The words “unravelling, train wreck and global chaos” flew thick and fast in Week 101, to which you might exclaim – “how can you tell?”
Point taken, but darned if this latest segment of the hallucinogenic Fellini movie that has become our daily lives wasn’t jam-packed with “Even For Him” moments, and Trump seemed to be doing his level best to break the world.
During Week #101 of The Trump Era, everything happened in bold headlines, either all at once, or one after the other in rapid succession, like one of those “passage of time” scenes in the movies with different newspaper headlines rolling by, only now the amount of time between sensational scandals is measured in moments, not days, years or decades.
To be fair, in this most precarious and tumultuous week, Trump actually did 3 normal presidential things, two of them good things. First, the Justice Department finally banned bump stocks (a step in the right direction for gun control), and Trump signed the First Step Act prison reform law, a rare bipartisan legislative attempt to reverse the prison-happy mentality that finds America imprisoning more people (2.2 million) than any country on earth, so many that our 50 States can’t fit them all into their prisons anymore and a controversial but lucrative private prison industry has taken up the slack, giving us a growing sector of the American economy with a vested interest in keeping as many Americans locked up in prison as possible.
Trump’s third presidential act was his surprise announcement that he was pulling American troops out of Syria within 30 days, and for good measure, declaring (!) ISIS defeated. Which was news to ISIS, still earnestly waging jihad against anyone who will have them in the Middle East, including Syria. This was good news for Russia, however, which now has no check on Putin’s crusade to reestablish Russia as the same dominant force the Soviet Union once was, exerting its political influence and military might to overthrow and/or dominate vulnerable neighboring regimes. Ringing your borders with puppet states as buffers against potential invasion is Soviet Strategy 101.
And speaking of checks on Russian ambitions, Trump lifted the economic sanctions on companies owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who just so happens to be Vladimir Putin’s good buddy. At least one president was having a good week.
For Trump, not so much, when even the idle and politically irrelevant Chris Christie turned him down for the Chief of Staff job and he had to pick Mick Mulvaney, a guy whose most famous quote is “Donald Trump is a horrible person.”
Then you have Trump’s “lead lawyer” Rudy Giuliani running around bending logic like a demented balloon animal-twisting clown, repeatedly admitting his client’s guilt, then trying to trivialize and explain away Trump’s crimes and lies, such as this off-the-cuff beaut; “the president wasn’t under oath when he lied,” and comparing treason to (seriously, Rudy?) jaywalking tickets.
Of course Rudy was referring to Trump’s insane defensive ranting and Tweeting, using mob lingo like “rats” and “standup guys” (those who plead the 5th), wondering out loud if a famous comedy show can be hauled into court for making fun of him, tampering with potential witnesses, proposing to slash Food Stamps for the poor (claiming this “restores dignity to the work force,” as if hunger is dignified to either experience or witness), or digging up old lies like “Michael Cohen only became a rat when the FBI broke into his office” Fact is, they knocked, had a search warrant and collected a treasure trove of incriminating documents and evidence from Trump’s sloppy and careless “fixer” (who ironically is fixing Trump but good now).
On Tuesday we learned that the extent of Russian hacking ranged far beyond what was originally reported, and their dummy corporation Internet Research Service used every social media platform there is (except Linked-In of course, even foreigners know it’s a wasteland) in their ultimately successful effort to steal the 2016 election for Donald Trump. They even hacked (!) Pinterest, and also targeted Black voters and created a deep cultural divide, while continuing to sow national discord long after the election.
Tuesday was also the day Michael Flynn was due in court to be sentenced, with little to no jail time recommended or expected. The judge, however, had other ideas, and ripped Flynn a new one for betraying his office and the flag he served, while delaying his sentencing until Flynn cooperates even more with Robert Mueller and any other Federal investigation that may seek his testimony.
To round out a bad Tuesday, the Trump Foundation was ordered dissolved when a New York State Court found that Trump and his 3 eldest children are “criminally liable” for using the charity’s money to pay legal settlements for the Trump family business, to purchase art for one of its golf resorts and to make a prohibited political donation, as well as using the charity as their personal (and tax-free) bank accounts.
Small wonder that Sarah Huckabee-Sanders’ first White House Press Briefing in weeks lasted only 10 anxiety-ridden minutes and she fled while reporters called out to her vanishing behind “do your job, Sarah!” Well, she soon opted not to do her job anymore, and Ms. Sanders is joining the year-end exodus and resigning, hoping to avoid the “resigned in disgrace” stigma suffered by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, out on his ass for being (!!) even too corrupt for the Trump Administration.
Wednesday is when Trump tried to break the world in pure frustration and rage, pulling the Syrian retreat out of his combover before announcing he’s withdrawing half the American troops from Afghanistan too, all without consulting his own government, his closest advisors or the allies fighting alongside us.
He raged against Wall Street for being a mirror of his economic policies, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve for raising the Prime Rate, his own government for not giving him his wallbatros, and all the Usual Suspects (anyone with a (D) behind their name).
Giuliani issued a rare apology that day for saying there was no signed letter of intent to build Trump Tower Moscow when in fact there is one, and it was signed when Trump was a candidate for the presidency, which subjects an individual to a lot of laws that don’t apply to others. Rudy did, however, dismiss the letter as “nothing, since it was never built,” even with the open question of the $4 million down payment to Trump for “licensing fees” and the proposed gift of the penthouse apartment to Vladimir Putin, worth millions.
The First Lady expressed deep concern this week over her husband’s health “due to all the stress,” but it was not immediately clear if she was rooting for him or for the stress. Then came the final, and worst day of Trump’s 101st Week, Black Thursday.
At first having reached a deal with Congress to keep the government open without giving him his $5 billion startup money for his wall, Trump balked and refused to sign it, preferring a Christmas shutdown of the government he swore an oath to serve to being made to look silly in front of Fox News commentators who were openly salivating for a huge wall between themselves and brown-skinned people.
Then Defense Secretary James Mattis very publicly resigned over Trump’s Syria decision, his publicly-released resignation letter a scathing rebuke of Trump’s policies, erratic behavior and dangerous ignorance. Mattis’ resignation, coupled with John Kelly’s departure, marks the last of the grownups bailing on the Trump Administration, leaving us with only Trump, his Yes Men and assorted thieves and scoundrels.
The world reacted immediately and negatively, nowhere more than the US Stock Exchange, which is doing its best impression of October 1929, leaving the rest of grateful that the windows of modern skyscrapers do not open so at least we’re spared a rain of stockbroker suicides plunging into the concrete canyons of Wall Street.
World leaders were either flabbergasted or pleased at developments in the USA (Putin praised Trump’s actions and even called him “Donald,” and China’s President Xi is delighted over every Trump calamity) and many former GOP allies are absolutely incensed that the USA is backing down to Russia in the strategic cauldron that is the Middle East, an arena from which America helped drive the Soviet Union in 1973 when their client state Egypt was defeated by our client state Israel and Egypt expelled the Soviets from the only meaningful toehold in the region they ever held.
There is no evidence Trump is aware of any of this recent history even though he was an adult then (those were his Studio 54 days after all, dodging flying STDs). With no notion of potential consequences, Trump just turned the strategic global dynamic on its head and handed Putin a big chunk the Middle East and the decisive voice in world affairs that Trump’s predecessors denied him for 2 decades.
Trump is on the eve of either embarking on a 16-day vacation in Mar A Lago, or hanging around Washington if the government shuts down, so we have not one, but two of Trump’s beloved Reality Show cliffhangers to be resolved (or not) in Week 102. #1, Will Trump really pull a Grinch and shut down the country for Christmas, and #2, is it true that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is finally wrapping up his investigation and will release his report in February?
If #2 is the case, then we may be measuring the remainder of Trump’s presidency not in years or consecutive terms in office, but in consecutive prison sentences.