This Leak in Politics (see what we did there?)
This Weak in Politics, Vol. LXXVI
You know it has been a chaotic week when the fact that the firing of the FBI director for only the second time in history, and for the first time while the director was investigating a president’s campaign, isn’t the lead story or even the second most important story of the week. But such was this week in American politics.
The biggest story — the granddaddy of them all — is of course, the breaking news that the Republican working group tasked with crafting an alternative to both Obamacare and the House-passed American Healthcare Act is beginning to realize that no one in their caucus knew just how complicated health care was.
Just fucking with you…the big news of course was Russia.
There is plenty of hyperbole this week around revelations involving President Trump and Russia— and we are doing our best to avoid falling into that trap.
That being said, certain superlatives are unavoidable — there is no doubt that the bombshell news Tuesday evening that in February, Trump asked then FBI Director James Comey to let the Gen. Mike Flynn investigation go away, was easily the biggest scandal to rock the administration since Monday at 6pm when we learned that Trump had given hyper-sensitive intelligence (code-word classified) to Russia. And that was easily the biggest scandal to rock the White House since the previous Tuesday, when Trump fired FBI director James Comey.
Code-word intelligence, our sources (namely Google) tell us, is information deemed so sensitive that it can only be accessed by a very limited pool of people including senior intelligence assets, national security experts, and buffoonish former reality TV hosts. Even allies in London and Paris have not been apprised of the information, but Trump, somehow, believed Moscow should.
To put the Russia/Trump story in perspective, here is a brief primer: 17 organizations of the US intelligence community said that Russia tried to influence the US elections and that they did so to favor Donald Trump, many associates of whom met with Russian officials and lied about it, including Trump’s campaign manager, foreign policy advisors, his first National Security advisor, his current attorney general and his current son-in-law/senior advisor. The FBI began investigating the ties between Trump associates and the Russians, Trump asked the FBI to not do this, they refused, so he fired the FBI director, and partially explained it by suggesting that it was at the behest of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, who previously had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because he failed to disclose that he, too, met with Russian Ambassador/spy Sergey Kislyak. The day after firing Comey, Trump met with Russians (including Russian Ambassador/spy Sergey Kislyak) in the Oval Office, at the request of Vladimir Putin, before an audience of just Russian state media, where he disclosed to Russia information that we haven’t even told our closest allies. If that sounds shady and opaque, have no fear, the president is now suggesting he will turn over the transcripts of the oval office meeting. By “president” by the way, we mean Putin, not Trump. And if you are concerned that without an FBI director, no credible investigation of the Russia/Trump ties can go forward, again, rest assured this is not the case. Trump and his closest advisors (Kislyak, Sergey Lavrov, Vladimir Putin, Rudy Giuliani) have been diligently working on a solution, and Jeff Sessions (yes, the aforementioned one) is interviewing candidates to replace Comey as we speak.
(Note: TWITPOL is always looking for additional Russia experts to expand our coverage. As such, if you are a Russia expert like @juliaioffe, or if you are a Russia expert AND you are @juliaioffe, please contact us through the comments section).
As for that search for a new FBI Director, several congressional Republicans, including John Cornyn and Trey Gowdy, as well as credible people, have taken their own names out of the running for the post. With new allegations coming virtually daily, there is not a single honest, decent human being left who will take the job, which means Rudy Giuliani is now the frontrunner.
The administration, ever determined not to let scandals distract them from their other scandals, immediately dispatched soon-to-be-former Press Secretary Sean Spicer to dispute the perception that the Trump administration is bumbling and inept. This was not as simple a task as it may seem, due to language barriers — specifically, the press briefings are traditionally held in English, which is not the Press Secretary’s strength.
Spicer’s press briefings are reminiscent of local police officers telling their stories to the local news, while trying to use bigger words than those with which they are accustomed: “The perpetrator then transcrossed the median in a bedangerous manner, causing vehicular harm to the bystanders who were bystanding in the general sidewalkular region.”
The truth of the matter is that being a Trump spokesperson is a difficult task, as…alternative facts are often a moving target, and Trump is occasionally known to obfuscate in ways that create new problems — a phenomenon we call Trumpsplaining. Spicer became so taxed by the efforts that he was famously spotted hiding in the shrubbery of the White House grounds last week — a tactic that has now been incorporated into the White House Communications training regimen.
Spicer’s occasional replacement, Sarah Huckabee Saunders has fared no better, as evidenced by these before and after photos from her briefing in which she tried to Trumpsplain the Comey firing.
Trump, who occasionally goes by the names John Miller or John Barron when pretending to be his own spokesperson, is growing increasingly frustrated by his communication staff’s performance. As such, he has threatened to end the tradition of daily press briefings, saying that he would simply brief the press himself every few weeks. The staff, in turn, is perturbed that their tasks are made difficult because every day it seems, someone dumps some sort of last minute sh*t on them, and they cannot identify the culprit. We have obtained exclusive footage of the president addressing his staff on this very topic (Note: due to the adult nature of the content of the video, we insist you click. So here it is again.)
The president is also disappointed in his surrogates’ inability to defend him as a capable and bright leader. Here is additional exclusive footage of the president embarking on just such a defense of himself:
Late in the day on Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that it is naming former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller as Special Counsel for the Russia Investigation. If anyone can work their way through the spaghetti like entanglements of Trump associates and Russia, it is Mueller.
Mr. Mueller is viewed by many as the face of integrity in law enforcement. He is also viewed as the face of John Kerry and Thurston Howell, III.
In other news, in an effort to move away from stories about shady politicians and their influence in Washington, Trump this week had Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visit the White House this week. Trump had previously congratulated Erdoğan (pronounced something like ‘Urd-a-gone’ if you are Donald Trump) for his victory in what many believe was a rigged referendum cementing the Turkish leader’s power. Wishing to avoid another diplomatic faux pas, (catch that French, @KatyTurNBC?) the president this time merely mispronounced Erdoğan’s name and told him he has always loved his nation’s taffy.
As for domestic issues, Melania still lives in New York.
We kid the president and his “wife.”
As for domestic policy issues, the President this week named David Clark as a senior official in the Department of Homeland Security. Clark, who is most famous for dehydrating to death a mentally ill man in his jail cell and for being the front man in the legendary Dave Clarke Five, will now be most famous for being “the other black guy in the Trump administration.” The move was seen as an attempt by the Trump administration to pivot off of the Russia stories.
This week also marks the anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which is fitting, as we entered the commencement season this week as well. President Trump delivered the commencement address at Liberty University, which was founded by Jerry Falwell — a man who believed that schools were meant by God to be segregated. Late last week, Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos received a chilly reception as she delivered the commencement address at one of the nations’s most prominent HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). The boos stemmed, in large part, from the fact that the Trump administration does not particularly cherish colleges and universities, nor, for that matter, historically black people.
Trump rounded out his commencement schedule by addressing graduates at the US Coast Guard Academy, where he talked to the military cadets about tremendous sacrifice and bravery in the face of adversity — his own sacrifice and bravery. He also told the cadets that no president in history has been treated worse.
He closed, as he did at Liberty University, by imploring cadets/graduates to never give up, no matter the situation. And as you have come to expect, we have footage here.
And that’s how the weak spent the week in a nation where, before departing on his first international trip, our president should check in with the Protocol Department.
He may also need to check in with a pre-sentencing officer in the Probation Department.
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