Gage Skidmore/CC 2.0

While He Was Tweeting: The Grand Jury Edition, Week 28

From Mueller's Grand Jury to the hiring of John Kelly as Chief of Staff, it was firehose of headlines, but lot's of other news happened. Here's what you missed.
Written by

Remember last week when Trump unceremoniously dumped Reince Priebus (via Twitter, of course) and installed retired general John Kelly as his new Chief of Staff? Word is that Kelly is going to impose some sort of order on the White House, including making Trump a little less Trumplike on Twitter. It worked, sort of, though Trump almost immediately went on Twitter to whine about how the media and his enemies want him to stop tweeting. It’s your own Chief of Staff trying to stop you, not us.

One thing Kelly couldn’t keep in check was Trump’s bottomless need for affirmation, and it led to a lot of retweets of people praising Trump. Fox and Friends got several shoutouts and retweets, because it is basically state-run media now. One of the clips Trump highlighted was Fox host Jeanine Pirro explaining there will be an uprising if Trump or one (or many!) of his family members is indicted. Totally normal thing for a President to tweet about. Trump also just can’t stop himself from retweeting completely random people who celebrate his winning the election and how great the MAGA movement is, because he needs near-constant reinforcement of his greatness even as everything crumbles.

Foreign policy-wise, Trump must have wrestled his phone back from Kelly, because he complained about Congress making him sign the Russian sanctions, which you know he definitely did not want to do.

By far the weirdest tweet of the week, though, had to be one that was actually appeared relatively anodyne. Trump tweeted out a video of a FEMA meeting to prep for hurricane season. It’s a strange low-rent production full of still photographs that dissolve into one another with the kind of flip effects you can do on your iPhone, and then in the middle, it inexplicably shifts to a musical interlude and “God Bless the USA” comes on. God, it is times like this that we really all miss just how cool Obama’s White House was. No time to reminisce, though, because we have to get to all the other distressing things that happened this week while Trump was tweeting.

The week kicked off with Anthony Scaramucci getting fired after a mere 10 days. Mooch, we hardly knew you, but you were an endless source of entertainment for that brief half-fortnight. Worst of luck in all your future endeavors.

The worst news of the week, of course, was when White House senior adviser Stephen Miller announced Trump’s new immigration plan, which would slash legal immigration by 50% over the next ten years and favor English-speaking educated people coming here for high-paying jobs. CNN’s Jim Acosta tried to point out that this was sort of the opposite of the whole “huddled masses” philosophy of America, as memorialized on the Statue of LIberty. Miller responded by explaining that since the poem wasn’t there at the inception of the statue, it doesn’t matter. Or something like that.

Speaking of immigration, we also learned this week that during the fight against the anti-Muslim travel ban back in January and February, the Department of Homeland Security ordered their employees to block members of Congress from getting information and treat any lawyer calls about the ban as a form of “telephonic protest.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions stayed busy and on brand this week, deciding that the people who really need a helping hand in America are white college-bound students. He’s going to go after schools that don’t admit enough white applicants. Sessions also announced that he would crack down on leakers, even though his boss was a big fan of hacks and leaks when they hurt Hillary Clinton.

Over at the Department of State, Secretary Rex Tillerson is slowly but surely dismantling the entire enterprise. He’s pushing out senior officers and non-partisan career employees, blocking transfers, and set up one of those dumbly arbitrary corporate America-style conditions: three employees must leave for every one that gets hired. Oh, and he also turned down $80 million Congress tried to give him to fight ISIS propaganda and Russian disinformation. Why? Because as one of his aides admitted, Moscow would not like it if we spend more money trying to counteract their influence over us.

We found out this week that a huge chunk of the Cabinet attends a Bible study run by Ralph Drollinger. Drollinger is a hard-right evangelical who somehow thinks that the Bible encourages the accumulation of private property and, of course, hates same-sex marriage. Good to know that is who has the ear of the government these days.

The House Judiciary Committee, which has turned a blind eye to that whole Russian interference in the election thing, has decided to pursue the real threat to America: Hillary Clinton’s emails. Yes, even as special prosecutor Robert Mueller gets closer and closer to Trump and his family, including impaneling a grand jury to look into Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with the Russians, Republicans are still hoping to shift attention to the person that lost the election.

Trump went off on his generals about the quagmire that is the Afghan war. He doesn’t have any solutions, of course, but he is pretty sure that he wants to get mineral rights there so the United States can start turning a profit over this misbegotten and endless war. Trump also got in a fight with the Boy Scouts over his lie that the head of the Boy Scouts called him to praise him for his insane speech last week. Such a great communicator.

Speaking of communication and leaks and phone calls, some valiant soul leaked the transcripts of Trump’s phone calls to the presidents of Mexico and Australia early in his tenure. These things really lay bare what a terrible negotiator Trump actually is. He whines to Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto about Nieto’s public statements that Mexico will not pay for the wall and complains that the deal will “make me look terrible” if the United States has to pay. However, that is not actually Mexico’s problem—that’s Trump’s problem.

Someone also leaked Jared Kushner’s speech/Q&A about the Middle East, in which he explained just how annoying it is when people try to explain complex geopolitical issues to you, a person who is of course totally qualified to negotiate Middle East peace deals:

Kushner expresses frustration at others' attempts to teach him about the delicate situation he's been inserted into, saying, "Everyone finds an issue, that 'You have to understand what they did then' and 'You have to understand that they did this.' But how does that help us get peace? Let's not focus on that. We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books. Let’s focus on, How do you come up with a conclusion to the situation?"

In the tiniest of bright sides, 16 attorneys general are going after EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt for his decision to block a rule designed to lower smog emissions. It’s a small thing, but we have to focus on whatever bright spots we can these days.

Trump is on an official vacation, as opposed to the unofficial vacations he takes near-weekly, for the next couple weeks, so things on his end might be a bit quiet, but we know they won’t be elsewhere, so tune in next week.


 

 

Lisa Needham is an attorney who has worked in the areas of First Amendment, education, and labor law. She is the deputy editor of Lawyerist, where she writes about access to justice and diversity in the law, and a contributor to Rewire, where she writes about LGBTQ and reproductive-health legal issues. She is ride or die for Dionne Warwick, Doris Day, and the Oxford comma. Follow her: @snipy
More by:
Lisa Needham