As Hurricane Harvey Hits US, A Political Storm Brews in Washington

It’s another busy Friday Night in the USA, as one storm of the century is superseded by another.

Hurricane Harvey, a storm that’s been brewing in the Gulf of Mexico for several days, is expected to make landfall within hours. With thirteen-foot surges, widespread flooding, and 130mph+ winds expected, the Governor of Texas has ordered mass evacuations, and President Trump has declared a preemptive state of emergency. As Harvey nears the coast, it is gaining in intensity and speed; meteorologists are now reclassifying it as a Category Four storm– stronger, and potentially more devastating, than Hurricane Katrina was in 2005.

Airmen conduct search, rescue
Hurricane Damage from a Class 4 storm (like Harvey) that hit Mexico last year.

As a Hurricane looms over the country, the White House is using the storm as an opportunity for a Friday Night “news dump”. As Trump leaves the White House for another brief vacation this weekend, the White House has announced the resignation of another top White House Official– this time Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President. There is speculation at this point that Gorka has not actually resigned, but has in fact been fired by the president– a move that Chief of Staff John Kelly is likely behind. The letter of resignation that Gorka publicly released was not actually received by the White House until after he had been fired.

The Gorka news was overshadowed by information that had broken just minutes earlier, that Trump has pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the controversial Arizona Sheriff who was convicted of Criminal Contempt earlier this year, after a decades-long series of Civil Rights Violations. Arpaio was known for ordering his officers to round up people who “looked like they came from another country” on suspicion of being illegal immigrants, systemically targeting and harassing hispanic residents of Arizona. After a 2011 Department of Justice Investigation concluded that Arpaio had engaged in “unconstitutional policing” the Sheriff announced that he was personally launching his own investigation into whether or not President Obama has been born in the United States. The DOJ today has announced that this is “the president’s pardon”, clarifying that President Trump did not run the idea of a pardon through the Justice Department, as per standard protocol, nor did he request a recommendation from the department. Trump had been throwing the idea of pardoning Sheriff Arpaio around for some time, and announced that “(Joe) will be fine” at an Arizona Campaign Rally earlier this week. The move is also being considered a sign that Trump will not hesitate to personally pardon administration officials swept up in the Russian Investigation.

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Donald Trump and Sheriff Arpaio at a Campaign Event last year.

This comes on the heels of yet another startling revelation coming from the White House this evening, the announcement that Trump has signed an order today officially barring Transgender Americans from serving in the Military. The decision goes against public statements made by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating that anybody who was capable and willing could serve in the Military.

As the Trump Administration releases this flood of information– again, this is all taking place after dinnertime, on a Friday night, with a catastrophic storm moving over Texas– Hurricane Harvey continues to increase in magnitude. As it nears the continental United States, residents who have not evacuated from the Texas coast are being advised to write their names and social security numbers on their arms, so that their bodies can be more easily identified.

Oh, and North Korea tested more Ballistic Missiles today. But that was a few hours ago, and here in the US, we’ve clearly moved well beyond the 24-hour news cycle in recent months, to more of a 24-minute news cycle.

The Administration’s intention with this “news dump” is likely to dilute each of these stories, as the media mostly focuses on Hurricane Harvey this weekend. While it’s unlikely to work out exactly that way, I’m willing to bet that the president will tweet his disapproval of the media this weekend; accusing them of being biased and evil for covering the events that are unfolding tonight, rather than devoting all airtime to what is almost sure to be a deadly Hurricane. That’s probably all that he needs in order to keep his base (currently about 35% of the country) with him through the storm.

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