A Weekly Roundup of Politics: The Special Counsel, Israel, and Abortion in Missouri

The Special Counsel Steps Down

On Wednesday Robert Mueller stepped down as the US Special Counsel during a hastily organized press conference that lasted only a few minutes. His statement explained that he would not further expand upon the report if asked to testify before Congress and that the report “speaks for itself.” After over two years of investigations Mueller’s team has charged 37 people with crimes including 13 Russian nationals, Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, and long-time political strategist and self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” Roger Stone.

In regards to indicting the president for obstruction of justice, Mueller had these words to offer:

“If we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so… under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited.”

His statements seem to infer that it is up to Congress to take action, but with multiple challenges from the Trump Administration refusing to hand over documents like tax returns and the like, the conversation will likely drag on for months while each side sues the other.

The looming question is this: Is Congress going to attempt to impeach Trump for obstruction of justice? If politics were about justice, the easy answer would be yes. But Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, is playing the long game and realizes that if she brings articles of impeachment to a vote in the House, there will likely be a backlash against her Democratic colleagues who represent swing or red districts. Over 30 Democratic seats are vulnerable in the 2020 election. A successful vote of impeachment would require 218 votes and, while the Democrats currently have 235 seats, the numbers just don’t quite add up to make it a safe move.

“The Congress holds sacred its constitutional responsibility to investigate and hold the President accountable for his abuse of power,” said Pelosi. “The Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy. The American people must have the truth.”

Risking control of the House to impeach the president (which doesn’t actually require him to step down — remember Bill Clinton?) doesn’t seem like a prudent move and something the judgmatic Pelosi would chance. While Congress will continue to investigate, impeachment seems like a long way off… even if it is warranted. This all comes as Trump tweeted the following on Thursday: “Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax. And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist.”

Netanyahu Calls New Elections in Israel

In Israel new elections have been called by Benjamin Netanyahu as he was unable to form a coalition government after being elected Prime Minister on April 9th. This would have been his 5th term (a record in Israel) and also the first time a Prime Minister was unable to form a government before the six week deadline. Netanyahu’s Likud Party needed to create a coalition with several smaller conservative parties but also required the support of the secular Yisrael Beiteinu party. That didn’t happen due to disagreements about whether ultra-orthodox men studying the Torah should still remain exempt from a law which requires all Israelis to serve in the military.

With multiple fraud and bribery allegations swirling around him, Netanyahu called a vote to dissolve the parliament, taking a risky bet that the Israeli people would re-elect him. His other option was to let time run out and allow Israeli President Reuven Rivlin choose a leader from another political party to head the government. His decision is debatable because he was attempting to get allies to pass a law that would make him exempt from prosecution while he served as president (notice a thread here?). That, however, will likely not happen before his pre-trial hearings commence — electing a man who is on trial for fraud and bribery would be another first for the nation.  

The Last Abortion Clinic in Missouri May Close

Missouri is poised to become the first state in the nation since 1973 which does not have a clinic that provides abortion. Since the 1980’s various states around the country have been enacting TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws which create regulations that abortion clinics must abide by. Examples of these superfluous laws are widening hallways, requiring a 72-hour waiting period between a patient’s initial exam and their access to an abortion, and mandatory ultrasounds. South Dakota went as far as requiring clinics to inform patients that abortion is associated with an increased risk of suicide, which has not been scientifically proven.

Missouri has been enacting TRAP laws for years, and through these efforts, multiple clinics offering abortion have closed due to financial restrictions. Planned Parenthood in St. Louis is the last standing clinic which looks to lose its operational license because the state is requiring all seven doctors who have worked at the clinic in the previous year to be interviewed by the Health Department. Of the seven doctors, only two are full time and actually employed by Planned Parenthood, the remaining five are residents in training. The state also required that various people present state-mandated counseling to women seeking abortions as well as non-essential pelvic exams for pill administered abortions.

Many of the TRAP mandates are medically unnecessary and are being used to investigate the clinic as the Health Department claims to have received information about three pregnancies that were not properly terminated, and one woman who was rushed to a hospital due to complications. The details of these incidents are unavailable due to patient privacy rights but are the focus of the demand that all seven doctors be interviewed.

Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit to keep the clinic open, and an emergency hearing was held Thursday. A judge will likely offer a decision on that ruling Friday, the day the clinic’s license is set to expire. If it does expire women and trans men in Missouri who are seeking an abortion will have to go out of state to receive the same reproductive health care that has been available in the country for the last 46 years.

Ann Lewis is an artist, activist, and writer based in Detroit. Her artwork reflects upon social and environmental justice issues.  

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