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It was yet another dramatic elimination week on Trump Administration Island, where viewers saw Rex Tillerson granted immunity for at least another week.
And Tillerson wasn’t the only lucky one — Trump’s lawyers got a real boost toward their billable-hour-based Christmas bonuses as litigation ramped up this week connected to the Russia case, the travel ban, and the country’s national monuments.
Another guilty plea Day 316 — December 1
Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his relationship Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn will be the fourth person indicted as part of Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s Russia probe, and the second to plead guilty. He’s now cooperating with Mueller.
“My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and our country,” Flynn said in a statement. “I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
That same day, the New York Times reported that Trump had repeatedly urged Republicans in the Senate during the summer to end the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the election. The New York Times put it lightly when it reported this as “unusual behavior” for a president.
Trump rejected reports that he was going to fire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Twitter (and Instagram). “While we disagree on certain subjects (I call the final shots), we work well together and America is highly respected again!” he wrote.
Defending Flynn Day 317 — December 2
Like he does most Saturdays, Trump spent a good amount of time tweeting. He went in on the guilty plea of Michael Flynn — and even defended him.
Trump said he “had to fire” Flynn because he lied to veep Mike Pence and the FBI, which was “a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” Trump later compared Flynn’s actions to Hillary Clinton’s email use while she was secretary of state. “Nothing happens to her? Rigged system, or just a double standard?” Trump pondered.
Trump also tweeted about:
- The Senate passing a tax bill that will add over $1 trillion to the deficit and primarily benefit the rich
- The bravery of Rosa Parks on the anniversary of her famous bus ride
- Hillary Clinton’s emails (again)
- The suspension of ABC News’ Brian Ross, who had incorrectly reported that Trump, while still a candidate, instructed Flynn to contact the Russians.
Trump also returned to his hometown, New York City, to attend several fundraising events on behalf of the GOP.
Grab ’em by the Bush Day 318 — December 3
President Trump has reportedly been denying it’s his voice talking about grabbing women “by the pussy” on a hot mic in 2005, despite admitting to it and apologizing when the audio was released in October 2016. And like Lazarus, back from the dead, conservative radio and TV host Billy Bush — to whom Trump was speaking on the tape — resurfaced with a New York Times op-ed titled “Billy Bush: Yes, Donald Trump, You Said That” to confirm that yes, Trump absolutely said that.
Trump’s campaign diet Day 319 — December 4
A pair of truly horrifying news items surfaced in the Washington Post by way of Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s new book. The first: The president, Lewandowski reveals, enjoys eating, in one sitting, “two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted.” The second: Hope Hicks routinely steams Trump’s pants while he’s wearing them.
Finally, the president went all-in on accused child molester Roy Moore for the Alabama Senate seat, after only tacitly endorsing previously by saying how terrible his Democratic challenger Doug Jones would be for the country.
But it wasn’t all bad for the Trump administration and its legacy: The Supreme Court gave his travel ban a green light while the lower courts decide whether to keep the policy permanently. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had previously ruled against the ban, is supposed to rule as soon as possible and then the case could still go back to the Supreme Court for a final round.
Goodbye Bear Ears Day 320 — December 5
Trump announced he would be revoking the monument status of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante, leaving the lands open to development from oil and gas companies. Several suits, filed by disparate groups, including the Navajo Nation, environmental activists, and the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, challenge Trump’s standing.
Four other monuments are reportedly on the chopping block.
Trump’s lawyers are also currently fighting a defamation case against the president, not on its merits but under a novel interpretation of presidential immunity. Summer Zervos, a former contest on NBC’s “The Apprentice” sued Trump after he called her a liar over her claims of sexual harassment. If the court decides her case can’t proceed, it will set a new precedent — so far a hallmark of the Trump presidency.
Right now, Zervos’ lawyers are just trying to get Trump to sit down for depositions. They even offered to depose him between rounds of golf at Mar-a-Lago if his schedule is too busy.
Also keeping Trump’s lawyers burning the midnight oil are new reports that Special Counsel Bob Mueller has been eyeing Deutsche Bank as part of the Russia investigation. The obvious guess for its target is Trump, who owed the bank some $300 million before becoming president. But Trump’s attorneys denied any subpoena had been issued. Bloomberg later clarified the subpoenas had been issued regarding people “affiliated with President Trump.”
And finally, the DOJ’s solicitor general appeared in front of the Supreme Court to argue in support of the cakeshop owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on the grounds of freedom of religion and speech. In fact, she argued that businesses can discriminate against almost anyone for any reason — except for race.
Journey to Jerusalem Day 321 — December 6
President Trump announced that the United States will now recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, instead of Tel Aviv, and ordered the U.S. Embassy to move there. Trump’s decision deviates from seven decades of U.S. policy, and has already caused violent protests, which could further inflame tensions and hinder chances of peace between Israel and Palestine.
Just hours after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump finally offered some criticism of Saudi Arabia over its handling of world’s worst humanitarian crisis and called on his Middle East ally to lift its crippling blockade on Yemen.
“I have directed officials in my administration to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it,” Trump said in a statement. “This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately.”
Democrats said that Donald Trump Jr. “had a pretty serious case of amnesia” during eight hours of testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia, as well as his contacts with WikiLeaks and a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Don Jr. refused to provide details of a call he’d had with his dad over the summer, dubiously citing attorney-client privilege because their lawyers were on the phone call, too.
Meanwhile, the Russian lawyer confirmed to the Senate Intelligence Committee what everyone already knew: that Trump Jr. had asked about dirt on Hillary Clinton during their infamous meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016. She said Trump Jr. seemed to misunderstand the nature of the meeting and that he lost interest once it became clear she couldn’t give him what he wanted.
Franken takes a parting shot at Trump Day 322 — December 7
Sen. Al Franken, a prominent Democrat from Minnesota, told the Senate he would resign after facing accusations from eight women of groping and unwanted kissing. Franken denied any wrongdoing, then immediately called out Trump and Alabama Republican Roy Moore, who’s running for Senate.
“I am leaving, while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment and said that the president addressed “those comments” — which he reportedly asserts he didn’t actually say, although he admitted it during his campaign.
Trump met with the nation’s two top Democrats — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — in an effort to avert a government shutdown. Schumer and Pelosi had canceled a similar meeting last week because Trump had tweeted that he doubted the group could come to a deal.
Democrats and Republicans are still in a stalemate over immigration and military spending.