The Corner

Politics & Policy

The McCarthy Report Roundup

Employees of Hamilton Medical AG test ventilators at a plant in Domat/Ems, Switzerland, March 18, 2020. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

In our podcast at the end of last week, Rich and I once again covered a lot of ground.

First on everyone’s mind, of course, is the coronavirus pandemic. We addressed the federalist division of labor in dealing with internal security. News coverage is often so Washington-centric, we forget that day-to-day public policing, safety, and health issues are matters left to the states in our constitutional system. Over the last century, the federal government has played a far more intrusive role in American life, but catastrophes that overwhelm state resources and infrastructure serve to remind us of why we have a federal government and need it to be robust enough to do the things an effective government must do to safeguard the public.

We talked about the development of statutory powers vested in the president by the Stafford Act and the Defense Production Act. We also spent some time on a theme I elaborated on in the weekend column: In times of crisis, political considerations — particularly, the public’s perception of threat — take precedence over legal technicalities great and small. We even anticipated an issue I posted about on the Corner today: The likelihood that, with COVID-19 hot-spot states reeling, President Trump might well declare them to be major disasters (with all the attendant federal funding) even though the Stafford Act really reserves that extraordinary declaration for natural disasters (and similar things like explosions and floods) that damage physical infrastructure, not public-health crises.

We also briefly visited the state of FISA reform — specifically, the controversy over renewal of the three expiring PATRIOT Act provisions (covered in my recent postings, here and here). To cut to the chase, the proverbial can has been kicked.

Finally, we covered a story that is not getting nearly the attention it deserves: The predictable (and predicted!) collapse of the Mueller probe’s prosecution of Russian businesses in the so-called Troll Farm case. Moral of the story: Prosecutors should never use indictments as press releases, or . . . don’t ever indict unless you have a case you’re ready to try (in compliance with all the law’s discovery and other due process requirements).

Hope you enjoy the podcast . . . and think about making it part of your feed through a streaming service. (And, um, [looks down at shoes . . .] don’t forget about those “glowing, indeed, gushing reviews” Rich says I deserve!)

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