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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“In the end, it looks like climate change actually claimed him as a victim.” – climate scientist Ryan R. Neely III, mourning the death of acclaimed scientist Konrad Steffen, who helped prove that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting. Steffen died this week when he fell into a crevasse formed by the melting ice.
Trump encourages the racist, nonsensical birtherist attacks on Kamala Harris. The president is promoting a fringy, discredited, and tacitly racist legal theory that she’s not eligible for the presidency because her parents were not Americans when she was born in the United States.
Postal Service pulls crucial mail-sorting machines out of service, escalating fight over mail-in voting. The USPS changes are slowing mail delivery before the election, which the President has encouraged, though he yesterday requested a mail-in ballot for himself.
Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf is illegally serving in the role, concludes GAO. According to the watchdog, he and fellow DHS Official Ken Cucinelli were not validly appointed under law and thus cannot serve. But only President Trump can fire them, so barring a massive constitutional showdown with Congress or courts trying to force them from office, they won’t leave unless Trump tells them to.
The Department of Justice accuses Yale of discriminating against white and Asian-American students. A lawsuit says Yale is racially balancing classes illegally. Harvard won a similar case recently, though the plaintiffs are appealing.
The Senate adjourned till September without passing a pandemic relief bill. The House is also on vacation.
VIEWS OF THE DAY
Trump is walloping the Constitution. Where are all the constitutional conservatives?
Politicians are very good at praising themselves, and among Republicans these days, the most fashionable self-flattery is: “I’m a constitutional conservative.”
Sen. Ted Cruz can barely order a soy latte without calling himself a “constitutional conservative.” Sen. Tom Cotton, too, styles himself one. Sen. Josh Hawley is so constitutionally conservative that it’s the top of his biography, in all caps.
But what on earth does it mean to be a constitutional conservative if you’re encouraging this to be done to the Constitution in your name?
Let’s start with postal delivery, which is one of the very few government obligations the Constitution insists on: This week the President declared that he would sabotage mail delivery in order to help him win reelection. Is that what the framers intended with Article 1, Section 8, senators?
The Constitution requires a Census this year, an “actual enumeration” of everyone living in the United States (or “these United States,” as constitutional conservatives like to intone). But despite a pandemic, despite begging by all census experts, the Trump administration has refused to extend the Census in order to “actually enumerate” everyone, but rather have cut the data collection short by a month – with the blatant goal of reducing the count of poorer and marginalised people and immigrants to increase GOP political power. Is this what the Framers intended with Article 1, Section 2?
The president has used his office to ask foreign governments for financial benefits. Just a couple weeks ago, it came out that he pushed his UK ambassador to lobby the British government to move the British Open golf tournament to a Trump golf club. Trump has repeatedly asked foreign leaders for help that would personally benefit him, and in fact just this past week said he’d accept election assistance from foreign governments. (Election assistance that Vladimir Putin is already giving, as Trump’s own intelligence officials determined, before he fired them.) When the Framers wrote Article 1, Section 9 and Article 2, Section 1, did they believe a president should seek compensation and electoral help from foreign princes?
The President has stacked his administration with acting officials rather than asking for the advice and consent of the Senate for their approval. Just last week he withdrew the controversial Senate nomination of a DOD official, and simply appointed him to do the same work in a non-confirmation job. Constitutional conservatives went ballistic when Democrats skirted the advice and consent requirement of Article 2, Second 2. Do they believe the Framers intended for President Trump to be held to a different standard?
These are just the ways the Trump administration has insulted the Constitution – and not merely the Constitution, but the core parts of the Constitution – in the past month. (Oh wait, as I am finishing this, I realise I forgot about the executive orders: Trump is also spending billions of dollars Congress didn’t appropriate on an unemployment program Congress didn’t approve! Oh, and the President is also trying to seize Congress’s taxation authority by unilaterally pausing collection of the payroll tax.)
This nation will not survive as the constitutional republic that constitutional conservatives claim they want to preserve if they’re willing to abuse the Constitution when it’s politically convenient. – DP
Trump administration officials are illegally occupying their posts, and there may be nothing we can do about it.
It gets worse, Plotz.
This morning the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled that acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf and acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli were illegally appointed to their current positions and ineligible to serve in them under the The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998.
Basically, those positions require Senate confirmation within 210 days. And Trump just never sent them for confirmation.
Masha Gessen, the New Yorker writer and author of “Surviving Autocracy,” talked to me about this very situation last month amid after Trump sent federal officers to violently confront protesters in Portland.
“We’re going to find out soon that it’s going to be very difficult to hold anybody involved to account, because it’s not even clear that the heads of the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] and the CBP [Border Patrol] legally occupy their posts. They’re both acting heads, and for both of them, the maximum term allowed has expired, which may or may not be a big deal. Nobody quite understands the law. But the line of succession as written in law has been violated.
That’s a great example of how incompetence actually creates the impossibility of holding these people to account. They weren’t confirmed by the Senate, and the only person who can fire them is Trump. So they’re just as oblivious to any oversight agency as they are to the procedure of actually getting appointed to office. Basically saying: “What are you going to do about it?”
This raises a disturbing potential scenario: Trump administration officials being immune from accountability because they never legally occupied their posts. “Checks and balances” was fun while it lasted, America. – Anthony Fisher
Does the Israel-United Arab Emirates deal mean Trump just rebooted the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?
No, it does not.
The deal, brokered by first son-in-law Jared Kushner, has the United Arab Emirates and Israel agreeing to a historic diplomatic normalization between the two countries. UAE is now just the third Arab nation to recognise the existence of the state of Israel, joining Egypt and Jordan, with which Israel signed peace treaties after decades of war.
Israel and the UAE have had clandestine business and intelligence associations for years, as have other Sunni Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, which see Israel as an ally against Iran. But given the persistence of the idea in many parts of the world that 72-year-old Israel is an inherently illegitimate state, this is a very big step toward potential stability, some day, in the Middle East.
The Trump administration deserves credit for brokering this deal, and it also deserves credit for getting Israel to agree to suspend the annexation of disputed territory in the West Bank as one the deal’s terms.
But make no mistake, this is not a rebooting of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Yes, Israel gave up a big bargaining chip. The problem is, the Trump administration gave them that chip when it recognised Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Both moves had been opposed by US presidents for more than half a century, but Trump just handed them over to Israel without asking for anything in return.
For their part, all the Palestinians got was Israel promising to “suspend” annexation of land that is the foundation of any potential Palestinian state. And a two-state solution is the only way Israel can remain a Jewish state and a democracy.
Now the Trump administration wants to be seen as great peacemakers, but the “peace plan” includes a map of land swaps only agreed to by the Israelis – as a starting point in the negotiations.
This map was originally rolled out to little fanfare in January, after which Kushner went on CNN and said the Palestinians should embrace his plan, otherwise “they’re going to screw up another opportunity, like they have screwed up every other opportunity that they have ever had in their existence.”
These aren’t the noises produced by a good faith and impartial negotiator, and the Palestinians have good reason to be unimpressed by the deal.
So, no, this is not the reboot of the peace process, but it is a legitimately big deal. – AF
BUSINESS & ECONOMY
Fortnite’s creator sued Apple and Google for monopolistic practices after the game was barred from the app stores. Epic Games set an antitrust trap for Apple and Google, provoking them into banning Fortnite in a fight over their cut of in-game purchases. Also, here are all the Easter Eggs hidden in the Apple parody video Fortnite just released.
Amazon was found liable for a faulty product sold by a third-party seller on the site. A California appeals court said that Amazon’s claim that it had nothing to do with selling an exploding laptop battery didn’t hold up. The judge wrote that Amazon “placed itself between Lenoge and Bolger in the chain of distribution… accepted possession of the product… stored it in an Amazon warehouse… attracted Bolger to the site… provided her with a product listing… received her payment… shipped the product in Amazon packaging… controlled the conditions of Lenoge’s offer for sale… limited Lenoge’s access to Amazon’s customer information… forced Lenoge to communicate with customers through Amazon… and demanded indemnification as well as substantial fees on each purchase.”
Five easy tips to make chocolate chip cookies healthier.Such as swapping out the butter for avocado oil.
A LeBron James-backed group is turning Dodger Stadium into a polling place. More Than a Vote also arranged for NBA stadiums in Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Detroit to become polling places.
DEAL OF THE DAY
Get access to exclusive Insider interviews, analysis, news, and more with our special end-of-summer offer. Sign up now to get 50% off a Business Insider subscription!
THE BIG 3*
A reporter asked Trump if he regrets “all the lying you’ve done to the American people.” Trump ignored the question.
The actor who played Stanley on “The Office” shared the racist messages he received on Instagram. Lesley David Baker received the messages after announcing plans for a spinoff focusing on Stanley.
*The most popular stories on Insider today.
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