The Week on Planet Trump: Mueller Moves Trump One Step Closer to Impeachment

Monday: Empty Promises on Tolerance

On Wednesday, after Trump announced the transgender ban on Twitter in an early-morning tweet storm, I wrote to Locke to see what she made of it. “That is very disturbing,” she wrote back tersely. We spoke later that day. “It was very much out of line with what I thought his views were on the issue,” she told me. “He’s made positive statements in the past; he’s been critical of those who’ve been hard on the trans community. But then again,” she sighed, “he has a political debt to pay, too.” A Trump administration official, describing the rationale for the ban to Axios’ Jonathan Swan Wednesday morning, was breathtakingly candid in acknowledging the political expediency of it: “This forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin to take complete ownership of this issue. How will the blue-collar voters in these states respond when senators up for re-election in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow are forced to make their opposition to this a key plank of their campaigns?”

Charles Homans, New York Times

Tuesday: Exit Scaramucci

It’s tempting, of course, to see Kelly’s rise and Scaramucci’s deserved ouster as an early signal that there might now be a professional, and forceful, adult in a powerful seat in the White House, finally lending an air of coherence to the ingrained dysfunction.

That would be welcome, but the man at the big desk in the Oval Office is still Trump, so Kelly would be smart not to make any long-term plans. Trump’s near-and-dear – his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner – still have the president’s ear in a way that Kelly likely will not have, though how much they have influenced what little policy has emanated from the White House is hard to measure.

In the end, Scaramucci’s rise and fall may hold no other lesson than that Trump’s radar for picking the best and brightest has serious glitches, and that the president – who demands so much loyalty from others – has zero loyalty to his allies.

Scott Martelle, Los Angeles Times

Wednesday: Don’t Bet on Change

No amount of pleas, threats or ridicule have stopped Trump from personally issuing statements on social media that can contradict or undercut staff members -- or himself.

As Spicer and Scaramucci learned the hard way, you can't direct communications for a President determined to treat White House messages as things to tweet in his spare time.

President Trump might someday fit his leadership style to a traditional White House organizational chart. He might wake up one day and adopt the fundamental management principle that every employee can have only one boss. He might even realize that speaking to the nation and the world requires a daily, disciplined strategy.

All those things might happen. But don't bet on it.

Erroll Louis, CNN

Thursday: Saving Trump’s Soul

We can see now why Reince Priebusnever had a chance. He was a supplicant to whom the job of chief of staff was given as a reward. People don’t take orders from supplicants. Maybe an exceptional operator could have changed the power balance after landing the gig, but Priebus was no such person, and bad advice on how to deal with Capitol Hill sealed his fate. Kelly, by contrast, is the reluctant appointee, and Trump is the supplicant. According to reports, Trump began to court Kelly for the new role as early as in May, but Kelly declined the job and increased his leverage by the day. No wonder, then, that Trump is reported to be on his best behavior. That’s good for Trumpworld: after the Mooch’s departure, these may have been the quietest days of Trump’s presidency.

Gone are the early-morning Twitter rants, replaced by actual statements of accomplishment. Even Trump’s single combative tweet, a defense of social media as the “only way for me to get the truth out” in the face of “the Fake News Media and Trump enemies,” had an air of face-saving defiance. Perhaps Kelly ringingly endorsed Trump’s declaration that tweeting would continue while recommending ongoing analysis of all statements going forward to see if results lined up with intention. Who knows? If Twitter discipline continues for two weeks, though, we’ll know that Kelly is the reason, and we’ll also have a steady indicator of whether Kelly’s influence is holding up or on the wane.

T. A. Frank, Vanity Fair

Friday: White Nationalism Week

On Tuesday, The New York Timesrevealed that "the Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department's civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants." Then on Wednesday, the president announced his support for a bill that would severely curtain legal immigration, cutting the number of immigrants allowed in to the U.S. in half, restricting the family members who would be able to sponsor an immigrant's application, capping the number of refugees, and ending the "diversity lottery" that grants visas to applicants from countries with fewer immigrants.

That bill may not pass, and there's no way to tell how successful the government's suits on behalf of oppressed white students will be. But the practical effects aren't really the point. Instead, Trump is symbolically fulfilling what were symbolic promises to begin with.

Paul Waldman, The Week

Saturday: It is Already Over

Signs of the disintegration have popped up everywhere. The usual staff turmoil came to a boil in the course of ten days, during which the following occurred: The president denounced his own attorney general in public, the press secretary quit, a new communications director came aboard, the chief of staff was fired, the communications director accused the chief strategist of auto-fellatio in an interview, then he was himself fired. Meanwhile, the secretary of State and national-security adviser were both reported to be eyeing the exits. (Against this colorful backdrop, the ominous news that Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury barely registered.)

More disturbingly for Trump, Republicans in Congress have openly broken ranks. When the Senate voted down the latest (and weakest) proposal to repeal Obamacare, Trump demanded the chamber resume the effort, as he has before. This time, Republican leaders defied him and declared the question settled for the year. When the president threatened to withhold promised payments to insurers in retribution, Republicans in Congress proposed to continue making them. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley, responding to the president’s threat to sack Jeff Sessions, announced he had no time to confirm a new attorney general. Many Republican senators have endorsed bills to block the president from firing the special counsel.

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

Sunday: First Step to Impeachment

The Constitution’s standard for impeachable conduct, “high crimes and misdemeanors,” is a concept more analogous to military justice than to penal law. It involves violations of an officeholder’s public trust, transgressions that call into question his fitness to wield power and carry out high responsibilities. High crimes and misdemeanors need not be felonies chargeable in criminal court; they include all manner of execrable episodes and abuses of power that cause us to question a public official’s fitness. In other words, they are just the sort of thing you’d find in a report issued by a grand jury. Which means that a report issued by a grand jury could be just the sort of thing a special counsel might refer to Congress as the potential foundation for an impeachment case. It is a long way from here to there, but don’t be surprised if that is where we’re headed.

Andrew C McCarthy, National Review

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