The Week in Washington: An Outrageous Abuse of Power

Lynn Yaeger
Highlights from the news in Washington this week.

The mayor of Oakland called the plan “an outrageous abuse of power—using human beings to settle political scores”; San Francisco’s mayor said it “is just another in a long line of scare tactics and half-baked ideas.” These and other officials, quoted in The Washington Post Friday, were reacting to President Trump’s latest crackpot scheme: His administration is considering releasing migrants into “sanctuary cities,” because this would somehow punish Trump’s progressive foes. This twisted sister is not just implausible, it may be illegal (and also impossible to enforce, as cities have open borders—you just hop on a Greyhound bus and go anywhere you like.)

The week began with the forced resignation last Sunday of Kirstjen Nielsen, now ex-secretary of homeland security, an official reviled for her hard-line support of policies that resulted in children in cages. (Apparently even her steadfast defense was not draconian enough for the president.) On Monday, a federal judge blocked a policy that would require some asylum seekers to languish in Mexico while their cases proceeded through U.S. courts. On Wednesday, Trump told reporters that he wants more troops at the border then lamented, “Our military, don’t forget, can’t act like a military would act. Because if they got a little rough, everybody would go crazy.” On Friday, The New York Times reported that the president privately urged border enforcement official Kevin McAleenan, soon-to-be-named acting secretary of homeland security, “to close the southwestern border to migrants despite having just said publicly that he was delaying a decision on the step for a year . . . It was not clear what Mr. Trump meant by his request or his additional comment to Mr. McAleenan that he would pardon him if he encountered any legal problems as a result of taking the action.” As if that wasn’t enough, the president trotted out yet another canard in his unrelenting campaign to dissuade asylum seekers—don’t come because we have no more room! “Our country is full,” he told incredulous journalists at a briefing on Friday.

And speaking of full—the week was full of other bad news: On Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr stunned members of the Senate Appropriations Committee by confirming that he was looking into the origins of the Russia investigation, suggesting the Trump campaign might have been spied upon, a baseless contention that the president has been pushing for some time. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responded furiously to this allegation, saying, “It is very dismaying and disappointing that the chief law enforcement officer in our country is going off the rails yesterday and today. He is the attorney general of the United States of America, not of Donald Trump.” On Thursday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he had been given sanctuary for the last seven years. (The U.S. wants to extradite him to face charges here, and Sweden may want him back as well.) In true 1984–ish fashion, Trump immediately told reporters, “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing, and I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange. . . . That’s not my deal in life.” Apparently, the president is counting on some kind of collective national amnesia, afflicting millions of Americans, so that we might forget his previous deal in life—he is the same guy who throughout his presidential campaign continually crowed, “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!”

But let us a leave you with a bit of moral clarity, a ray of sunshine in the dismal dungeon where we now fester: Last Sunday, South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is expected to announce his run for the presidency sometime today, gave a very moving speech at the LGBTQ Victory Fund’s National Champagne Brunch. Saying that his marriage to another man had made him feel closer to God, he added, “That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand: that if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

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