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Why Alyssa Milano and Lindsey Graham trended

Updated 8:05 AM ET, Sun May 19, 2019

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(CNN) - There are two Judiciary Committees in Congress, and this week vividly demonstrated how their leaders are moving in opposite directions on Donald Trump's White House.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham was counseling Trump's son Donald Jr. to ignore a subpoena from Graham's colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Meanwhile, in the House Judiciary Committee, chairman Jerrold Nadler was assailing what he called the White House's effort to set up President Trump as a king, immune from oversight by Congress.

Jill Filipovic called out Graham, the Republican from South Carolina: "To Graham, defending the Trumps is more important than the pursuit of justice." Why? Likely, Graham is hoping to avoid any challenge from the right as he seeks re-election in 2020. "The good news is that Graham's jaw-dropping sycophancy isn't going unnoticed," Filipovic wrote, "#LindseyGrahamResign is trending on Twitter..."

Donald Trump Jr. eventually reached an agreement to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, while his father continued to dodge House investigators.

It's good to be the king

All recent presidents have used their power expansively, wrote Julian Zelizer. But "while the presidency is imperial, we have seen four major precedents that Trump is setting into place that could have enormous long-term consequences," including a blanket refusal to cooperate with Congress.

In 1973, with the Watergate scandal circling Richard Nixon's White House, historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. published "The Imperial Presidency." He argued that Nixon's "insistence on executive secrecy, the withholding of information from Congress, the refusal to spend funds appropriated by Congress, the attempted intimidation of the press" and other abuses amounted to "a revolutionary challenge to the separation of powers" set out in the Constitution.

Schlesinger was not a neutral historian. He had advised Democrats running for president and had served in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. But his critique of the Republican president proved influential — and this week there were clear echoes of it.

Big party

The field for the Democratic nomination for president is now big enough to populate an intramural softball game, with several players to spare. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock entered the race Tuesday, just before New York Mayor Bill de Blasio became the 23rd Democrat to jump aboard. Bullock wrote, "Donald Trump will get another four years in the White House if we don't win back the places that voted for him" and contended that as someone who has won election in a red state, he's well positioned to beat Trump.

"If there's one person who can unite this nation," observed Harry Siegel in the Daily Beast, "it's New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who likes to prattle on about his transcendent, historic vision and who (polls confirm) roughly nobody wants running for president after he's flirted with the idea for months."

Arick Wierson thought, "the worst part about de Blasio isn't his resume or lack thereof -- it's the threat he poses to all the Democrats running for president. Trump may be a modern-day carnival barker, but de Blasio risks making the entire Democratic party seem like a circus."

The Democratic field is so big, and the party's new delegate rules so different, that Republican Ken Cuccinelli argued there's a good chance of the often-imagined but rarely seen, contested political convention, in which no candidate gets enough votes to win on the first ballot. Superdelegates can't affect the outcome of voting in the first ballot, Cuccinelli noted. "If no candidate wins on the first ballot, those superdelegates can vote in all subsequent ballots. The result in 2020 may well be that they can effectively play the role of kingmaker."

Alabama, Georgia and abortion

The controversy over Georgia's new abortion law was just beginning to subside when Alabama's legislature passed, and the governor signed, the most restrictive law in the nation. Doctors who perform abortions could get 99-year prison sentences. Neither law is likely to take effect before being challenged in court. These and other anti-abortion laws are about one thing, wrote law professor Carliss Chatman.

"Anti-choice legislators believe they will face a friendly bench in the Supreme Court." Their hope is that the court's strengthened conservative majority will overturn Roe v. Wade.

But the opposition to the new laws is fully energized. Alyssa Milano trended on Twitter with her call for a sex strike, and followed up, with co-author Waleisah Wilson, on CNN Opinion: "Calling for a sex strike as a way to protest restrictions on abortion has sparked a powerful response. Sure, it's been a mixed reaction, but it got the country talking about the GOP's undeniable war on women. And let's face it, with so much going on every day in the news, sometimes we need an extreme response to get national attention."

Peggy Drexler questioned Milano's approach: "The Georgia law is a blow, for sure. But Milano's message, though attention-grabbing, was misguided. And far from feminist. In fact, it largely served to reinforce the idea that women's power lies primarily in their willingness to 'give' men sex and that abstinence is the way to get that power back."

Carrie Sheffield, who opposes abortion, argued that new laws are needed. "The problem with leaders like Bill Clinton and others operating under the mantra of 'safe, legal and rare' is that abortion has become anything but rare in America. Yes, conservatives can and should do more to support women and men's access to birth control for prevention of unwanted pregnancies, but the left must also do more to avoid termination."

Diane McWhorter offered a fascinating look at the history and politics of Alabama as it was caught in the national spotlight: "And so it goes in Alabama, our laboratory of democracy, with the loftiest accomplishments and most dismal fails."

And Jay Parini noted an irreconcilable hypocrisy among those, like Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who claim a pro-life mantle even as they support state-sponsored executions. The death penalty is "not up for debate, in my view," he wrote. "We don't get to kill people. Period. It's barbarous, inhumane, cruel, and -- thank goodness -- rare in most civilized countries."

When it gets personal

For Alabama ob/gyn Yashica Robinson, the new law is personal. "Just as I have for the last 15 years of my medical career, I will continue to deliver babies, give prenatal care -- and provide abortions," she wrote. "I became pregnant when I was in high school. Because of my fear and lack of resources, I didn't confide in my mother or grandmother until it was too late to have an abortion. I love my children with all my heart, but I know that everyone should be able to make this decision for themselves."

CNN host and comedian W. Kamau Bell wrote that it was his turn. "Fifteen years," his wife Melissa told him. "'For fifteen years, I've been taking the pill.' That means my wife had been altering her body chemistry for my pleasure and carrying the responsibility of our family planning, while I just got to be footloose and condom-free." He decided to get a vasectomy and timed it for an episode of his show "United Shades of America" that focused on women in Jackson, Mississippi, fighting for reproductive justice. "If those badass women can stand up in the face of all that, then I can lie down for a ten-minute surgery."

A world of trouble

Hopes of a peace treaty in the trade war with China continued to fade this week. And fears of a real war with Iran grew.

Trump is missing an important opportunity with China, argued Frida Ghitis, by only focusing on trade and ignoring allegations of widespread human rights abuses, particularly in Xinjiang, a territory with a majority Muslim population. "The regime's abuse of human rights is one of its Achilles heels...Reviving the topic could help ease the misery in Xinjiang, with the added benefit of giving Trump more leverage on trade."

Trying to make sense of Trump's "seemingly chaotic trade policies," Steven Strauss wrote in USA Today that "if Trump's goal is to make America a crony capitalist kleptocracy, where profits don't depend on free markets but on cozying up to Trump, his trade policy makes perfect sense." It could even help him win re-election, Strauss said. "In 2020, Trump will position himself as a populist and nationalist who stands up for the American worker."

Trump's war whisperer

On the Iran front, the President's intentions may be harder to figure out. Trump's national security adviser John Bolton has been a key figure in the administration's effort to counter Iran's influence in the Middle East. But "Bolton's enthusiasm for the muscular use of the military seems out of place in the administration of a President who has repeatedly questioned and sought to end America's wars in the Middle East," wrote Peter Bergen, as reports circulated that Trump was unhappy with his adviser's handling of the Iran and Venezuela crises.

Trump just wants a phone call from the Iranians, wrote Jamsheed and Carol Choksy, as unlikely as that sounds. Citing the talks with North Korea, they note, "Tehran's leadership should bear in mind that for Trump, a deal seems to be 'horrible' unless it is proposed by his administration. Only then can it be deemed 'fair' if not 'great.'"

'We're killing the Earth'

Ultimately, Trump's legacy may be tainted forever by his failure to act on the climate change challenge, wrote David Gergen and James Piltch. "Climate change is certainly as grave a danger to American prosperity and global security as World War II... With the news this week that the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere is at its highest point in human history, the clock is ticking loudly."

Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart took a more sonic approach to the same topic: "I live in the forest in Northern California, where deer, wild turkeys, egrets, acorn woodpeckers, and stellar jays surround me every morning, and where I can pound out my own rhythms along with the cacophony of frogs each night. In places where you can see and hear nature's beauty regularly, it can sometimes be easy to forget...nature's rhythm is dying because we're killing the Earth."

Credit card interest rates

In the Perspectives section of CNN Business, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders noted that many credit card users are being charged interest rates higher than 20%. "Last year, Wall Street banks made $113 billion in credit card interest alone, up by nearly 50% in just five years," Sanders wrote. Banks are "squeezing working families that are already in financial distress down to the bone. That should not be happening in the United States of America."

Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez want to cap credit card interest rates at 15%. That would be a huge mistake, wrote Diego Zuluaga of the Cato Institute: "The consequences of a cap would be disastrous, removing access to credit for millions of low- and moderate-income households and forcing them to rely on family members, tighten their belts or seek higher-cost forms of credit."

Farewell to GoT

Fans were furious at the savagery of the penultimate episode of "Game of Thrones," which ends tonight. Many had a hard time accepting the "mad queen" turn in the character of Daenarys Targaryen as she wreaked vengeance on innocent men, women and children, and they stewed over the quick death of her antagonist, Cersei Lannister. Kate Maltby revealed she'd spent, "over 71 hours watching 72 episodes .... I dreamt up (so I thought) sophisticated ways the show could finish, close-reading the language of prophecies to predict characters' fates. Now it feels like the writers left in custody of my fantasy world have been slipshod in their care. The process is a bit like grief."

We asked readers for their views and received many stories of regular family gatherings and relationships built around watching the show. We even heard from one Jon Snow, in Killeen, Texas:

"I have mixed feelings about the end of GoT. My name is Jon Snow and I have grown tired of people saying, 'You know nothing, Jon Snow' when they meet me for the first time. On the other hand, I have developed a few lasting friendships because of the name connection."

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