While You Weren't Looking: A Russia probe bombshell and 6 more big stories not about Trump's tweets

While You Weren't Looking: A Russia probe bombshell and 6 more big stories not about Trump's tweets
Left to right: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.); former national security adviser Michael Flynn; Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents; first daughter Ivanka Trump Getty Images
Left to right: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.); former national security adviser Michael Flynn; Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents; first daughter Ivanka Trump Getty Images

This week, it wasn’t even the the ongoing health care machinations in the Senate, but an obscene tweet from the president of the United States that dominated the news cycle. As a result, a lot of big stories have gotten short shrift this week.

Here are the crucial headlines you might have missed:

A major shoe drops in the Russia probe

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal released a bombshell story claiming that a GOP operative by the name of Peter W. Smith attempted to get Hillary Clinton’s emails from online hacker circles during the 2016 presidential campaign. Smith, who died earlier this year, reportedly told people he was working with former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.

There is no concrete evidence that Smith was ever connected with the Trump campaign or that he had actually contacted Flynn about his operation. But the revelation represents the first-ever potential indication of an explicit attempt at American collusion with Russians during their 2016 election interference.

Congress could vote to end America’s longest war

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) Paul Morigi/Getty Images

On Thursday the House Appropriations Committee did something completely unexpected. It voted in favor of an amendment that would repeal the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force that kicked off the United States’ global war on terror.

The amendment has been a longtime project of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the lone member of the House to vote against the Authorization of Use of Military Force in 2001.

If passed by the full House and Senate, Congress would have to come up with a new war authorization to take on groups like ISIS, which was not part of the original authorization.

Trump debuts his Election Integrity Commission — to vast objections

President-elect Donald Trump meets with Kris Kobach.
President-elect Donald Trump meets with Kris Kobach. Don Emmert/Getty Images

On Thursday, the White House unveiled its “Election Integrity Commission,” a federal commission designed to root out voter fraud based on the president’s completely spurious, unfounded and false belief that millions of people voted illegally.

But civil liberties experts say that the commission’s early actions suggest that it is more concerned with harassing voters than with preventing fraud. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who co-chairs the commission with Vice President Mike Pence, sent a letter requesting a series of personal information on voters from state voter files, which watchdog groups say looks more like an attempt to target and harass voters than uphold electoral integrity. (Secretaries of state across the country have come out to say they are unwilling to comply with Kobach’s request.)

Compounding the controversy is the fact that the House is simultaneously seeking to slash funding for the Election Assistance Committee, a small agency designed to improve the way elections function in the U.S.

House passes a bill to curtail medical malpractice suits

A doctor examines a patient with a stethoscope.
A doctor examines a patient with a stethoscope. Thomas Kienzle/AP

On Wednesday the House passed a major piece of legislation that would significantly curtail the damages that people can receive in court for poor medical treatment.

The bill would limit medical malpractice damages for emotional suffering to $250,000 and implement a three-year statute of limitations on such victims’ ability to press charges.

Medical malpractice suits are generally the only way that patients who have received poor or life-threatening medical treatment can recoup the costs their resulting illness or injury. The bill is supported by Trump but is unlikely to pass through the Senate.

Trump actually “sends feds” to Chicago

A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent and a Chicago Police officer stand outside Warren Elementary School where two girls were shot during a school picnic on June 16.
A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent and a Chicago Police officer stand outside Warren Elementary School where two girls were shot during a school picnic on June 16. Joshua Lott/Getty Images

In January, just after he was elected, Trump first floated the idea that he might send “feds” to Chicago to help the city deal with its crime problem.

Now, several months later Trump just announced that he has sent federal officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to help the city combat gun violence.

The choice to send ATF agents into the city is odd given the American conservative movement’s historical qualms with the bureau. Former President George H.W. Bush famously resigned from the National Rifle Association after its executive vice president called the ATF “jack-booted thugs... wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms.”

White House Women’s council quietly disappears

U.S. President Donald Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump.
U.S. President Donald Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The same week that the president of the United States tweeted a sexist screed against a cable news host and publicly ogled an Irish reporter, a report in Politico revealed that Trump has effectively killed a White House council dedicated to the advancement of women.

The White House Council on Women and Girls, created under the Obama administration to meet with women’s rights and gender equality groups, has essentially gone dark. The White House is reportedly still considering whether or not it wants to continue the council in the future.

The House passes two anti-immigrant proposals claiming to be aimed at stopping crime

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at a home in Atlanta
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at a home in Atlanta Bryan Cox/AP

On Thursday the House of Representatives passed two major anti-immigrant bills that they claimed were aimed at preventing violent crime. “Kate’s Law” and the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act,” created harsher penalties for immigrants with criminal records and cracked down on sanctuary cities that don’t cooperate with the Trump administration’s aggressive deportation agenda.

The bills were both motivated by an attempt to crack down on violent crime committed by the undocumented community. But research overwhelmingly suggests that undocumented people living in the U.S. commit less crime that natural-born citizens.

The Republican bills also failed to target violent crime specifically, meaning that, if they were to become law, they would likely target undocumented people with civil and non-violent infractions.