election, as well.
What Really Happened: It was, in so many ways, the moment British politics had been waiting for, for months. The day after the United Kingdom voted in European elections that many had assumed it wouldn't have to—Brexit was, remember, supposed to have taken place back in March according to the original timetable—British Prime Minister Theresa May finally walked out from the door of her residence, 10 Downing Street, and did what people had expected her to do a long, long time ago.
To be fair, it wasn't only long ago that people had been expecting her to step down as Prime Minister; a day before she made her announcement, the internet was buzzing about the possibility.
What brought her down, in the end? Brexit, of course; although May had personally been against Brexit before the EU Referendum of 2016, once she became Prime Minister in July 2016, she became dogmatic in her determination that Brexit must happen no matter what—except that there turned out to be so much "no matter what" that Brexit ended up delayed, and seemingly perpetually out of reach. This week was likely the final straw, after May offered a new Brexit plan that was soundly and immediately rejected.
But back to the responses to her actual downfall. Here's Jeremy Corbin, the leader of the opposition party, attempting to be supportive in her defeat.
OK, that might not be so supportive. Others got the memo, though.
So, what's next?
Even if that doesn't happen, the short-term future for the United Kingdom doesn't look particularly enjoyable.
The Takeaway: Where can we go next with this political horse race analogy?