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While He Was Tweeting: Hurricane Harvey Edition, Week 32

While the fourth largest U.S. city drowned this week, Trump proved his incompetence handling a natural disaster. Meanwhile, a lot of other really important news happened. Here’s what you missed.
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So we basically watched an American city drown this week. Of course, a little thing like Houston being entirely under water wasn’t going to stop Trump from being Trump. He finally got around to visiting Texas on Tuesday, bypassing Houston to swing by far-less-damaged Corpus Christi, where he literally bragged about the turnout that awaited him. He complimented FEMA director Brock Long on being a celebrity. He pledged to give a million dollars of his personal funds to hurricane relief, but then immediately had spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders obfuscate whether that would be Trump’s money or Trump Foundation money, the latter being entirely funded by people who are not Donald Trump. He was very into tweeting about how big and historic the storm was. He also took time to tweet about his usual favorites: the evilness of Hillary, some belligerence toward North Korea,  and a whine about fake news.

So, basically Trump was completely on brand through the whole of the Harvey crisis.

Speaking of which— the Harvey crisis hasn’t just been about the terrors of flooding. Thanks to savvy lobbying and an all-too-compliant and business-friendly head of the EPA, Texas also has to worry about the threat of chemical explosions. The Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas has chemicals that require refrigeration to remain stable. Flooding means no refrigeration, which means that on Thursday the plant began to explode. Arkema had spent the last few months aggressively lobbying the Trump administration to nix Obama-era initiatives that would have required greater chemical plant safety. They got their wish—the rules were delayed—and Crosby, Texas, gets to have noxious fumes and explosions for who knows how long.

But wait. There’s so much more from this week.

News broke a few days ago that Trump tried to interfere in the DOJ’s prosecution of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, asking Jeff Sessions if the government could make the whole thing just go away. Given what a craven and lawless toady Sessions is, it is sort of surprising he didn’t agree. But why worry about a conviction when you know you’ll get a pardon?

Meanwhile, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who never met a piece of flair he didn’t like, has resigned his post as the Sheriff Joe of the Midwest. Word is that he will join the White House, because he would be un-confirmable for any cabinet appointment. Good for Milwaukee County, bad for the rest of the United States.

ICE continues its quest to be the most awful arm of law enforcement, which is saying something these days. They recently requested permission to start destroying records related to solitary confinement and sexual assaults and deaths of people in custody, among other records. Their logic? For things like in-custody sexual assaults and death, the records would not “document significant actions of Federal officials.” Yeah, right.

Remember Infrastructure Week back in June? Probably not, because that week was overshadowed by James Comey’s Senate testimony and Trump’s bad habit of going completely off message: he spent much of the week calling Democrats obstructionists, yelling at his own Justice Department, and being mad about Obamacare, none of which have anything to do with infrastructure. Some people on Trump’s infrastructure advisory council took note of this and a quarter of them just up and quit. Why? Two reasons. First, because part of our infrastructure is cybersecurity, and Trump has evinced absolutely no interest in securing anything in that arena. Second, and probably worse, because they said that Trump’s actions are undermining the moral infrastructure of America and that in turn undermines the physical infrastructure. They aren’t wrong.

In a perfect example of Trump appointing people to departments they will actively work to undermine, it leaked this week that Trump is going to appoint former DeVry University Dean Julian Schmoke, Jr.  to head the division of the Department of Education that investigates and prevents fraud in post-secondary education. One problem: just last year DeVry had to pay $100 million to settle with both the DOE and the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that they lied to students about job and salary numbers. This is as fox-guarding-the-henhouse as you can get, really.

Jared Kushner continues to play very fast and very loose with disclosure rules, proving he’s just as grifty as his father-in-law. Remember back in May when his sister got caught dropping Kushner’s name when she pitched a real estate deal in China? And then Kushner immediately had his lawyers trot out a statement saying that he’d already divested all interests in that deal, so everything was totally fine? Kushner’s most recent amended financial statement actually shows that he kept a contingent right to regain ownership in the deal, which is not actually what “completely divest” means.

One tiny bright spot this week was watching the Texas government get its knuckles rapped by a federal judge over its attempt to outlaw sanctuary cities. The judge stopped the ban from going into effect, saying that parts of it will likely be ruled unconstitutional. It’s a small thing, but we’ll take it.

What fresh hell should we expect next week? The coming Tuesday, Trump plans to announce what he will do about DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Created during the Obama administration, it lets children who were brought here by undocumented parents stay in the United States legally if they meet certain conditions. Trump, of course, has made an unending stream of proclamations explaining how much he hates immigrants, so you should brace yourself for bad news on Tuesday. You should probably just brace yourself for bad news all week, for all the weeks from now on.

 

Lisa Needham is an attorney who has worked in the areas of First Amendment, education, and labor law. She is the deputy editor of Lawyerist, where she writes about access to justice and diversity in the law, and a contributor to Rewire, where she writes about LGBTQ and reproductive-health legal issues. She is ride or die for Dionne Warwick, Doris Day, and the Oxford comma. Follow her: @snipy
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