Exactly two months ago, I suggested that Donald Trump might have just had the worst week ever for a first-term president. With the benefit of hindsight, the events leading to that conclusion seem pretty mild in comparison.
FBI Director Comey had announced that a counter-intelligence investigation was underway that included whether or not the Trump campaign had colluded with Russians to influence the 2016 election. He also refuted Trump’s claim that he had been wiretapped by the Obama administration. Later in the week, the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare failed to get enough votes in the House.
I was thinking about all that when I reflected on what has happened in the last two weeks. Here’s a quick rundown:
May 9 – Trump fired FBI Director Comey while he was leading an investigation of the president’s campaign.
May 11 – In an interview with Lester Holt, Trump admitted that the Russian investigation was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey.
May 15 – We learned that Trump had leaked highly classified Israeli intelligence to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador.
May 16 – We learned that Comey kept a memo of his meeting with Trump in which the president asked him to stop the investigation into the activities of Michael Flynn.
May 18 – Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein announced the appointment of a special prosecutor.
May 19 – We learned that in the meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister, Trump bragged that firing Comey relieved him of “great pressure” in the Russia investigation.
May 22 – We learned that Trump asked the Director of National Intelligence and the head of the National Security Agency to help “push back” against the FBI investigation and to “publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.”
These things have happened in such rapid succession that each story barely has time to get its legs before the next one breaks. So it is important to stop and take a moment to recognize the significance of what is happening. Is this the worst two weeks ever for a first-term president? Will Trump’s time in office be one record-breaking “worst week” after another? An affirmative answer to both of those questions is not a difficult argument to make. The speed at which this is all going downhill should be sounding alarms for the entire Republican Party.
That is the context in which to place this report from Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen:
Republican leaders are coming to the bleak conclusion they will end summer and begin the fall with ZERO significant legislative accomplishments. Privately, they realize it’s political malpractice to blow at least the the first nine of months of all Republican rule, but also realize there’s little they can do to avoid the dismal outcome.
In fact, they see the next four months as MORE troublesome than the first four. They’re facing terrible budget choices and headlines, the painful effort to re-work the health care Rubik’s Cube in the House (presuming it makes it out of the Senate), a series of special-election scares (or losses) — all with scandal-mania as the backdrop.
There is also this from Sean Sullivan:
It’s a simple question, but for Republicans in Congress, it’s not an easy one.
Do you trust President Trump’s judgment on major decisions?…
Flake was one of a dozen Republicans from across the ideological spectrum asked this week to reflect on Trump’s judgment. Most of them weren’t eager to address the subject head-on. They diverted and demurred. They paused contemplatively before answering. Some grew visibly uncomfortable. Others declared their conviction in Trump — but then qualified their words or expressed confidence in the people around him. Only one of those interviewed — Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) — offered an unqualified yes regarding Trump himself.
There are multiple ways that Donald Trump has and will continue to do damage to the presidency, the country and our leadership around the globe. But the one thing we can pretty much count on is that, unless something major changes, it won’t be via legislation that passes Congress. Until the leadership gets a clue and tackles the Constitutional questions raised by this president’s actions, members of Congress are merely observers to the train wreck that is Donald Trump.