Trump’s week: a glowing orb, a sad pope, and “nutjob” Comey
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Week 18, in one sentence: Donald Trump left for his first international trip as president just as news broke that he’d bragged about firing former FBI Director James Comey to the Russians; kinda-sorta bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia, something he mocked President Obama for doing; agreed to sell $110 billion in American weapons to Saudi Arabia; touched a mysterious glowing orb; went to Israel, where he denied revealing Israel as the source of the intelligence he leaked to Russia, something no one had accused him of ; put off funding Obamacare’s critical cost-sharing subsidies; managed to visibly disconcert the pope during a visit to Vatican City; released a $4.1 trillion budget proposal that slashes funding for programs for the poor (and relies on a giant math error); saw the second version of Trumpcare receive another dismal score from the CBO; called for an investigation into U.S. leaks of U.K. intelligence about the Manchester terrorist bombing; vowed to take the fight over his travel ban to the Supreme Court after an injunction against it was upheld; went to Brussels for a NATO meeting; shook hands with French President Emmanuel Macron so firmly that his knuckles turned white; and went to Italy for the G-7 Summit.
Two scoops (just like Trump likes) Day 12 — May 19
Trump’s Friday — like most days that week — took a turn in the afternoon when two news scoops broke just as Trump boarded a flight for his first trip abroad as president.
In an Oval Office meeting last week, Trump told Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador that firing “nutjob” FBI Director James Comey had relieved “great pressure because of Russia,” according to a document viewed by the New York Times. It’s the same meeting during which Trump reportedly revealed highly classified information to the same Russians.
Speaking of the “nutjob,” the Senate Intelligence Committee announced that Comey will testify in an open hearing before Congress about his firing.
On top of that, anonymous sources told the Washington Post that the probe looking into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia was closing in on a significant person in the White House.
Was that a … bow? Day 121 — May 20
As scandals swirled back home, Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia to much fanfare from the royal family, which bestowed a gold medal upon him, Saudi Arabia’s highest honor. Trump also kinda-sorta bowed/curtsied before Saudi King Abdullah, a gesture Republicans — including Trump himself — widely mocked Obama for doing in 2009. It was the president’s first stop on a nine-day excursion in five countries, and he didn’t waste time: Trump agreed to sell Saudi Arabia $110 billion in American weapons, a deal brokered by Jared Kushner.
“Drive them out”Day 122 — May 21
Trump delivered a much-anticipated address at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Saudi Arabia, which called on the Middle East to take a leadership role in the fight against terrorism in the region. Trump’s speech avoided the Islamophobic overtones of his campaign rhetoric and instead opted for a more measured tone. But the Muslim world isn’t convinced.
“Drive them out,” Trump said of Islamic extremists. “Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. Drive them out of this Earth.”
The day didn’t go without a hitch, though. Trump — along with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi — caused a stir on social media when they all simultaneously laid hands on a mysterious glowing orb. The scene sparked sci-fi memes, but the real meaning of the orb is much more innocuous: It’s apparently just a decorative globe that was part of an opening ceremony for the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh.
Back home, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster wouldn’t say if Trump called Comey a “nutjob” to the Russians — yet insisted that the comments were taken out of context.
The Donald doth protest too much?Day 123 — May 22
Trump continued his globe-trot and arrived in Israel for a largely successful visit, with one big hiccup. While addressing reporters with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump denied a Russia allegation that the press never made.
“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel,’ never mentioned it, during that conversation,” Trump said, referring to a meeting in which he revealed highly classified intelligence to the Russians. “They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong.”
Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser and the centerpiece of the Russia scandal, decided against complying with the Senate subpoena for documents related to Russian meddling in the 2016 election and will instead invoke the Fifth Amendment.
Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross expressed surprise that Trump faced no protesters in Saudi Arabia, apparently unaware that people aren’t allowed to protest in Saudi Arabia.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave an official definition for “sanctuary cities” in a memo: jurisdictions that “willfully refuse to comply” with federal immigration law. While Trump’s executive order about withholding funding from these cities nodded at the law, it wasn’t specific. Sessions’ memo also limited the type of funding the federal government can take away — only money from the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.
The Trump administration and Congress once again put off deciding whether to fund Obamcare’s cost-sharing subsidies, which reduce the deductibles and co-pays for a majority of Obamacare recipients. Without these subsidies, more insurers are likely to bail out of Obamacare exchanges.
Finally, a budgetDay 124 — May 23
The Trump administration finally released a line-by-line $4.1 trillion budget for fiscal year 2018 to Congress. It’s calling the document the “The New Foundation for American Greatness,” and the message is clear: Get a job, poor people. The budget would drastically slash federal money for programs for the poor, including $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid and $193 billion in cuts to food stamps over the next decade. Simultaneously, Trump wants to jack up defense spending and cut taxes. The goal is to sustain 3 percent growth, but economists are very skeptical that’s possible.
Trump briefly visited the West Bank and met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Trump urged peace between Israel and Palestine — without referring to a two-state solution.
“President Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal in good faith,” Trump said in Bethlehem alongside Abbas. “And Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan testified before the House intelligence committee that he had seen intelligence that made him question whether Russia was able to “gain the cooperation” of some Trump campaign staffers.
During the election, Trump attempted to persuade two high-ranking intelligence officials to say that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, according to new reports.
The CIA told some lawmakers sooner than we thought about Russia’s effort to undermine the U.S. election. Brennan was so worried that he began briefing top officials in Congress in August, according to the New York Times.
After a review, a standard process for complaints, the Federal Communications Commission decided against taking action against late-night TV host Stephen Colbert over his joke referring to Trump and Vladimir Putin engaged in a sexual act.
Trump decried the terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that killed 22 and condemned the “evil losers” behind the attack.
Making the happiest pope sad Day 125 — May 24
Trump traveled to Vatican City and met Pope Francis, and the president seemed elated. The usually jovial pope, however, looked less than overjoyed. The duo spoke privately for 28 minutes.
The pope made an apparent joke about Trump’s weight to First Lady Melania Trump, asking her if she gave the president potizza, a Slovenian dessert, to eat. The president misheard and exclaimed “Pizza!”
Trump met yet another world leader, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, in Rome and praised Italy for its counterterrorism efforts.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the GOP Obamacare replacement, which the House passed without a CBO score. The analysis showed that 23 million people will lose insurance by 2026 under Trumpcare, fairly similar to the 24 million that would have lost health insurance under the GOP’s first attempt to replace Obamacare. The bill would save the government $119 billion over the next decade. The CBO also predicted that premiums for young, healthy people would go down but older people would see drastic increases.
Anonymous current and former intelligence officials told the Washington Post that a possibly phony Russian document heavily influenced Comey’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Apparently, the unreliable document posited that an understanding existed between Clinton’s campaign and the Justice Department that the email investigation wasn’t really going anywhere — which led to Comey’s rogue public announcement about reopening the probe during the election.
The travel ban stays blocked Day 126 — May 25
A federal appeals court ruled to uphold the injunction against Trump’s revised travel ban, which attempted to stop travel to the U.S. from six majority-Muslim countries. While the ban made no explicit references to Islam, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory said the executive order “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”
The Trump administration plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is now under scrutiny by the FBI in its probe of Russian interference in the U.S. election, according to multiple reports.
Trump addressed the leaders of fellow NATO members in Brussels, the latest stop on his world tour. He was expected to endorse Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty — which requires NATO members to come to the aid of allies who are under attack — but he failed to do so. Instead, he berated U.S. allies for not putting up their “fair share” of defense spending and later shoved Montenegro’s prime minister out of his way.
Trump blasted “alleged leaks” of sensitive information pertaining to the deadly terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, which killed 22 people and wounded dozens. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May complained to him in Brussels that U.K. and U.S. intelligence must remain secure. Trump urged the Justice Department to launch an investigation to weed out the leakers.
Trump met new French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time at the NATO summit, and the meeting was apparently tense. Their handshake was so intense that Trump’s knuckles turned white as he attempted to pull away from Macron’s grip.
In a speech to prosecutors and law enforcement in Memphis, Sessions again promised a crackdown on violent crime and illegal drugs.“Drugs and crime go together,” he said. It’s a stark reversal from Obama-era criminal justice reform. Sessions cited a viral video of a 6-year-old boy’s plea for an end to gun violence in his vow to revive a “tough on crime” era.
When Jared Kushner filled out his financial disclosure form with the Office of Government Ethics, he forgot something: his multimillion-dollar art collection. ArtNet, a large-scale website normally dedicated to buying and selling art, found the scoop after noticing his wife Ivanka Trump’s Instagram pictures with the works in the background.
Back to Italy Day 127 — May 26
Trump went back to Italy for the G-7 summit — a conference between world superpowers Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. — where he’s expected to clash with U.S. allies on issues from climate change to the refugee crisis.
This week in POTUS’ tweets:
Just arrived in Italy for the G7. Trip has been very successful. We made and saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of jobs.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2017
All civilized nations must join together to protect human life and the sacred right of our citizens to live in safety and in peace.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2017
Getting ready for my big foreign trip. Will be strongly protecting American interests – that's what I like to do!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2017