TCB Edition 48 - 05/15/20
Trump accuses Obama of criminal activities, Los Angeles extends stay-at-home order, GOP finds California success, Senator Burr recoils from investigations, and a Wisconsin court strikes down order.
Friday, May 15th, 2020
USA: Obamagate, California, Garcia, Burr, and Wisconsin
1. Trump attacks Obama administration for alleged transgressions
Over the past four days, President Trump has tweeted about Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn over three hundred. #Obamagate has been the talk of the Trumpian right this week, as the president and many of his followers allege that Obama, current presidential candidate Joe Biden, and other top-level officials conspired to frame Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and Mike Pence about Russian sanctions. He was fired soon thereafter, only a month after his appointment. Flynn now wants to withdraw his guilty plea, and Trump and Attorney General William Barr are arguing that Obama and the FBI improperly “unmasked” Flynn’s name in 2016 intelligence operations. The administration also contends that Obama and Biden knew about the FBI’s investigation of Flynn in advance.
Members of the Obama administration have flat-out rejected Trump’s narrative. Multiple officials with direct knowledge of the situation denied that Obama or Biden had any prior knowledge of the investigation, and intelligence officers reassured media that unmasking of officials is regular and quite legal.
After Obama privately told aides that Trump’s response to the pandemic has been “chaotic,” the President claimed that Barack Obama should not criticize him out of decorum. Many, many past presidents have criticized their successors.
This situation is difficult to make sense of, as little (if any) evidence has emerged in favor of the President’s claim. Trump called the alleged scandal the “biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA,” so take that as you wish. He requested that Senator Lindsey Graham order Obama to testify in the Senate, but Senate Republicans have largely avoided talking about the issue. Obamagate may rile up the President’s base, but other GOP politicos are rightfully suspicious. Watch for the Trump campaign to use this allegation as a weapon against Biden and Democrats in the fall.
2. California opens, but coastal cities lock down further
Eighteen counties in California are lifting a multitude of Covid-19 restrictions as their cases and casualties have plateaued for weeks. Under this new phase, businesses such as retail, dine-in restaurants, child care facilities, and schools can begin to reopen, as long as they certify adherence to strict social distancing and cleanliness guidelines. Beaches across the state are also authorized to open.
On the flip side, Los Angeles officials announced that stay-at-home orders will likely be in place until August, and California State University has already cancelled in-person classes for the fall. San Francisco leaders warned residents that restrictions won’t be lifting anytime soon. Governor Gavin Newsom addressed the discrepancies between areas, saying, “This is a dynamic process and we don’t want to delay unnecessarily based on timelines. It’s not about timelines. It’s not about deadlines. It’s simply about data.”
Despite the governor’s hard line, he must soon face the reality that many Californians are out of work and simply don’t have the funds to survive for much longer. As much as Newsom and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti want to protect their people from Covid-19, it’s about time for people to learn how to protect themselves and go back to work.
3. Republicans flip a congressional seat in California special election
The GOP scored a big win on Wednesday, as former fighter pilot and defense executive Mike Garcia defeated state assemblywoman Christy Smith in a special election to claim the CA-25 congressional seat. The seat was vacated by the disgraced Democrat Katie Hill, who resigned after explicit pictures with a staffer were leaked to the media. Hill had won the seat by 9 points, and the district is listed as trending left by some observers, but many saw this race as a toss-up. Garcia proved to be a popular candidate in an area heavily supported by the defense industry, and Smith’s attacks on his Navy credentials may have proved to be the difference.
Most of the votes were cast by mail because of Covid-19 restrictions. President Trump disparaged the district for instituting a few in-person voting stations, arguing that the governor was “rigging” the elections by placing the stations in highly Democratic areas.
The GOP hasn’t flipped a seat from blue to red since 1998, so many on the right are thrilled at the prospects of a red wave in November (for reference, this seat was held by Republicans for year before Hill’s election). Although Republicans can rightfully celebrate this victory, Garcia will be on the ballot yet again in November because this was a special election. Voting in person may affect the demographics of the voting populace in the fall, so we shall see if Garcia can hold onto his newly claimed seat.
Republicans also retained a House seat in Wisconsin, as state senator Tom Tiffany gained 57% of the vote over Democrat Tricia Zunker. He will take over the seat vacated by former Rep. Sean Duffy, the husband of Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy.
4. Burr surrenders Intelligence chair while under investigation
North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is temporarily surrendering the chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence committee because he is under investigation for insider stock trading. Burr, along with Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler and California Senator Dianne Feinstein, sold over a million dollars in stocks just days after attending classified Covid-19 briefings. It is illegal for members of the Senate to trade stocks using insider information. The senator did request that the Senate Ethic committee review his trades, and he contended that the sales were made based on public information alone. Burr said that he stepped down from the Intelligence committee chairmanship as to not be “a distraction to the hard work of the committee and the members.”
5. Wisconsin Supreme Court ends stay-at-home order, restrictions lifted
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order was ruled an overreach by the state Supreme Court, basically rescinding the order and effectively handing control of Covid-19 regulations over to the counties. The court stated that additional executive regulations must be approved in tandem with the Republican-controlled legislature. County officials in Milwaukee and Madison quickly issued orders that are almost identical to the previous state regulations, but many rural areas now have little to no regulations in place. Bars, restaurants, retail, and other establishments are beginning to reopen in those parts of the state. Other states frustrated with gubernatorial dominance may look to the judiciary to issue similar injunctions limiting executive power.
Europe: Russian Prime Minister Infected With Covid-19
by Jacob Custer
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin recently announced that he had tested positive for coronavirus. "I have to observe self-isolation and follow orders of doctors," he said. "This is necessary to protect my colleagues." The prime minister nominated his deputy, Andrei Belousov, to temporarily take the reins of government in his absence. Coronavirus cases in Russia have seen a significant increase despite the efforts taken by the government to slow the spread of the novel virus. Reported deaths in Russia from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic are currently at 2,305, and overall cases are now at 252,000.
Read on: Articles of the week
Politico by Burgess Everett - McConnell pines for Pompeo as Kansas chaos looms
The Dispatch by Timothy Sandefur - This Is Not The Great Depression … Yet
National Review by Alexandra DeSanctis - Despite Lockdown, Planned Parenthood Opens New Illinois Clinic
First photo by Mike Garcia for Congress. Second photo by kremlin/ru/Wikimedia in Reason Magazine.