The chickens finally came home to roost.
Who could’ve known that mocking a war hero might have consequences—that a guy who had survived five tortuous years in captivity might have the last laugh?
Not someone with the keen perception and incisive wit of Donald Trump, that’s for sure.
In actuality, Mr. Burns was too generous. Trump didn’t discharge just one errant message—every day was a new lesson in stepping on what Senate Republicans were furiously trying to accomplish as they crammed seven years of promises into one bill-writing session over lunch on Thursday.
Trump beat against his attorney general like a battering ram using every platform available to him, he dreamed up a new military personnel policy which he deployed via twitter, he hijacked a speech to the Boy Scouts to attack Hillary Clinton and hail his “incredible” election-night victory.
But after demonstrating the laser focus of a dementia-driven narcissist with psychotic features, all Trump got for his efforts was blowback.
Jeff Sessions’ former Senate colleagues finally came to his defense, with Sen. Lindsey Graham saying there would be “holy hell to pay” if Trump tried to replace Sessions, adding that “any effort to go after [Robert] Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.”
Military leadership flatly rejected his policy-by-tweet transgender ban, saying there would be “no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.”
Indeed, far from getting any satisfaction, all Trump had to show by week’s end for his considerably misguided efforts was the Russia sanctions bill his aides had been laboring to weaken for weeks and a subsequent rebuke from this bestie Vlad.
“We are behaving in a very restrained and patient way, but at some moment we will need to respond,” said Putin at a press conference with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinistö.
By Friday, Russia had seized two US diplomatic compounds in Moscow and ordered the U.S. embassy to thin out its ranks by fall. If tensions continue to escalate, that’s certainly not the last Trump will hear from Russia, though Putin will likely use the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine to make his misgivings known.
It’s also not the last Trump will hear of Russia on the domestic side, which added another hitch to Trump’s tail spin of a week. While the health care debacle dominated news, dangling in the background were more threads of the Russia probe:
- Ivanka got her very own lawyer
- Don Jr. got another lawyer
- Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort spoke to Senate investigators and handed over his notes from the Kushner/Don Jr. meeting he attended with the Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer
- Jared Kushner emerged from a closed-door interview with Senate investigators claiming, “I did not collude“
In fact, Kushner’s post-meeting statement read from a podium bearing the White House logo was about where the week began. And amid the cacophony of a GOP implosion this week, Trump’s deepest insecurities could still be heard rattling around in places like the body of Kushner’s heavily-lawyered prose. Stuffed between his collusion denial, claims of transparency, and stated future goals at the White House, Kushner offered up this complete non sequitur:
“Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign and that is why he won. Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him.”
Ultimately, that is what this all comes down to for Trump: proving his rightness, his supremacy, his might over others.
In fact, it’s no coincidence that at the end of his calamitous week, Trump turned over his White House to John Kelly, a retired military general who has exercised perhaps more raw power on behalf of Trump than any other single element of the entire U.S. government.
If Congress won’t send him any major legislation other than a sanctions bill he despises, Trump is going to concentrate on the only thing that has brought him any gratification as pr*sident: immigration and law enforcement policy.
Executive power is all that’s left to a guy who’s incapable of collaborating with other elected officials or balancing the complexities of coequal branches of government. And where Trump is choosing to focus that power—domestically, at a vulnerable minority he can vilify—is also the red meat of an autocrat.