Trump-Free Friday Politics Roundup


Take a break from Trump-related news and see what else is happening in the world of politics. Plus, let’s guess just how much this border wall is supposed to cost.

Michael Flynn Investigated by Pentagon

Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor who was ousted for speaking with Russian officials and then more-or-less lying about it, is now officially under investigation. Though Flynn attempted to gain immunity by testifying in the ongoing and seemingly endless investigation against Russian interference in U.S. elections, he was roundly denied.

Now, the Pentagon is turning its investigative eye towards Flynn. Ranking member of the House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has released a letter to the chairman of the same committee, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), which claims that Flynn received payments from organizations linked to Russia and Turkey.

Since Flynn is a retired member of the military, he is supposed to receive approval for foreign payments. Without prior approval, that amount paid can potentially be deducted from Flynn’s own pockets.

The Committee is now waiting to receive further documents, including some from the White House, to continue its investigation.

Macron Just Barely Ahead of Le Pen as French Elections Go to Runoff

Emmanuel Macron came out of the first round of French presidential elections with 24 percent of the vote. Marine Le Pen, meanwhile, followed close behind with 22 percent of the overall vote. The two are now headed to runoff elections on May 7.

Le Pen, who represents the far-right, anti-immigrant National Front party, has tightened the race in recent days. Though pollsters still predict that the centrist Macron will win, a rising tide of European nationalism and concerns about voter turnout have brought pause to such declarations.

For British and American people, this all sounds frightfully familiar. Conservative politicians have won big in both the U.S and U.K., with worldwide ramifications for their allies and adversaries alike. The outcome of this election could make or break the faltering European Union. Brexit has already dealt the EU a considerable blow. A Le Pen win could spell the EU’s doom.

Nate Silver, of statistics-focused website FiveThirtyEight, predicts that Macron will ultimately win. Now, to be fair, FiveThirtyEight also predicted a Clinton win in the presidential election. Though, to be even fairer, Silver’s analysis of multiple polls gave Trump the highest chance of any reputable source.

Then again, at this political moment, you could tell me that a horse was running for a Parliamentary seat somewhere and I could no longer dismiss its chances out of hand.

New Tax Code Plan Would Benefit the Super-Rich

I mean, there’s just so much to yell about, anymore. Immigration orders, nuclear weapons, elections in other countries, the health and wellbeing of ourselves, plus our friends and neighbors.
At this point, the proposed overhaul of the tax code is another point on a long list of issues that will likely benefit those who are already rich and powerful. Was anyone surprised by this? Is it too late to bring back good old Shruggie in an apocalyptic sort of context?

Who Knows If This Border Wall Business is Actually Happening?

The much-vaunted, still mostly imaginary wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has yet to make its appearance. Moreover, no one at any level of government seems to be sure as to the particulars. How exactly will this wall be constructed or where will we find the money for its construction? Even the exact nature of its building materials is still up for debate.

We certainly can’t agree on a price tag. The President claimed it would be about 12 billion. The Department of Defense said around 20 billion. A report issued by Senate Democrats claims that it will actually cost 70 billion to build and about 150 million dollars a year to maintain.

So, who’s going to pay for this? Federal budgets across the country have been slashed, for one. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants drug lords like El Chapo to pay for it. Previously, some claimed that the Mexican government would somehow be forced to provide funds, though that claim has since withered.

And, Finally, Your Palate Cleanser

Did you know that there’s an entire universe out there beyond our planet? It may be hard to remember it sometimes, what with the rolling waves of nationalism that seem to be sweeping throughout various political systems.

Sometimes, it’s just good to see that something exists beyond our bounds, beholden to nothing other than the laws of science and their own innate strangeness and beauty. No matter what we do here on our planet, there will still be the sun and moon and stars and planets for many millions of years to come.

Next: John Oliver On Why We Should Care About France

If you feel like you need some cosmic-level perspective, take a look at some of the most recent Cassini pictures of Saturn. The NASA probe, which has begun its “Grand Finale” maneuvers, is now returning some of the closest images ever taken of the planet. Cassini is due to plunge into the gas giant’s nebulous interior on September 15.

The probe will ultimately be crushed by intense pressure on its way into the planet. Along the way, it will send new and important scientific information as it goes out in a blaze of glory.