The Week on Planet Trump: Republicans Become the Party of Debt, Racism and Sexual Abusers

Monday: Fixation on Black Athletes Signals Deeper Prejudice

On Sunday, it was LaVar Ball, father of LiAngelo Ball, one of three UCLA basketball players who were arrested in China on shoplifting charges. Trump had helped secure their release during his recent trip to China, announcing his involvement in a tweet. “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

Not content to go after just one famous black person, President Trump started his Monday with a jab at NFL player Marshawn Lynch. “Marshawn Lynch of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders stands for the Mexican Anthem and sits down to boos for our National Anthem. Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down,” said Trump.

Perhaps Trump is playing a cynical game of base management, assuaging his core supporters with dog whistles and bigotry. But looking at his life, the more likely explanation is also the simplest one: Donald Trump goes after black people because he doesn’t like them.

Jamelle Bouie, Slate

Tuesday: Conflict Deepens as North Korea is Designated Terrorist

Trump announced the move Monday during a public meeting with his Cabinet at the White House and said the Treasury Department will announce new sanctions against North Korea on Tuesday.

North Korean state media published a strong rebuke of Trump on Tuesday, but it wasn't clear if it was in direct response to the terror designation.

"The hideous crimes committed by the lunatic president of the US are a blatant challenge to the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK," the article in Rodong Sinmun said.

"Those who trample down and make a mockery of the DPRK's dignity can never go scot-free," it added.

In a briefing Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang cautioned that the "current situation on the Korean Peninsula is highly complex and sensitive."

He said that the Chinese government hopes "to see all the relevant parties do more to ease tensions, and return to the negotiating table."

Dan Merica, Jeremy Diamond and Zachary Cohen, CNN

Wednesday: President Breaks from Party to Endorse Disgraced Roy Moore

When the Alabama Republican Senate nominee was accused of sexual misconduct with girls in their teens earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and many other GOP leaders called for Moore to drop his bid. The Republican National Committee, which serves Trump, pulled out of the state. And one of Trump's daughters, Ivanka Trump, said she doesn't doubt the accusers and that "there's a special place in hell for people who prey on children."

Many Republicans concluded that it was better for Moore to lose to Democrat Doug Jones than to sully the GOP's brand — and its chances in next year's midterm elections — by taking a seat in the Senate.

Not Trump. He needs a Republican in that seat — now. His agenda, most notably a tax-code rewrite, is hanging by a thread, and nothing will get easier for him if the Senate Republican caucus shrinks from 52 votes to 51 votes.

We don't need a liberal person in there," Trump told reporters Tuesday, referring to Jones. The president also pointed out that Moore "totally denies" the allegations against him and left open the possibility that he might campaign for the Republican in Alabama.

Johnathan Allen, NBC News

Thursday: Flynn Flipping Lifts the Lid on Russia Collusion

Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, notified the president’s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel’s investigation, according to four people involved in the case — an indication that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating a deal.

A deal with Mr. Flynn would give Mr. Mueller a behind-the-scenes look at the Trump campaign and the early tumultuous weeks of the administration. Mr. Flynn was an early and important adviser to Mr. Trump, an architect of Mr. Trump’s populist “America first” platform and an advocate of closer ties with Russia.

Among the interactions that Mr. Mueller is investigating is a private meeting that Mr. Flynn had with the Russian ambassador and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, during the presidential transition. In the past year, it has been revealed that people with ties to Russia repeatedly sought to meet with Trump campaign officials, sometimes dangling the promise of compromising information on Mrs. Clinton.

Michael S. Schmidt, Matt Apuzzo and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

Friday: Alliance with Erdogan is a Heavy Blow to Kurds

The Trump administration is preparing to stop supplying weapons to ethnic Kurdish fighters in Syria, the White House acknowledged Friday, a move reflecting renewed focus on furthering a political settlement to the civil war there and countering Iranian influence now that the Islamic State caliphate is largely vanquished.

The decision to stop arming the Kurds will remove a major source of tension between the United States and Turkey, a NATO ally. But it is likely to further anger the Kurds, who already feel betrayed since the United States told them to hand over hard-won territory to the Syrian government.

The Obama administration began arming the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, because they were considered the most effective fighters against Islamic State militants.

Carol Morello and Erin Cunningham, The Washington Post

Saturday: The Republican Party is the Trump Party

In the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, Trump's job approval rating is down to 38 percent, but 81 percent of Republicans are standing by their president. “We have, actually, great unity in the Republican Party,” Trump boasted.

Are Republican voters dismayed by the indictments coming from the special counsel? Not at all. To Trump and to his base, special counsel Robert Mueller represents the national establishment passing judgment on the president.

Trump's commitment to tax reform further solidifies his Republican support. Tax reform — more precisely, tax cuts — is the issue that has defined the Republican Party since Reagan. Republicans, who normally trumpet fiscal conservatism, aren’t even worried that the tax cuts will increase the federal deficit: Fewer than one in five Republicans believe that the tax changes will increase the deficit.

Bill Schneider, NBC News

Sunday: Tax Bill Ruins Infrastructure Plans

The GOP tax plan that is speeding through Congress could deliver a much-needed win for the White House, but it could also kill one of Trump's other top priorities: legislation to rebuild U.S. infrastructure.

The tax package that passed the House last week would eliminate the deduction on tax-exempt private activity bonds, which are used by public-private partnerships to help build roads, highways, housing, hospitals, airports and other critical projects.

The White House, which has promised to release its rebuilding proposal as soon as tax reform is finished, is aiming to raise $1 trillion worth of overall infrastructure investment. The administration wants to incentivize the private sector to partner with state and local governments on transportation projects by providing $200 billion in federal seed money.

But public-private partnerships rely heavily on tax-exempt private activity bonds and other municipal bonds. Ending their preferential tax treatment could make private firms less inclined to get involved with public infrastructure projects, according to transportation advocates.

Melanie Zanona, The Hill

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