The Morning Dispatch: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Plus, the Supreme Court slaps down some uppity district courts. 

Happy Tuesday! With all the recent developments, twists and turns, shifting loyalties, the impeachment saga can at times be tough to wrap your head around. We get it. For simplicity’s sake, allow Reason’s Peter Suderman to clear things up for you.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • More than 80 people have now died from coronavirus during the current outbreak in China, and markets tumbled Monday amid growing concerns about China’s handling of the situation. Three thousand people have now contracted the virus, with more than 100 people being evaluated for the disease in the U.S. 

  • Former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr made his debut as a member of Trump’s impeachment team Monday, making the case that Congress had grown too quick to use impeachment powers in our current “age of impeachment.” 

  • With the Iowa caucuses just a week away, Bernie Sanders has taken a commanding lead as the state’s moderates struggle to decide whether to back Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, or Pete Buttigieg.

  • Rep. Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican and staunch Trump ally who played a prominent role in his House impeachment defense, is planning to primary recently appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler later this year.

John Bolton, Then and Now

Throughout the course of President Trump’s impeachment and trial, one of the most important things he’s had going for him has been that almost none of the figures testifying against him had any substantial previous public profile. Bill Taylor, Gordon Sondland, Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, Alexander Vindman—were all individuals unknown to the average U.S. voter. So Trump surrogates and allies were able to portray each one—including Taylor and Sondland, hand-picked by top Trump advisers—as a grasping deep-stater with an ax to grind against the president, and whose testimony could thus be safely discounted.

John Bolton is different. The man who upended Trump’s trial this week, confirming that the president said he wouldn’t release military aid to Ukraine until that country committed to his desired investigations, is a longtime fixture in GOP politics: a prominent official in both the Bush and Trump White Houses and a mainstay on Fox News during the Obama years who commanded the respect of movement and professional conservatives alike. 

But the fact that Bolton may now play a major antagonistic role in the Trump trial, of course, changes the calculation quite a bit. It’s hard to believe that anyone other than Lou Dobbs would think it possible to portray Bolton as a “tool of the left” or an avatar of the Deep State but it’s already begun.

It’s worth remembering what top Republicans said about Bolton when he was chosen as Trump’s national security adviser in March 2018—and when he departed last September.

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “Selecting John Bolton as National Security Adviser is good news for America’s allies and bad news for America’s enemies. I have known John Bolton for well over a decade and believe he will do an outstanding job as President Trump’s new National Security Adviser … President Trump could not have made a better choice in terms of having a reliable, seasoned, national security confidante.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin: “Ambassador John Bolton is ridiculously knowledgeable and will be a great National Security Adviser. The leaks coming out of the National Security Council will end, Obama administration holdovers will be gone and the team, chemistry and work product will all be improved. Ambassador Bolton is a very underrated, amazing American, and I applaud this extraordinarily talented pick.”

Rep. Jim Banks: “Ambassador Bolton is an excellent choice for National Security Adviser. He is a solid conservative and will bring a wealth of experience to the role. During this critical time, the American people will be fortunate to have his leadership as we rebuild our national defense.”

Sen. Marco Rubio: “I know John Bolton well and believe he is an excellent choice who will do a great job as National Security Adviser.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell: “As he departs the position of National Security Advisor, I want to thank Ambassador John Bolton for his many years of valuable service to our country. Personally, I have always appreciated John’s candid and clear advice. He possesses something crucial—the ability to understand the world the way it is. He knows there are many threats to American interests, and that those threats will not recede if we retreat … I wish him well wherever his career next takes him.”

Sen. Ted Cruz: “John Bolton is a friend, and he has devoted his life to defending our national security, including providing wise counsel to multiple administrations.”

Gorsuch Cracks Back at Injunction Dysfunction 

In a 5-4 decision,  the Supreme Court on Monday announced it would allow the Trump administration to implement a new policy that will deny entry to any alien seeking admission to the United States if “he or she is likely at any time to become a public charge” defined as anyone “who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” 

The court’s decision was limited, allowing the policy to go into effect only while lower courts continue to consider the merits of the myriad cases challenging its legality. A statewide injunction remains in effect in Illinois. And the policy will not apply to refugees seeking asylum and other exempted visa programs.

While this decision did not address the scope of the administration's immigration authority, it was interesting for another reason: It was yet another indication of the court’s unhappiness with  the influx of nationwide injunctions. According to the Department of Justice, there have been more than 40 nationwide injunctions issued so far during the Trump administration, compared with 20 issued throughout President Barack Obama’s eight years in office. In response, Attorney General William Barr called on the “judiciary to re-examine a practice that embitters the political life of the nation, flouts constitutional principles, and stultifies sound judicial administration, all at the cost of public confidence in our institutions.”

With Justice Clarence Thomas joining, Justice Gorsuch took those district judges to task in Monday’s concurring opinion for abandoning their appropriate role in the legal system—to redress specific harms to specific parties who bring cases before them—in favor of behaving like mini-Supreme Courts, halting federal policies nationwide without regard for the court’s own particular jurisdiction to do so.

“When a district court orders the government not to enforce a rule against the plaintiffs in the case before it, the court redresses the injury that gives rise to its jurisdiction in the first place,” Gorsuch wrote. “But when a court goes further than that, ordering the government to take (or not take) some action with respect to those who are strangers to the suit, it is hard to see how the court could still be acting in the judicial role of resolving cases and controversies.”

Such nationwide injunctions, Gorsuch argued, rob the executive branch of its authority to set its own policies, since a single loss in any one of the country’s 94 judicial districts is enough to put the policy on hold indefinitely.

“And all that can repeat, ad infinitum, until either one side gives up or this Court grants certiorari,” he wrote. “What in this gamesmanship and chaos can we be proud of?”

This isn’t the first these justices have signaled their disapproval of the injunction trend. In 2018, Justice Thomas wrote a similar concurring opinion to the 2018 travel ban decision that Justice Gorsuch joined.

Worth Your Time

  • “It’s a sad day in L.A.” In this mournful piece for The Ringer, Paolo Uggetti reports the many public ways Los Angelenos are working through their sorrow about the death of Kobe Bryant. “‘RIP to the greatest. Mamba Forever,’ said one of the notes. ‘Tom Brady has nothing on your dynasty,’ said another. A third simply said, ‘You were L.A.’” 

  • FOMO—fear of missing out—is one of the more useful neologisms of our Urban Dictionary age. But Patrick McGinnis, who coined the term in 2004, thinks there’s another that more pertinent to our era: FOBO, the fear of a better option that, he contends in this Politico piece, has paralyzed the Democratic primary. 

  • For anyone interested in how malignant astroturf social media operations take on a life of their own and evolve over time, this Medium post on the subject, which digs into research funded by the Mozilla Foundation, is well worth a read. 

Presented Without Comment

Something Fun

Despite never being one for Game of Thrones, one of your Morning Dispatchers has been getting into Netflix’s response to it: The Witcher, based on the novels of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, which became popular over the last decade after they were made into a series of well-received video games. 

We got a kick out of this interview with Sapkowski—who says he didn’t play a large role in bringing his characters to the screen, as “I do not like working too hard or too long. By the way, I do not like working at all. ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone at me.’” 

Toeing the Company Line

  • Legal beagles rejoice: There’s a new episode of Advisory Opinions to consume! In this week’s episode, Sarah and David break down the Bolton news, dive into the history behind Congress’s inability to rein in the bloated executive branch, and take a look back at the extraordinary life of Kobe Bryant. 

  • Speaking of Sarah: Be sure to give her latest piece on the site a read, which looks at the importance of Goldman Sachs’ decision to stop taking companies public if their board is comprised entirely of white men. 

  • Also on the web, Gregg Nunziata argues that, actually, the Founding Fathers intended for there to be more impeachments than we’ve seen over the history of our country.

Let Us Know

As the president’s surrogates start to turn on John Bolton, which of his vices should they go after first? 

  • His habit of touching his glasses when he talks—plainly the tic of a dishonest man.

  • His stubbornly anachronistic facial hair—not the mark of a person in step with the political times.

  • His bad habit of never leaking to The Dispatch.

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Sarah Isgur (@whignewtons), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).