The Worst Week Ever For A First-Term President?

Most of the time political punditry is about either analyzing the present or predicting the future. But today is one of those times when I’m more interested in the past. I’m not talking about the long-distance past – but just the last week.

On Monday, the people at NBC’s First Read suggested that this could be the most consequential week yet in Trump’s presidency. That wasn’t hyperbole. Here are the four things they pointed to as significant questions that would be answered:

1. Does FBI Director Comey publicly repudiate Trump’s wiretapping charge?
2. How far does Comey go on Russia?
3. Does the health-care effort survive — or die?
4. Is Gorsuch’s confirmation still on track?

All of those questions were answered in a way that is devastating for Trump and Republicans – creating the specter of the worst week for a first-term president in our history.

1. Does FBI Director Comey publicly repudiate Trump’s wiretapping charge?

Yes he did. Comey stated that, after investigation, not only did the FBI fail to find evidence to support Trump’s claim, but that the entire Justice Department also failed to do so. Furthermore, NSA Director Michael Rogers repudiated the White House claim that the British had been solicited to spy on Trump for the Obama administration.

In other words, according to the FBI Director, the Justice Department and the NSA Director…Trump lied.

2. How far does Comey go on Russia?

Comey dropped a bombshell. Nothing says it more powerfully than his own words.

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counter-intelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of the fact that the president’s campaign is being investigated by the FBI for possible coordination with Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. That’s as big as it gets.

3. Does the health-care effort survive — or die?

This is the very recent past. Just this afternoon Republicans pulled their bill to repeal/replace Obamacare because after weeks of wrangling from both Trump and Ryan, they didn’t have the votes to pass it in the House. In short, the Trump/Republican health-care effort died.

Some conservatives are already trying to spin this by suggesting that Paul Ryan manipulated Trump into making repeal of Obamacare the first priority for Republicans. That is a lie.

This was a gigantic failure for Trump right out of the gate and will reverberate throughout his presidency.

Trump himself is attempting to deflect his failure by blaming the Democrats. That too is a lie. The fact is that Republicans set up this entire process to use reconciliation in the Senate in order to avoid having to work with Democrats. Never once did Trump, Ryan or McConnell even try to reach out to them. Republicans decided to go it alone and therefore this failure is theirs alone.

In some ways, Paul Ryan was more honest.

“You have all heard me say this before, moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains,” Ryan said at the beginning of a press briefing. “And, well, we’re feeling those growing pains today.”…

“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” he said.

It’s true that Republicans don’t know how to govern. But they have had a majority in the House now for over 6 years and don’t seem to be “growing” in any way that is discernible.

The end result is that we are going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future. Whew!

4. Is Gorsuch’s confirmation still on track?

The Gorsuch hearings might have been the bright spot for Republicans this week. The nominee managed to be elusive in a pretty sophisticated way. Consequently, there were no severe eruptions.

The bad news for Republicans is that the Democrats announced this week that they will filibuster his nomination – requiring 60 votes for his confirmation. McConnell and his crew have a tough decision to make now: do they go nuclear on the filibuster or risk not getting Gorsuch confirmed. That’s what passes for good news with Republicans this week.

Has any first-term president ever had such a disastrous week? I certainly can’t think of one.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.