So ends the 9th Week of the Trump presidency. A LOT has happened since last Friday. Here is the rundown.
His 9th week began last Friday with the release of Trump’s budget and the visit from Germany’s Chancellor Merkel.
There were a few minor international incidents that the White House caused during the Merkel visit. Michael Gerson summarizes them here: “…the diplomatic bloopers reel of the past few days has been played — the casual association of British intelligence with alleged surveillance at Trump Tower; the presidential tweets undermining Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his Asia trip; and the rude and childish treatment given the German chancellor. When President Trump and Angela Merkel sat together in the Oval Office, we were seeing the leader of the free world — and that guy pouting in public.”
Trump also released his budget this week: an increase in military and homeland security (the wall) spending, no changes to entitlements, and massive cuts to other discretionary spending. There was a lot of reporting about how those cuts would hit rural and poor swaths of the country very hard. Republicans in Congress said they would not include all of Trump’s program cuts in the final budget.
After the weekend passed, two recurring Trump themes became prominent:
On Monday, FBI Director Comey finally spoke publicly. Takeaways: he is investigating the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, and there is not evidence of the Obama Administration surveilling the Trump campaign.
The New York Times wrote a piece about how Trump’s defenders are finding it more difficult to justify his tweets and more outlandish statements. The article contained this stunning line: “People close to the president say Mr. Trump’s Twitter torrent had less to do with fact, strategy or tactic than a sense of persecution bordering on faith.”
Then on Wednesday, Chairmen of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunnes made the bizarre move of going to the press and then to Trump with new evidence all without telling the rest of his committee what he had found. It spurred Trump to declare that he was partially vindicated in his wiretapping claim. The Democratic co-chair Adam Schiff said that the Committee may no longer be able to do its work. And John McCain said that Congress can no longer handle the responsibility of an investigation and there needs to be an independnet select committee to do the job.
Also on Wednesday night CNN released a story claiming evidence of Trump associates colluding with Russia during the campaign. It’s a very smoky story–no actual, specific fire–but I am posting it in case it turns out to have been significant.
The week began (and ended) with the waffling sense that the GOP just might pass the American Health Care Act but that they probably would not. This sensation was alive and well on Thursday (the 7th anniversary of the passage of Obamacare) when Paul Ryan was going to put the bill up for a vote, but because he did not have the votes it was postponed until Friday. Several last-minute modifications and deal-sweetners were added. Amid the wheeling and dealing, the New York Times ran this profile of a self-doubting Trump on the eve of the vote. Even on Friday, there was a palpable possibility that it might pass. But by the afternoon Ryan went to the White House–almost at the start of his 10th week on the job to the hour –and told him they had to pull the bill. This was 22 days after Rand Paul and others roamed the basement of the Capital Building looking for the secret reading room where Paul Ryan was showcasing his new health care bill to some of his members.
Here is Ezra Klein this Thursday with a piece that hedged bets the ACHA might pass: it argues that passing this bill into law would be Trump’s Iraq War. Turns out it won’t be.