A week of history and rabid partisanship encapsulates an extreme Washington age

Like everyone else, those in the nation’s capital will never forget the heartbreaking horror of the images showing the atrocities perpetrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops against defenseless Ukrainian civilians.

Yet Washington’s self-absorption and its location at the confluence of the deep and opposing political forces rocking America meant that life went on as normal in the nation’s capital, in all its polarized and often absurd glory.

Most importantly, there was history. Jackson will be the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Her confirmation in the Senate on Thursday repaired a damaging omission more than 200 years in the making.
“We have taken another step in making our supreme court reflect the diversity of America,” President Joe Biden said in an Instagram post that could become his own story curiosity for years to come since taking a selfie with Jackson after death. vote.

Yet such a normal — and constitutionally intended — occasion as the confirmation of a future Supreme Court associate justice also came with the bitter taste of partisanship that threatens to tear America apart.

Senate top Republican Mitch McConnell, who forged secure conservative control of the high court by blocking a Democratic candidate in an election year and rushing a Republican in similar circumstances, declined to say whether he would confirm another Biden pick if the The Republican Party wins the chamber in November.

One of McConnell’s lieutenants, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, conceded the possibility that hyperpartisanship would frustrate yet another constitutional norm: a president getting votes on his judicial nominees.

“I think it’s going to be difficult,” Thune told CNN. “Because that’s the kind of environment we’re in right now.”

That “environment” was amply demonstrated by Thune’s colleagues during the Jackson confirmation process.

While praising her intellect and family, ostensibly to avoid being seen as disrespectful to a historic racial trailblazer, they falsely labeled her an enabler of child sex offenders even though her sentencing record was within the mainstream. major. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton even claimed that she would have been lenient with Nazi war criminals. Cotton, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley clearly had an eye on future presidential campaign ads with their histrionic attacks on her judicial record.

Unity (mainly) on Russia, but Trump looms large

At times like these, it’s remarkable when Washington agrees to something.

But the Senate unanimously approved two bills to punish Russia for invading Ukraine. The House voted 420-3 and 413-9 to do the same. Only three representatives, Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Matt Gaetz of Florida, ardent supporters of Donald Trump, voted against both bills.

It may seem obvious to condemn an ​​invasion that has caused some of the most heinous atrocities in Europe since World War II. Yet the hangover from Putin’s hero worship of the former president, and why some European leaders fear a second Trump term, was on full display earlier this week when 63 members of the House voted against a bill. standard bill expressing support for NATO.

The investigations into Donald Trump are not going away

Another aspect of Trump’s legacy that still haunts Capitol Hill is his incitement to the terrifying assault by his supporters on January 6, 2021, designed to thwart Congress’ certification of Biden’s free and fair electoral victory the previous November.

In an interview with The Washington Post from his political exile at Mar-a-Lago, the former president said the Secret Service would not allow him to march on Capitol Hill that day with his supporters. And he repeatedly blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the violence, even though she is not responsible for security on Capitol Hill, or for the Trump supporters who stormed it.

Trump also expanded on the blatant lies about stolen elections, which are intensifying his threat to democracy as millions of his supporters believe them. In an extraordinary comment, which raised questions about Trump’s control of reality, he expressed surprise that he had not been reinstated as president due to “massive electoral fraud.”

“How did it not happen? If you’re a bank robber, or you’re a jewelry thief, and you go to Tiffany’s and steal their diamonds and get caught, you have to return the diamonds,” he told the Post. .

Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, pushed back on his false claims about stolen elections. And several courts dismissed his flurry of bogus cases on the grounds that they contained no evidence of electoral wrongdoing.

The House select committee investigating the insurrection and Trump’s role in it is running out of time because if Republicans win the House in November’s midterm elections, they will almost certainly shut it down.
Such is the altered reality of Washington in the post-Trump era that the recent virtual testimony of the daughter and son-in-law of a president who staged a coup attempt did not cause much of a stir. But news that the Justice Department is investigating the handling of White House records, including classified material, that Trump’s team brought to Mar-a-Lago underscored the dark shadow of the former president’s legacy. As has a request by New York Attorney General Letitia James that Trump be held in contempt of court for allegedly refusing to comply with a subpoena in her civil investigation of his company’s business practices.

Covid-19 racing through the swamp

Americans who despise Washington often cite what they see as an overly comfortable relationship between politicians and the journalists who cover them. The idea was at the center of Trump’s tirades about the “Washington swamp.”

Such perceptions are unlikely to improve with more than a dozen positive COVID-19 tests emerging from one of Washington’s most secretive events: the closed-door Gridiron dinner last weekend. Among those who were at the big night and tested positive are Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

And in another sign that Covid is sweeping through the capital, Pelosi’s office said Thursday that the House Speaker has also tested positive. The 82-year-old man is currently asymptomatic and fully vaccinated and boosted.

His case will renew concerns that the virus is closing in on Biden, after a spate of cases among White House staff. Pelosi was with the president Wednesday for a bill signing and stood at his right elbow. But the White House said Pelosi was not considered a close contact of the president because their meeting was fleeting. The commander in chief, who has had the second booster from him, tested negative on Wednesday night.

Two of the strangest recent stories to rock the capital capped off an often-bizarre week.

In an extraordinary case, the FBI arrested two men in Washington for allegedly posing as Department of Homeland Security agents for more than two years. The men allegedly gave real federal agents expensive gifts, including apartment rentals, surveillance systems, a drone, a flat-screen TV and a generator. In another twist, one of the defendants is alleged to have offered to buy a gun for a Secret Service agent assigned to protect First Lady Jill Biden.

All of this came to light after the two men were interviewed as witnesses by a US postal inspector investigating an alleged assault on a mail carrier. There were no immediate details on the reasons for this extraordinary plan.

Another ominous distraction occurred when a fox that later tested positive for rabies struck fear into the hearts of those who work on Capitol Hill. A congressman and a journalist were among those who reported being bitten before animal control workers captured and euthanized it.
“You are telling me that I survived three years of the pandemic to be bitten by a rabid fox,” says Ximena Bustillo, a reporter for Politico. wrote on Twitter.

This is no laughing matter, given the deadly nature of the disease and the injections anyone bitten must endure to avoid infection.

But in times like these, a rabid fox sowing terror in the citadel of American democracy is the kind of Washington metaphor that writes itself.

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