As you’re probably aware, about a decade of news dropped last night: Hurricane Harvey was upgraded to a Category 4, North Korea launched three missiles into the sea, Trump pardoned a white nationalist sheriff, Trump signed the transgender ban memorandum, and we found out some of the people whom Robert Mueller has subpoenaed in the Trump investigation. Good morning, Saturday.
Let’s get this part over with:
In the same way that publicly-traded companies break their bad news on Friday afternoons while we’re all heading out of the office, Trump tends to dump big news late on Friday nights. This time, during a Category 4 hurricane, he announced that he would be pardoning Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio of a criminal contempt conviction for detaining undocumented immigrants without proof of having committed a crime.
Arpaio has been accused of placing detainees (whom he called “wetbacks”) in solitary confinement for not speaking English, and of housing people in a tent city so hot that their shoes melted off. John McCain, who is also from Arpaio’s state of Arizona, condemns the pardon:
No one is above the law and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold. Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders. The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.
Some speculate that Trump is testing out his pardoning powers for later.
Also, Trump has signed the transgender ban nixing the Obama policy to allow openly transgender people to enlist in the military, which had already been delayed from July 2017 to January 2018. The memorandum prevents the military from paying for sex-reassignment surgeries but leaves military leaders to decide whether and which active members should be allowed to stay. McCain has condemned this too, along with fellow veteran senators across the aisle.
Robert Mueller has subpoenaed PR executives with connections to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Specifically for political and financial dealings in the Ukraine, NBC reports:
The inquiry into the lobbying campaign appears to be part of a larger investigation into his work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, his offshore banking transactions, his tax compliance and his real estate dealings, people familiar with the probe have told NBC News.
According to NBC, the lobbying campaign was part of a larger effort aimed at integrating Ukraine into the European Union. NBC reports that Ukraine’s then-ruling pro-Russia political party (which was since overthrown) paid Manafort $17 million for consulting in 2013 and 2014. Manafort had been in the room for the scandalous Donald Trump Jr. meeting (“nothingburger”) with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya–who had reportedly wanted to discuss overturning the Magnitsky Act, which, among other things, aims to keep corrupt Russian officials from parking their money in the US.
Onto the threats to our safety and well-being not caused by the Trump administration:
Late last night EST, North Korea launched three short-range missiles into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The second missile seems to have blown up immediately, Pacific Command spokesperson Cmdr. Dave Benham said. The Washington Post reports that the US and South Korea have been conducting joint military exercises.
A state of disaster was preemptively declared for thirty Texas counties before Hurricane Harvey even hit the coast of Texas last night, with up to 130 mph winds which have blown off roofs, knocked down trees, and left at least 250,000 residents without power, the New York Times reports. While it’s been downgraded to a Category 2, it’s expected to maintain tropical storm strength for at least four days.
Because the head of the Department of Homeland Security John Kelly was plucked from the agency to deal with White House disasters like the Mooch, there is still no one running the agency, which oversees FEMA. Which means we’re in a mess. Not only the Secretary of DHS, the New York Times points out, but the federal government still needs to appoint a deputy director for FEMA and a director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Meanwhile the administration has recommended cutting disaster preparation funds by $667 million. Several Texas lawmakers voted against increasing hurricane relief funding after Sandy, which passed anyway, but now that Texas needs federal grants, those lawmakers might have to eat shit, the Dallas News notes. Ted Cruz is one of them. Thoughts and prayers, blah blah blah.
To give the Trump administration its due while swallowing the vomit in my mouth, FEMA director Brock Long is well qualified, Bloomberg notes as did Forbes when he was appointed. Long, who was confirmed 95-4, was previously the head of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, and Hurricane Program Manager at FEMA.
If demographics of the affected areas and Hurricane Katrina is any indication, elderly black Texans will be disproportionately affected, writes the Daily Kos. It’s also been widely reported that Border Patrol stayed open during the hurricane which means that undocumented immigrants evacuated at peril of deportation. To give an idea of how terrible this is, CNN reported that those planning not to evacuate should write their social security numbers on their arms.
Here are the tweets.
We’ll be keeping an eye on this throughout the day with minimal Trump tweets, I promise.