NEW YORK CITY — The Boy Scouts were forced to apologise. The Pentagon was caught flat-footed. The GOP failed to pass a crucial healthcare vote.
The US President openly undercut his attorney general. The White House communications director publicly attacked the White House chief of staff. The White House chief of staff was then ousted. And Congress backed the president into a corner on Russia.
And that was just last week.
“Despite the incessant drama of the Trump presidency, one could safely say this was without a doubt his worst week,” said longtime Republican strategist Rick Tyler, who worked on the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz.
As is increasingly the case in this political era, Trump’s week yet again began with a tweet.
“Why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?” Trump tweeted on Monday, referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Several high-profile Republicans, like Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ben Sasse, seemed surprise by the outburst and were quick to come to Sessions’ defence. But Trump continued his attacks into Tuesday, tweeting that the former Alabama Senator had taken “a VERY weak position” on Hillary Clinton’s “crimes” — and on “leaks” from the intelligence community.
In a joint press conference later that day with Lebanon’s prime minister, Trump reiterated that he was “disappointed” in Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. That day, he also questioned Sessions’ loyalty in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, suggesting his support for the campaign stemmed from Trump’s ability to draw crowds.
Blindsiding the Pentagon and the Boy Scouts
told Buzzfeed raised fears that he was prepared to announce military action against North Korea.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……” he tweeted, subsequently announcing that the US would no longer allow transgender people to serve in the military in “any capacity.”
That announcement blindsided the Pentagon nonetheless. The Defence Department said it would not implement without “guidance” from the White House. And the announcement drew bipartisan criticism.
“Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving,” Republican Sen. John McCain said in a statement. “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity.”
“I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone,” said Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. “Transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them.”
Then on Thursday, the Boy Scouts issued an apology for a politically charged speech Trump gave at the organisation’s jamboree on Monday. In the address, he boasted about the “massive crowd,” relived his election victory, and wondered: “Did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?”
“I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree,” Michael Surbaugh, the chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement Thursday. “We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
West Wing and congressional turmoil
On Thursday night, the New Yorker published an expletive-laden interview with the White House’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, who called White House chief of staff Reince Priebus “a f—— paranoid schizophrenic” who would be “asked to resign very shortly.”
The media spent hours picking the interview apart, with commentators and analysts speculating that the competing power centres in the West Wing were preventing the administration from getting anything done.
With all eyes on Scaramucci, the Senate sent a veto-proof bill Trump’s desk that would levy new sanctions on Russia, North Korea, and Iran, effectively handcuffing the president amid his wavering on whether or not he supports the legislation. If passed, the bill would also prevent Trump from easing or lifting sanctions without prior congressional approval.
“It’s just not a good way to start a presidency to veto something and then be soundly overridden,” Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, told The New York Times on Thursday night. The White House said Friday that Trump would sign the bill.
Hours later, Trump was delivered another headache from the Republican-controlled Congress. The “skinny repeal” health care bill for which Trump had been pushing died in the Senate at the hands of three Republicans: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain.
“3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down,” Trump tweeted early Friday morning. “As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”
The West Wing offered fresh turmoil again as the country was headed home for the week: Just before 5 p.m. ET on Friday, Trump tweeted that he was appointing his Homeland Security secretary, retired Gen. John Kelly, to replace Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff.
“He is a Great American and a Great Leader,” Trump said of Kelly. “John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration.”
Trump then thanked Priebus — now the shortest-serving chief of staff in recent history — “for his service and dedication to his country.
“We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!” he claimed.