As the dust settles from Saturday’s Twitter mess, in which President Donald Trump melted down over unsubstantiated allegations that Barack Obama had wiretapped his phones during the election (while simultaneously attacking Arnold Schawrzenegger), the damage done to the upcoming week may be incalculable. Trump’s rant, which included accusations that Obama was the new “Nixon/Watergate”, called the inquiries into his campaign’s relationship with the Russians “McCarthyism”, and slammed Scharzenegger for his bad ratings on The Apprentice, was apparently done out of the reach of Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, who were supposed to accompany the president to Mar-A-Lago this weekend only to be kicked off the plane at the last minute. (Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the only other people who could stop him from tweeting, were traveling with him but apparently did not stop Trump.) And as he spent the weekend watching more Fox and Friends, the idea that Trump could be professional—a tantalizing hope after last week’s address to Congress—was smashed once again.
The White House had hoped to use the positive momentum of last week, where he gave a moving, somber, grown-up speech to the nation, as a way to mitigate their controversial rollout of the new model of their Muslim travel ban, already opposed by federal judges who ruled that the first version was unconstitutional. The ban itself had the potential to be less controversial and less dysfunctional, addressing the issues raised by the circuit courts and dealing with the “very technical issues” that doomed the first order itself. “Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country,” Trump advisor Stephen Miller told the Washington Post, and Trump’s newfound composure, lost in the tumultuous first six weeks of gossip and infighting in the White House, would help him assume true leadership over a united White House.
But now that Trump’s presidential demeanor has fallen to pieces, he not only undercut the idea that he could execute this new executive order with any sort of self-possession, he also threw several of the controversies he’d hoped to hide back into the spotlight, the imbroglio over Jeff Sesssion’s meetings with the Russian ambassador chief among them. Indeed, the Muslim ban’s reintroduction, which was supposed to happen last Wednesday, was pushed to Monday after the administration decided to bask in the afterglow of Trump’s well-addressed speech. (“We want the (executive order) to have its own ‘moment’,” a senior official told CNN. But somewhere between Wednesday and Monday came the revelation that as a Senator, Sessions had met twice with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, pushing Sessions, now the Attorney General to recuse himself from any investigations into Russia’s involvement with the 2016 election. (Trump was reportedly furious that Sessions had recused himself, dressing down his White House staff for not doing enough to protect him.) Add to that the other scandalous explosions echoing from the West Wing–Jared Kushner’s meeting with Kislyak and Mike Pence’s use of a private email account as governor of Indiana—and it was no wonder that hours after being kicked off the plane, Bannon flew down to Mar-A-Lago to assuage the President. After all, he only works like a normal president if he has his minders.
By Tina Nguyen
Courtesy of Rolling Stone