The Week on Planet Trump: Potus Flees Abroad as the Shit Hits the Fan
Monday: Chaos Engulfs the West Wing
It’s the latest crisis jolting Trump’s senior staff in the week following the chaotic fallout from the firing of FBI director James Comey—and especially ironic considering the president’s repeated condemnations of Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, which contained a handful of messages deemed to be classified.
The White House initially denied the reports, but Trump confirmed that he had shared information on terrorism and airline security with the Russians in two Twitter posts on Tuesday morning.
Communications staff and senior staffers at the White House were literally “hiding in offices,” according to a senior Trump aide, as a gaggle of White House press stormed White House hallways just after the Washington Post story broke on Monday evening.
“Do not ask me about how this looks, we all know how this looks,” the senior aide told The Daily Beast on Monday evening.
Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebseng, Tim Mak and Jana Winter, The Daily Beast
Tuesday: Step Up, Republicans
As unsuited as Trump is for office, his weaknesses could at least be minimized if he were forced to accept a professional presidential staff structure. There was some talk over the weekend of Trump himself wanting to clear house, but that's not what I'm talking about. What's needed is for patriotic-minded Republicans to impose on him a professional chief of staff -- a Rob Portman, or Mitch Daniels -- and to get rid of the amateur hour hangers-on, beginning with Trump's own family members.
Doing so wouldn't solve everything -- not by a longshot. The constitutional system requires a real president, and we're not going to have a competent one any time soon. But it could help quite a bit. For one thing, a strong, professional chief of staff could impose some rational order on the paper flow, which is one reason Trump keeps getting in trouble.
Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg
Wednesday: Bull in a China Shop
Observing this White House in action is sometimes like watching a horror movie. The "good guys" (and yes, there are a few) keep falling through trap doors. National security adviser H.R. McMaster, whose credibility is precious, struggled Tuesday to defend Trump's actions in disclosing terrorism information as "wholly appropriate." He said the president hadn't even been aware of what country had provided the terrorism information. Israel, reportedly the source country, issued a statement endorsing its "intelligence-sharing relationship" with Trump,
If there's no problem here, why did Tom Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security, call the directors of the CIA and NSA to warn them what the president had told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak? The White House line is that Bossert was "freelancing." Maybe so, but that's not a bad word for Trump's own behavior.
David Ignatius, RealClearPolitics
Thursday: GOP Gamble on Mueller
What had become clear over the past few days -- between Trump divulging classified information to two top Russian officials, allegations he had urged then FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Russia and the recused Sessions vetting candidates to succeed Comey -- was that no ruling that would come out of the ongoing FBI investigation would be accepted by the entire country. The congressional investigations into the matter are expected to continue although it remains to be seen how active they will be given the likely deference given to Mueller.
The appointment of Mueller opens up the possibility that, regardless of the ruling he reaches, the country might accept it as unbiased, fair and factual. (The pick drew widespread bipartisan support from members of the House and Senate.) In short: It might allow the country to move on.
"What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command," Rosenstein said in a statement announcing the decision.
Of course, the unimpeachability of Mueller's reputation -- and the likelihood that his investigation and its findings will be seen by the bulk of the country as non-partisan -- is also what makes this such a huge gamble for the Trump administration.
Chris Cillizza, CNN Politics
Friday: The End of Trump
The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Donald Trump. It is when enough Republicans will put their loyalty to America ahead of their loyalty to their party.
Trump’s statements last week about his firing of former FBI director James Comey provide ample evidence that Trump engaged in an obstruction of justice — a major charge in impeachment proceedings brought against Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.
It’s worth recalling that the illegality underlying Nixon’s impeachment was a burglary at the Watergate complex, while the illegality underlying Clinton’s was lying to a grand jury about sex with an intern in the White House.
Trump’s obstruction is potentially far more serious. It involves an investigation about whether Trump or his aides colluded with Russia in rigging a presidential election — the most direct assault on American democracy in history,
Robert Reich, Salon
Saturday: The Cult and the Cover-up
In a serious crisis, more than half the country won’t believe a word the president says. The White House is barely functioning; legislation is completely stalled; next week’s trip abroad will have everyone watching from behind a couch; the FBI and CIA are reeling; there’s almost no one in the State Department; no presidential due diligence is applied to military actions; the president only reads memos when his name is mentioned in them; a not-too-smart and apparently mute 35-year-old son-in-law is supposed to solve every problem in the country and world; and the press secretary is hiding in the bushes. No one has any confidence that the president couldn’t throw us into a war or a constitutional crisis at a moment’s notice. Nothing this scary has happened in my lifetime.
And yet around 35 percent of the country still somehow views every single catastrophe Trump perpetrates on America and the world as either a roaring triumph or a huge middle finger to the elites, and therefore fine. For them, everything is sustainable. When Republicans can shrug off giving top-secret Israeli intelligence to the Russians, there is nothing they cannot shrug off. We are not talking about support for various policies here. We are talking about the kind of following a cult leader has.
Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic
Sunday: Saudi You Do, President Trump
The start of Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad since becoming president — coming amid the scandals and chaos engulfing his administration — was intended to be a blunt rejection of President Barack Obama’s vision for the region. Mr. Obama sought a reconciliation with Iran and negotiated a deal intended to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
The day proved to be almost everything a besieged White House could have wanted. After weeks of stormy politics and out-of-control news cycles, the president stayed rigorously on script and restrained himself on Twitter. His staff boasted about the business deals being signed, and the visual images beamed to Americans back home showed a president seemingly in command of a world stage.
Michael Shear and Peter, Baker, The New York Times
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