Last week was nice and quiet. Well, nice and quiet if you ignore President Trump’s advisor Roger Stone being arrested and indicted, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort being ordered to appear in court to face charges of lying to federal authorities, and everything going on in Venezuela. Oh, and Facebook making money off of kids and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey blaming Twitter users for not reporting Nazis enough. OK, so maybe it wasn’t a quiet week. It was so noisy, in fact, you may have missed a few things. Catch up here.
They Don’t Really Care About Us
What Happened: Despite all the hand-wringing, there’s a good chance many in power in the US government aren’t too sensitive to those affected by the government shutdown. Or, at least, that’s how it seemed based on some comments out of the Trump administration last week.
What Really Happened: The US spent most of last week still in the throes of a governmental shutdown fueled by an administration headed by people often considered too wealthy to understand the cost of living for most Americans. (Remember the time President Trump seemed to suggest that ID was required to buy groceries?) Last week, that out-of-touch-ness truly hit home.
Take Lara Trump’s comments early in the week, in which the wife of Eric Trump responded to the suggestion that the shutdown hurts federal workers by saying, “this so much bigger than any one person. It is a little bit of pain, but it’s going to be for the future of our country and their children and their grandchildren and generations after that will thank them for their sacrifice right now.”
Later, Lara Trump would blame the media for misreporting her words. Still, surely this is a one-off thing and wouldn’t be repeated by another person connected to the administration this week or anything.
Ah yes, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross. Wonder what he had to say about the whole thing?
All told, things weren’t looking good for the administration on the messaging thing, with more and more people noticing just how unable those in charge seem to be with regards to understanding what most people have to deal with.
But wait, President Trump had something to add. Surely this could turn the whole thing around.
Oh. Never mind.
The Takeaway: Remember when President Obama was called elitist for talking about arugula? (No really, that was an actual thing.) Doesn’t old politics seem so quaint now?
The State of Disunity
What Happened: If President Trump learned anything this past week, it is surely not to call the bluff of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. If the president hasn’t learned that this week, then he really hasn’t been paying attention.
What Really Happened: One byproduct of the government shutdown was the State of the Union skirmish, which pitted Trump against Democrats in Congress. For those who might not have been paying attention, two weeks ago Pelosi told the president to reschedule the State of the Union address because of the shutdown, citing the costs of managing it. Trump responded by withdrawing use of military aircraft for a trip to a war zone that Pelosi had scheduled, and in the process made said trip public knowledge for the first time. Sure, it wasn’t a great response, but it was something.
Last week, the drama … intensified? Sure, let’s go with that.
Ohhhhh … snap?
There was one obvious flaw in the White House’s logic here. Namely, the possibility that Nancy Pelosi isn’t playing around.
After having had his bluff called so publicly, there was some discussion over whether or not the president would have some further trick up his sleeve, and if there was a move that no one could see coming on the way. Alas.
Indeed, Trump officially postponed the State of the Union not long after Pelosi’s … is it rude to call it a shutdown of Trump’s gambit? Maybe just a little. Still, the same public address that the video above came from also featured President Trump’s new nickname for Speaker Pelosi. If it could really be called a nickname.
The Takeaway: So, is Nancy Pelosi actually Donald Trump’s kryptonite? Because it’s sure beginning to look like that.
What Happened: When it comes to expressing complex messages, is there any better form to do so than a rhyming couplet? Well, sure, perhaps a limerick, but we’re definitely not there just yet. Give it a week.
What Really Happened: It’s fair to say that the shutdown, which Trump said on Friday would end for three weeks, had almost the exact opposite outcome President Trump hoped for, considering that went on for more than a month with no border wall funding and the majority of Americans blaming him, which has driven his disapproval ratings to an all-time high. In the face of such troublesome reality, something had to be done. And this president is the man to do those things, as long as “those things” consist entirely of tweets.
As if to emphasize it was “the new theme,” Trump then repeated the phrase on a number of occasions over the next 24 hours.
Who could fail to be convinced by such a compelling rhyme? Especially considering how hard President Trump apparently worked on the slogan, as he (somewhat staggeringly) boasted in public comments.
There are, of course, some people who were less enthused about, say, the fact that it’s not actually a true statement. Something that the president himself has kind of talked about in a very roundabout way.
Actually, while we’re talking about statements that are technically untrue, it should be noted that the president’s tweet announcing the slogan was not exactly correct, either.
There was also this take:
Still, at least some people got into the spirit of things. Admittedly, not the spirit the president was wanting them to get into.
The Takeaway: Perhaps thoughts of how truthful the slogan is might be looking at things the wrong way.
What Happened: When all else fails, go back to the Discarded Strategies pile.
What Really Happened: On Thursday, two bills to reopen the government finally made it to the Senate floor; one from the Republicans that would offer the president full funding for a wall at US southern border, and one from Democrats that wouldn’t. Both failed to pass, but—as many noted—the Democratic solution came closer to success than the president’s plan, with six Republicans voting to approve it. Whether it was that embarrassment, the fact that the shutdown was seemingly dragging on with no end in sight while provoking federal workers to protest, or the fact that even Trump’s base was increasingly blaming him for this mess, Thursday night saw the revival of a discarded plan to bring the longest government shutdown in American history to a close.
Even though Trump relented to a three-week reprieve on Friday, the situation is still one in which the president might declare a national emergency, which would allow him to redirect funds already earmarked for use elsewhere by the federal government to build the wall. With the wall technically “funded,” Trump would then re-open the federal government for good, having “won.” There you have it.
It was not a particularly well-liked move outside of the White House.
If all of this is sounding a little familiar, it should; this was a route anticipated weeks ago that Trump ended up backing away from. That he’s returned to the idea two weeks later demonstrates two things: Firstly, that he’s run out of all other options. Secondly, that it’s really not a national emergency after all, considering. That said, maybe the wall isn’t the point here at all.
The Takeaway: You have to wonder what folks in Mexico, which was originally supposed to be paying for the wall, are wondering about all of this right now, don’t you?
What Happened: President Trump temporarily convinced his former lawyer Michael Cohen to shut up. Probably.
What Really Happened: The shutdown and related matters weren’t the only issues plaguing Trump last week, of course. There are also the ongoing legal worries he has over the Russia investigation. At the beginning of last week, there were two weeks to go before Trump’s former attorney was slated to appear before Congress. Many expected Cohen’s appearance to be filled with interesting information, especially in light of a (admittedly disputed) report that Cohen had previously been directed to lie to Congress by the president. But then, this happened:
Admittedly, that sounds pretty serious. But it’s not as if it’s a legal ma—what’s that?
Maybe that’s making a mountain out of a molehill. After all, what kind of threats are we talking about?
OK, so that sounds very serious indeed, and sure enough, the delay made plenty of headlines, as should be expected considering the context. After all, this is directly accusing the President of the United States of witness intimidation—and also noting that it’s working. For those wondering, Congress wasn’t particularly happy about this turn of events.
In fact, it issued a subpoena to ensure that Cohen couldn’t back out of testifying. That worked; he’s back on the schedule for late February. In addition, Cohen’s lawyer asked Congress to censure the president for his behavior to date.
But what does Trump have to say about all this, anyway?
But, you know, it’s not about him. Maybe the threats are really coming from other people who aren’t the person at the center of this investigation who has already been told to cool it with the threats.
Somewhere, Sean Hannity is either terrified that he’s going to be at the center of this story as it continues to unfold, or he’s delighted to be relevant again. It’s hard to know which just yet.
The Takeaway: Actually, there’s one thing particularly interesting about this whole ordeal. Maybe there’s a specific reason Trump keeps talking about Michael Cohen’s father-in-law beyond simply trying to get people to stop talking about him….