Here’s The Play-By-Play Of Trump’s Nixonian Sixteenth Week As POTUS

Shades of Watergate unfold over the White House

President Donald Trump talks to reporters during a meeting with Dr. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under President Richard Nixon, in the Oval Office of the White House — May 10, 2017, (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As we look back on this week, we see a poorly constructed house of cards beginning to fall. And when we look forward, we see the crossroads of our democracy.

With the eerie parallels of Watergate rhyming his every move, we watched as a paranoid president accelerated his downfall. By firing FBI Director James Comey, President Trump made a reckless attempt to obstruct the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. That is not an assumption. He admitted it.

The events that occurred throughout the week will test the resilience of our nation, and the effectiveness of the rule of law. We’ll soon see who will be remembered in history as a patriot or who will descend into obscurity as yet another partisan tool.

“Whether we shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people [to decide].” — Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox after being fired by President Richard Nixon (October 20, 1973)

It was the most consequential week of Donald Trump’s presidency thus far. There were so many important storylines at times it was a little hard to keep up, so let’s break this all all down.

Here is every moment that mattered in Trump’s wild sixteenth week as President of the United States:

Sixteenth Weekend (May 6–7)

The Calm Before The Storm

The White House

For most of the weekend President Trump was relatively quiet. The House’s version of Trumpcare had just passed and he was basking in his “victory.” But while he and his GOP colleagues looked back on what they perceived as a successful week, Americans were looking forward to what they thought would be a consequential one. Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ highly anticipated testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Michael Flynn’s Russia ties was coming up on Monday, and it was obviously on Trump’s mind.

  • The Kushner family hosted an event in Beijing where they touted Jared Kushner’s relationship with the president when trying to secure investments in their real estate fund
  • Despite Russia’s efforts to tip the scale in Le Pen’s favor, Emmanuel Macron defeated right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen in the French election
  • Governor Greg Abbot signed a ban on “sanctuary cities” which would allow local police forces to enforce federal immigration law

Sixteenth Week (May 8–12)

Monday May 8

The Patriot

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates

The morning started with #SallyYatesIsAPatriot trending on Twitter, and rightfully so. The former acting attorney general gave a widely praised testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Just before the testimony began, President Trump sought to shift the blame of the hiring of Michael Flynn on the Obama admin (news broke that Obama personally warned Trump against hiring Flynn) and shift the narrative towards the leaks.

Despite Republicans like Lindsay Graham’s best attempts to focus on unmasking and leaking, the biggest moment came when Sally Yates broke down her January 26th and 27th warnings to White House counsel Don McGahn about national security advisor Michael Flynn. Although she couldn’t dive into the classified details, Yates outlined how she learned Flynn’s representations of his conduct was untrue, and that the Russians knew as well. Therefore, he was susceptible to blackmail. The conduct was referring to Flynn’s lies regarding his calls with Russian ambassador Kislyak. The White House waited 18 days to fire Michael Flynn, only after his deception was made public due to excellent journalism. So essentially, they knowingly had a compromised national security advisor attend classified briefings for 18 days….

When former Director Of National Intelligence James Clapper said he hadn’t personally seen any evidence of collusion (a statement he later clarified), Trump tried to take that as vindication. In the aftermath of the hearing, he took to Twitter and sent out a spree of paranoid tweets.

In other news…

Tuesday May 9

The Attempt To Obstruct Justice

Former FBI Director James Comey (AP)

This was the day that everything sped up. FBI Director James Comey was speaking to FBI employees in LA when news reports began coming across the TV screens behind him with the headline “Trump Fires Comey.” Comey reportedly laughed it off, thinking he was being pranked…He wasn’t.

Just like that, President Trump had fired the man leading the federal investigation into his campaign’s potential collusion with Russia. Trump released an odd letter that he sent to Comey which stated the firing was based on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who is supposed to be recused from the Trump-Russia investigation) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. And in the second paragraph, Trump made an odd mention that Comey told him on three separate occasions that he was not under investigation. Also, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s recommendation was released and it was apparently based on the assertion that Comey treated Hillary Clinton unfairly during the course of his investigation into her private email server. The White House claimed that the firing was a result of Trump gradually losing faith and trust in Comey’s ability to carry out his duties, and that it was triggered by Rosenstein’s recommendation. This was unbelievable to many for good reason…It turns out it was all a lie.

Thanks to some more great reporting and an increase of leaks from federal employees, a clearer picture of what occurred started to come together:

  • At least three weeks before his firing, Comey reportedly began getting daily updates on the Trump-Russia investigation and became concerned by “information showing potential evidence of collusion”
  • Last Tuesday, Comey reportedly asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for significantly more resources for the Trump-Russia investigation. This was when the administration began “working to come up with reasons” to fire Comey
  • In a meeting with Sessions and Rosenstein this Monday, Trump asked for Rosenstein to put a recommendation into writing
  • Tuesday, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey

This move came as a “punch in the gut” to the FBI, leaving many in the bureau and the Department of Justice angry. Despite what Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says later in the week about how the folks in the FBI had lost faith in Comey, he was very much beloved. One can argue this loyalty is what led to the flurry of leaks in the coming days that put more puzzle pieces in place.

Comparisons to the “Saturday Night Massacre” erupted from the public, as people began to compare this firing to President Richard Nixon’s firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox after he refused to drop the subpoena for the now infamous Nixon Tapes. Although this current circumstance is far more dangerous given the fact that a foreign entity was involved, the intent to obstruct an investigation is one in the same.

The White House was reportedly shocked by the backlash, thinking that since Democrats were upset with Comey over his election shifting letter, they’d be on board with this. That was an idiotic miscalculation to say the least. Democrats called for Rosenstein to appoint a Special Prosecutor and also threatened to slow regular congressional activities until it happens. Many Americans pointed to Trump’s firing of Comey as a clear attempt to hinder the Trump-Russia investigation. As we saw later in the week by the President’s own admission, it turns out they were right.

This was Trump’s only tweet on the matter that day…

  • As the Comey news was breaking, it was revealed that federal prosecutors issued the first subpoenas related to the Trump-Russia investigation to Michael Flynn, seeking documents related to his Russia ties…And it was from a grand jury

In other news…

  • Pending Trump’s approval, senior military and foreign policy advisors are proposing an expanded military role in Afghanistan to take on the Taliban
  • In a move that angered one of President Trump’s favorite wannabe authoritarians, the US has committed to arming the Syrian Kurdish Militia in an effort that will lead to an offensive on ISIS’ de factor capitol of Raqqa

Wednesday May 10

From The Oval Office With Love

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Left), President Donald Trump (Middle), and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (Right) meeting in the Oval Office — May 10, 2017

The timing could not have been worse. Literally the morning after firing the FBI Director for the suspected reason of trying to end the investigation into his campaign’s potential collusion with Russia, President Trump hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a closed Oval Office meeting. The meeting was reportedly scheduled in advance (before the Comey firing) upon Putin’s request. (Yes, THAT Ambassador Kislyak. The one who’s meeting with Sessions got him recused from the Trump-Russia investigation and who numerous other Trump associates lied about meeting.)

The content of the meeting has since been leaked and it is quite the story. President Trump reportedly boasted about highly classified intelligence, revealing the location of a US intelligence source critical to the fight against ISIS to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence was so sensitive that our own allies and some in the US government were unaware of it. The Washington Post broke the news, and it was corroborated by Buzzfeed and The New York Times. Needless to say, that was a dangerous move that puts our national security at risk.

Since it was a closed meeting, President Trump didn’t allow the American media in. So how did we get that crisp photo of the three chums laughing it up? It was tweeted out by the Russian Embassy’s Twitter account. Lavrov tricked the Trump administration into thinking the photographer was his personal photographer. Photos of the meeting were tweeted out on by Russian media and the White House was reportedly furious. They’ve since released a photo with Lavrov, but notably none with Kislyak, nor was his inclusion in the meeting announced beforehand.

Not only did this look terrible, but it posed security risks. The New York Times reports that “some experts have even called it a security breach, suggesting that the photographer could have smuggled a bug into the Oval Office in his camera equipment.”

In another embarrassing moment, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made an appearance with Lavrov. Lavrov proceeded to troll the American media when asked about Comey’s firing.

So, apparently it wasn’t enough for Russia to successfully interfere in our democracy with a coordinated propaganda effort that included paid online trolls. No. Russia sent its diplomats to take a victory lap and troll us in person…in the Oval Office of all places…

  • After Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) released his statement on the firing of Comey, praising the former FBI director and claiming he was “troubled” by the firing, hopes were raised that the the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Trump-Russia investigation would take a turn for the better. So far, that appears to be the case. On Wednesday, the committee invited former FBI Director James Comey to testify at a closed hearing next week, subpoenaed Michael Flynn, and in another escalation they sent a request to the Treasury Department’s criminal investigation division for any information related to President Donald Trump, his top officials, his campaign aides

  • Despite the circumstances surrounding Comey’s firing, Republicans remained united in their rejection of calls for a Special Prosecutor for the Trump-Russia investigation
  • President Trump also met with Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s former national security advisor…Yeah, this could not get any weirder right? Just wait until later in the week

  • Predictably, President Trump sent out a series of tweets (so many I won’t post them all here) insulting Democrats and defending his decision to fire Comey. But one tweet stuck out. It was referring to a report that stated Roger Stone had spoken to Trump less than a week ago and urged him to fire Comey. Which would be problematic to say the least, given the fact that Roger Stone advised Trump’s campaign and is a target of FBI investigation for suspected (and bragged about) communications with Wikileaks and the front for Russian intelligence Guccifer 2.0

In other news…

  • Director of the Census Bureau John Thompson abruptly resigned, reportedly over 2020 budget disputes
  • A journalist in West Virginia was arrested after asking Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price questions
  • Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave a commencement speech at a historically black college and got pretty badly booed

Thursday May 11

The Loyalty Pledge

President Donald Trump shakes hands with James Comey, former director of the FBI, in the White House — Jan. 22, 2017. (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

On Thursday, the plot went from thick to obese. The New York Times reported that seven days after Trump became president, he invited Comey to a private dinner and asked him to pledge his loyalty to him. Comey declined, saying he could only offer his honesty. Trump asked again, and Comey gave the same answer. Later in the dinner, Trump pressed him a third time asking this time for “honest loyalty.” Comey responded by saying he would give him that. The White House denies this account of events. Jake Tapper reported that this denial of the loyalty pledge was one of the reasons Comey was fired.

Needless to say, the FBI owes its loyalty to the Constitution and the rule of law, not to a president or any other person.

  • A clip of Trump’s big interview with Lester Holt of NBC News was released. Trump said he called Comey to ask whether or not he was under FBI investigation (which legal experts say was improper) and he contradicted his staff’s portrayal of the reasoning behind Comey’s firing. President Trump told Holt that he would’ve fired Comey regardless of the recommendation and called Comey a “showboat” and “grandstander” (which will surely help stop FBI leaks from Comey’s loyal former employees). Trump’s team had been running with the narrative that Rosenstein’s recommendation triggered the firing. Yet again, Trump undercut his staff
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing. Ranking Democratic member Mark Warner (D-VA) expressed concern for the fact the firing of Comey appeared to be an attempt to interfere with the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. Also, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified at the hearing contradicting Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ portrayal that the rank and file within the FBI stopped supporting James Comey. McCabe stated, “I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day”
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions is vetting candidates for the new FBI Director position, which is problematic given his recusal from the Trump-Russia investigation
  • After meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he was not quitting. He also reportedly expressed frustration with how the White House handled Comey’s firing
  • House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz asked the Inspector General to probe the firing of FBI Director James Comey
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has agreed to brief the entire Senate next week
  • Oh, and President Trump sent out this tweet, seeming to forget the Russians were in the Oval Office laughing at him upon his invitation

In other news…

  • President Trump signed an executive order authorizing an investigation into his false voter fraud conspiracy theory

Friday May 12

The Admission

President Donald Trump (AP)

After a week filled with suspicion, President Trump made a startling admission that he fired Comey because of the Trump-Russia investigation. See for yourself.

Bolstering Trump’s admission was, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ statement at her press briefing:

“We want it to come to its conclusion with integrity,” Ms Sanders later added. “And we think that by removing Director Comey, we’ve taken steps to make that happen.”

Many saw this blatant admission that President Trump was thinking about the Trump-Russia investigation when he fired FBI Director James Comey as an admission of obstruction of justice, which is a crime. This was President Richard Nixon’s first article of impeachment

  • Speaking of crimes, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions is supposed to be recused from any actions involving the Trump-Russia investigation, he may have violated the law due to his involvement in the firing of James Comey. The punishment would be removal from office if proven guilty

  • Among the tweets Trump sent that day (which we’ll touch on momentarily), was the one below. This raised all sorts of alarms. Partly because if the tapes due indeed exist, it is yet another echo of Watergate and also because this could be seen as “witness intimidation.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer was back on Friday and neither confirmed or denied the existence of the tapes. A possible indication of whether or not tapes do indeed exist, is Trump’s past companies’ reported reputation for recording conversations

  • After declining the Senate’s invite to testify in a private hearing on Tuesday, former FBI Director Comey is reportedly willing to testify in a Senate hearing on the Trump-Russia investigation…but only if it’s public
  • Among the candidates being considered for FBI Director are Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), current acting Director Andrew G. McCabe, and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)
  • President Trump sent out a series of tweets acknowledging the lies his surrogates spread and also sent out your run of the mill “the Russia story is fake news” assertions

In other news…

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed prosecutors to seek the maximum punishment for drug offenses
  • CNN reported:

A Russian military jet “came within approximately 20 feet” of a US Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance plane while it was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea earlier this week.

This week was truly one for the history books. At the end of it all, we’re all left wondering what will happen next.

Is President Trump guilty of obstruction of justice?

Will he be held accountable for leaking classified info to a foreign adversary?

Will the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Trump-Russia investigation run smoothly or will it become bogged down by partisanship?

Will Attorney General Jeff Sessions be held accountable for interfering in an investigation he recused himself from?

Will the Democrats calls for a special prosecutor be heard?

When will we finally know the truth about President Trump’s potential collusion with a foreign power?

We’re all witnessing a monumental moment in history right now. Actually, we’re all writing history, with every move we make. From the average American to the public servant, we’re shaping the future of this nation.

For the average American, your calls to your congressmen, participation in marches, donations to organizations, and posts on social media are heard and can create change.

For the public servant, history is watching you. What you do now will reverberate for centuries to come. Will you chase short-term personal gain or will you honor your country and chase the truth?

Unpresidented // Donald Trump / Government / Journalism / Politics