The Week on Planet Trump: Allies are Attacked, Enemies Condemn Him But Trump is Always Right
Monday: Trump’s Exceptionalism
The narcissism generally comes first. Early Saturday evening, an hour after first retweeting a Drudge Report alert about the London terrorist attack, Donald Trump declared that, “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” In other words, London proves him right. Everything does. When Omar Mateen murdered 49 people at an Orlando nightclub last June, Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” That same month, when The Wall Street Journalreported that NATO was considering creating a new intelligence coordinator to assist in the fight against terrorism, Trump—who wasn’t even yet the Republican presidential nominee—explained, “It’s all because of me.”
After the self-glorification came a slap at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who, according to Trump, had responded to the terrorist attack by claiming there was “no reason to be alarmed!” (That’s wrong. Khan had actually told Londoners not to be alarmed by the increased police presence on their streets). On its face, this Trump tweet was more puzzling. Khan is a mayor, not a prime minister, and most Americans have no idea who he is. Why raise his profile?
The answer is that Khan helps Trump articulate his new, and still not widely understood, brand of American exceptionalism.
Peter Beinart, The Atlantic
Tuesday: Trump’s Tweets Tank Travel Ban
Is Donald Trump trying to throw his own Supreme Court case? The president’s bid to be the Shoeless Joe Jackson of high-court litigation took a big step forward with an astonishing series of early-Monday-morning tweets. He insisted on calling his executive order restricting travel from six majority-Muslim countries a “travel ban,” denounced his own Department of Justice for watering down the original order, and -- incredibly -- called for strengthening the ban, presumably after the court has upheld the revised order.
All four tweets will be quoted by opponents of the travel ban. All four substantially strengthen the case for blocking the order as unconstitutional. Taken together, they amount to a nightmare scenario for the office of the solicitor general that must represent the president in court. Short of actually saying that the point of the order was to express anti-Muslim animus, there’s not much Trump could have done to weaken his case more.
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg
Wednesday: Trump’s Contempt for Voters
Despite what conservative commentators persist in writing, I and others of my ilk have no contempt for Trump voters — most of them, anyway. (I reserve my contempt for those who knew that the man was an unbalanced fool but voted for him anyway, hoping that he’d lower their taxes.) But the voters who believed what they were told, who had their animosities and prejudices validated — who thought jobs were a-coming and Mexicans would be a-leaving and embassies would move and China would fall into line and the Islamic State would fall entirely — have my sympathy and political condolences. You won, but as you soon will discover, you lost.
Richard Cohen, The Washington Post
Thursday: Something to Hide?
Comey's words suggest that Trump, in meeting-after-awkward-meeting with his then-FBI chief, asked for things he had no business demanding. He wanted unspecified "loyalty" from an FBI director whose 10-year term is specifically intended to insulate the bureau from political interference.
And most damaging of all, Trump asked for leniency for Michael Flynn, the fired national security adviser who allegedly lied about his contacts with a top Russian diplomat. "I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December ... it was very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency," Comey's statement says.
The heavy-handed intervention will come back to haunt Trump. "Obstruction aside, it's NEVER ok for a POTUS privately to ask an FBI Director to drop a criminal investigation. Extraordinary, wrong & dumb," tweeted Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney based in Manhattan who Trump unceremoniously fired back in March.
Errol Louis, CNN
Friday: Comey Indictment
He presented himself as anything but a fearsome G-man. He wondered what he might have done differently “if I were stronger.” He confessed that he had hustled his adversary off the phone in “kind of a slightly cowardly way” to avoid refusing his demands. He was “worried very much” about being in the mold of his most infamous predecessor, J. Edgar Hoover, by seeming to hold his superior hostage over salacious allegations about his sex life.
But in more than two hours of steady, soft-spoken Senate testimony, former FBI Director James Comey nevertheless delivered a quietly devastating indictment of President Donald Trump, confiding that he had kept contemporaneous notes of their every conversation for one overriding and unflinching reason: “I was honestly concerned that he might lie.”
Todd Purdum, Politico
Saturday: Wrecking the Ship of State
After Donald Trump’s surprise election victory, many people on the right and even in the center tried to make the case that he wouldn’t really be that bad. Every time he showed a hint of self-restraint — even if it amounted to nothing more than reading his lines without ad-libbing and laying off Twitter for a day or two — pundits rushed to declare that he had just “become president.”
But can we now admit that he really is as bad as — or worse than — his harshest critics predicted he would be? And it’s not just his contempt for the rule of law, which came through so clearly in the James Comey testimony: As the legal scholar Jeffrey Toobin says, if this isn’t obstruction of justice, what is? There’s also the way Trump’s character, his combination of petty vindictiveness with sheer laziness, leaves him clearly not up to doing the job.
And that’s a huge problem. Think, for a minute, of just how much damage this man has done on multiple fronts in just five months.
Paul Krugman, The New York Times
Sunday: The Cloud of Comey
As several former federal prosecutors confirmed this week, former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on Thursday was a roadmap for special counsel Robert Mueller to follow as he builds an obstruction of justice case against President Trump. The two men, friends and former colleagues, view the law in similar terms. Mueller is unlikely to believe the word of an habitual liar over that of a Boy Scout. It’s unlikely that juries will, either.
One key fact—as Comey stressed— is that Trump told Attorney General Jeff Sessions, senior adviser Jared Kushner and others to leave the Oval Office so that he could be alone with Comey to tell him to stop the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. This intentionality is harmful to “the newbie defense”—that Trump was new to the presidency and didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong—offered by House Speaker Paul Ryan and others. Ignorance of the law is no defense, anyway.
Jonathan Alter, The Daily Beast
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