Politics roundup: Strzok hearing on Capitol Hill brings more upset and drama


A tense hearing for Strzok, a nomination for Kavanaugh, and reunification for some migrant children in this week’s politics roundup.

Strzok hearing raises hackles

Facing the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, FBI Agent Peter Strzok did not pull many punches. In Thursday’s hearings, he vigorously maintained that he had never allowed his personal biases to infect his work. Strzok also took the opportunity to defend the FBI itself, which has come under increasing scrutiny courtesy of Republican lawmakers.

Strzok arguably came into the larger public consciousness thanks to his text exchange and an extramarital affair with FBI lawyer, Lisa Page. Prior to the 2016 presidential election, the pair exchanged messages that were critical of the Republican candidate and current resident of the White House.

Upon discovery of the messages after the election, Strzok was removed from the Mueller investigation. He had worked as a key figure in Mueller’s Russia investigation for two months in 2017.

Strzok’s removal did not seem to slow down the speculation that Strzok, who also led an investigative team looking into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, had allowed his personal bias to infect his work.

Hearing and shouting

During the hearing, Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) seemed to touch off much of the drama when he asked Strozk: “How many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?” Lawmakers variously called Gohmert’s question a “disgrace” and “outrageous.” Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) told Gohmert, “You need your medication.”

The hearing, which often devolved into heated questioning if not outright shouting, outlined larger divides within the American political system. Democrats accused Republicans of attacking anyone who was remotely unfriendly to the current White House administration. Many Republicans, meanwhile, claimed that they were only following an obvious lead.

In his opening remarks, Strzok said that “I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt… As someone who loves this country and cherishes its ideals, it is profoundly painful to watch and even worse to play a part in.”

Kavanaugh nominated for Supreme Court spot

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his impending retirement. In calmer political times, such a declaration from an 81-year-old Justice would be understandable, perhaps even somewhat unremarkable.

Yet, Kennedy’s soon-to-be-vacant seat has touched off its own particular vortex of anticipation and anxiety. Who would the president nominate to replace Kennedy? Would Congress, with its barely-there Republican majority, support the nominee? Would the shadow of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s failed Supreme Court nominee, hang over the proceedings?

On Monday evening, the president announced his pick: DC Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

In line with practically everyone’s expectations, Kavanaugh is a tried and true conservative. His legal career, which picks up in the late 1980s, is generally a narrative of a conservative bastion. He represented Elián González pro bono in an attempt to keep the young boy on American soil. Kavanaugh also worked on Kenneth Starr’s legal team leading up to and during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998.

The President goes to London

On Thursday, the U.S. President and First Lady arrived in London for a state visit. While the President claims that British people are warmly disposed towards him, the presence of protestors outside the U.S. Ambassador’s home spoke otherwise.

This U.K. visit came after a NATO summit. There, other NATO members have reportedly agreed to increase their defense spending. That came after the White House complained of undue financial burden.

This is also a tense time for British Prime Minister Theresa May. She is facing ever more intense scrutiny for her handling of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

In many ways, this trip seemed more like a formality than a meeting between allies. May has pushed back against the United States’ decisions to impose tariffs, step out of the Iran nuclear deal, and its various attempts at an apparently Muslim-centric travel ban. She has also faced strenuous pushback in domestic arenas for her government’s Brexit plan.

Most recently, May’s government published the “White Paper” that outlines the future relationship between the U.K. and the E.U. While May claims that it is “the Brexit people voted for,” some complain that it is not at all what the British people want, in either direction.

Some migrant children reunited with families

According to officials, 57 of the 103 migrant children separated from their families as part of a newly hardened “no tolerance” immigration policy have been reunited. Meanwhile, the remaining 46 minors have not been returned.

Various reasons for these refusals include safety issues revolving around adults’ criminal convictions and unclear family relationships. 12 of the ineligible children have already been deported. Officials have not been able to determine the location of one child for over a year. All of the children concerned in this case are younger than five years old.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw presided over a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU. As part of her ruling, Sabraw ordered federal officials to reunite the children in question beginning on Tuesday. She also struck down what was deemed to be unnecessarily cumbersome requirements for reunification, such as DNA testing. Federal officials can only call for background checks, home visits, and care plans if they have specific and identifiable concerns.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

This one is strange, sure, but given the strange and oftentimes sad tale of the pig-faced woman a bit of credit. These stories — which, yes, are very false — are oddly fascinating.

It’s pretty much what it says on the tin. Various legends, which seem to have begun in the 16th or 17th centuries, tell the story of a woman who has the face or entire head of a pig.

The pig-faced woman is an oddly persistent figure. She has ties to the “loathly lady” of folklore, though she first appears in English literature in the 17th century as “Tannakin Skinker”. The legend eventually began to leak into real life. During the 18th century, Dublin gossips claimed that philanthropist Griselda Steevens was so reclusive because of – you guessed it – her pig head.

The London pig-faced lady

Maybe the strangest episode in the long-lived and vast collection of related stories is the Pig-faced Lady of Manchester Square. In 1814 and 1815, London was awash in wild rumors of a pig-faced woman. Some claimed to have seen a snout poking out from beneath a demure lady’s veil, or out of the window of an aristocratic coach.

Seemingly half of the newspapers reported her existence as fact. The other half were busy printing counternarratives and making fun of believers. One gentleman even supposedly made a marriage offer, though the printed proposal could just as likely be a joke.

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Eventually, most people calmed down. They recognized that an aristocratic woman who communicated in snorts and ate out of a silver trough wasn’t real. Sure, there were a few sideshow attractions claiming to the title, but careful observers noted that these were bears with shaved faces.