Week 21 in Trump’s America: “WITCH HUNT”
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Week 21, in one sentence: President Donald Trump accused fired FBI Director James Comey of perjury; said he would testify under oath about conversations he’d had with Comey; refused to say whether he’d recorded those conversations; took credit for the blockade of Qatar at the same time his own secretary of state called for Arab countries to ease that blockade; congratulated himself on “infrastructure week,” a promotional event for his $1 trillion rebuilding plan that nobody noticed; reassured his Twitter followers he wouldn’t be impeached; held his first full Cabinet meeting, during which his Cabinet members took turns praising him; decried the Ninth Circuit for ruling against his revised travel ban, which he revised again to ensure it makes it to the Supreme Court; reacted with fury when the Washington Post reported that special counsel was investigating him for obstruction of justice in the wake of Comey’s firing; struck an uncharacteristically measured tone in the aftermath of the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise at a congressional baseball practice; saw the Senate take action to exercise greater authority over Trump’s relationship with Russia; tweeted a lot about the “WITCH HUNT” against him; and rolled back Barack Obama’s Cuba policies.
Trump sounds off on Comey Day 141 — June 9
Trump couldn’t help himself and broke almost two days of Twitter silence, his second-longest stint since he was inaugurated, to accuse former FBI Director James Comey of perjury.
“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!” Trump tweeted.
Comey, as we know, had testified the previous day about being pressured by the president to end the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia, and how he was ultimately fired by the president. He also called Trump a liar. You can read a detailed rundown of Comey’s testimony here.
Trump held a press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who stood by as reporters badgered Trump with questions about Comey’s testimony. Trump fired back calling Comey the liar and said he would “100 percent” testify under oath about his conversations with the former FBI director. Trump wouldn’t specify whether he had recorded those conversations — having previously alluded to “tapes” in a tweet targeting Comey.
“I am not hinting at anything. I will tell you about it over a very short period of time,” Trump said, declining to elaborate whether he’d taped Comey. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders also declined to say whether tapes exist or if there is secret recording equipment in the White House.
Trump took credit for the Arab world’s blockade of Qatar, which he derided as a supporter of terror. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson contradicted the POTUS entirely and asked the group of Arab countries to “ease their blockade” of the country — which hosts the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East.
Apparently it was infrastructure week Day 142 — June 10
Donald Trump Jr. is supposed to be running the Trump Organization entirely separate from politics, but that didn’t stop Junior from jumping into the fray Tuesday, attempting put a spin on the meetings recounted by Comey.
“When he tells you to do something, guess what? There’s no ambiguity in it, there’s no, ‘Hey, I’m hoping,'” Trump Jr. said on Fox News. “You and I are friends: ‘Hey, I hope this happens, but you’ve got to do your job.’ That’s what he told Comey. And for this guy, as a politician, to then go back and write a memo: ‘Oh, I felt threatened.’ He felt so threatened — but he didn’t do anything.”
But in doing so, he contradicted his father’s lawyer, who said that the president “never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone.”
The president sent out a message of self-congratulations to cap off “infrastructure week,” a weeklong initiative to rally support around Trump’s $1 trillion rebuilding plan. The president proclaimed that he had laid out a “bold and exciting new vision” to speed up major U.S. infrastructure projects (nevermind that no plan has been finalized). Unfortunately for the Trump administration, infrastructure week was almost completely overshadowed by Comey’s testimony.
The president promises he won’t be impeached Day 143 — June 11
143 days into his presidency, Trump wanted us to know he isn’t getting impeached. Trump retweeted a Fox News clip of Geraldo Rivera saying that Trump’s chances of impeachment went from “3 percent to 0 percent” — hardly a scientific measure — after Comey’s testimony.
Trump then sent out a confoundingly worded tweet that seemed to question whether Comey’s decision to leak a memo of his conversations with Trump to the press was legal.
“I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible,” Trump tweeted. “Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!’ “
Praise party for POTUS Day 144 — June 12
Trump held his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office, and things got weird quickly. After praising himself, Trump turned the meeting over to his subordinates who took turns… praising him.
“The greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to the president who’s keeping his word to the American people,” Vice President Mike Pence said.
“I’m thrilled to have the chance to help you live up to your campaign promises,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
“I am privileged to be here — deeply honored — and I want to thank you for your commitment to the American workers,” said Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.
And so on.
Trump’s least favorite court — the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — ruled against his revised travel ban, which restricts travel from six primarily Muslim countries. Citing one of Trump’s tweets in its decision, the court ruled that the travel ban exceeded his authority.
Trump responded the following day via Twitter that he had “predicted” the Ninth Circuit’s decision and would take the injunction against the ban to the Supreme Court.
House Democrat Brad Sherman released a draft of articles of impeachment against Trump to Congress, potentially forcing every member of the House to take a position on the issue. Sherman’s draft calls for Trump’s impeachment over “high crimes and misdemeanors,” asserting that Trump obstructed justice by “threatening, and then terminating” James Comey as head of the FBI.
Trump tweeted out a remembrance of the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting on the one-year mark of the massacre.
VICE News’ coverage
Sessions takes the spotlight Day 145 — June 13
Attorney General Jeff Sessions took the spotlight for the day as he testified before the Senate intelligence committee, immediately declaring that the idea that he participated in collusion with the Russian government was “an appalling and detestable lie.” Sessions admitted he’d met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak but denied Comey’s allegation that he’d had a third, undisclosed meeting.
Sessions stood by his and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s memo that was cited in the Comey firing. Sessions also maintained that the former FBI director was fired mainly because of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation — though Trump has said otherwise.
Trump himself is under investigation Day 146 — June 14
Trump’s team has repeatedly insisted that the president isn’t personally under investigation — his campaign is. But a bombshell Washington Post report blew the lid off that. The special counsel investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election is now investigating Trump himself for possible obstruction of justice in the wake of Comey’s firing, officials said.
A leaked White House memo outlined the Trump administration’s plan to respond to the story. The memo said that special counsel was shifting to an obstruction-of-justice investigation to “save face” because it had “struck out” on proving that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
A shooter named James Hodgkinson, 66, opened fire during an early-morning congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., and critically injured Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana. The gunman has since died of injuries. Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited Scalise, who Trump said was in “very rough shape,” at the hospital. Two police officers, a lobbyist, and a congressional staffer were also wounded.
While Trump and other Republican leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan called for unity in the shooting’s aftermath, lower-level politicians began pointing fingers. Republican Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia, for example, retweeted the phrase “leftist terrorism.” Garrett also placed some blame on Sen. Tim Kaine for calling on people to “fight in the streets” against Trump in January. Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia blamed D.C. gun laws that restrict members of Congress from carrying firearms.
The Senate almost unanimously passed a bill that hits Russia (and Iran) with new sanctions and gives Congress greater authority to review the White House’s attempts to do away with them. Only Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Bernie Sanders voted against the legislation.
Trump issued a presidential memorandum meant to ensure his travel ban will make it all the way to the Supreme Court. The ban was originally supposed to restrict entry into the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, as well as suspend the U.S.’s refugee program for 120 days. The ban, of course, never took effect because of nationwide injunctions issued in Hawaii and Maryland. Trump’s new memorandum posits that the 90- and 120-day clocks only start ticking 72 hours after the injunctions against the ban are lifted.
“WITCH HUNT” Day 147 — June 15
Trump reacted with predictable fury to news that special counsel Robert Mueller was investigating whether the president had obstructed justice.
“You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA,” Trump tweeted, presumably referring to Mueller and his team.
Trump then turned his attention — once again — back to his old but persistent political nemesis: Hillary Clinton.
“Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, ‘bleached’ emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction?” He tweeted.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin joked during his annual televised “Direct Line” marathon Q&A that he would offer Comey political asylum in Russia “if he is persecuted.”
But Putin wasn’t the only world leader to mock Trump. Leaked audio revealed that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull imitated Trump to a room full of media folks at the annual Mid-Winter Ball.
“The Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls. We are winning so much, we are winning, we are winning like we have never won before,” he said. You can listen here.
Despite Trump’s tough talk on Qatar, “a funder of terrorism at a high level,” the U.S. signed a $12 billion deal to sell fighter jets to the oil-rich country.
Trump indicated that Rep. Steve Scalise, who was shot in the hip by a lone gunman at a congressional baseball practice, was in much worse condition than what was publicly known. “It’s been much more difficult than people even thought at that time. He’s in some trouble,” Trump said.
“WITCH HUNT” Part II Day 148 — June 16
Trump just couldn’t stop tweeting about the “witch hunt” against him. The president fired off four early-morning tweets that concluded with an attack on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted (never mind that Trump told Lester Holt he was going to fire Comey regardless of Rosenstein’s recommendations).
This came after Rosenstein issued a bizarre press release advising the public not to believe stories coming out of government agencies attributed to anonymous “sources.” Funny thing is the Department of Justice frequently briefs journalists anonymously.
Speaking in Miami, Trump announced he was “cancelling” the Obama administration’s “one-sided deal with Cuba.”
The week in POTUS tweets:
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
The Fake News Media hates when I use what has turned out to be my very powerful Social Media – over 100 million people! I can go around them
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
2 million more people just dropped out of ObamaCare. It is in a death spiral. Obstructionist Democrats gave up, have no answer = resist!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2017