Donald Trump’s week started with Sally Yates’ damning testimony about Michael Flynn and ended with a series of wild tweets and an ever-changing story about exactly why he chose to fire FBI Director James Comey.
Even by Trumpian standards, the wild swings, erratic messaging and general chaos was beyond the pale — raising real concerns about whether Trump was losing control of the ship of state.
Start with the testimony of Yates, the one-time acting attorney general, to a Senate subcommittee Monday. She made clear that on two occasions — once on January 26 and then again on January 27 — she sought out White House counsel Don McGahn to warn him that national security adviser Michael Flynn had been compromised by the Russians and was a blackmail risk. Trump didn’t fire Flynn until 18 days later — a seemingly inexplicable amount of time given the allegations against him.
On Tuesday — even as Trump’s White House was trying to find an explanation for that 18-day gap — Trump stunned the political world by firing Comey. He did so by having his former bodyguard deliver a hand-written letter — in which Trump asserted that Comey had told him on three occasions that he wasn’t under investigation(!) — to the FBI. Comey was in Los Angeles at the time, finding out of his firing the way the rest of us did: on TV.
Trump’s White House was entirely unprepared for the firestorm that erupted — likely because they, like the rest of us, had no idea it was coming. The initial spin offered by the White House, from Vice President Mike Pence on down, was that Trump had acted “decisively” after reading a memo from deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that hammered Comey for his conduct in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
From the start, that felt like tenuous spin, especially considering that Trump had praised Comey effusively when the FBI director reopened the investigation in late October after new emails had been found on a computer belonging to longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Trump himself debunked the explanation in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt on Thursday. “I was going to fire Comey — my decision,” Trump told Holt. “There is no good time to do it, by the way. I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.”
And then he added that he had been thinking about “this Russia thing,” which he called “a made-up story,” at the time of that decision.
But Trump wasn’t done. On Friday morning, he sent out a slew of tweets that, among other things, threatened Comey, raised the specter that he was or is taping his conversations in the White House, suggested an end to the daily White House press briefing and proposed that it was unreasonable to think his aides could tell the full truth from behind the podium every day.
Think about that. Any one of those things would be a HUGE story under another president. For Trump, it was just a Friday morning.
Trump has built his presidency on his unpredictability and unorthodoxy. But his policy of just saying and doing whatever comes to mind isn’t, of course, a policy at all. Which became frighteningly apparent — again — this week.
Donald Trump, for still not realizing that the presidency isn’t the same thing as a reality TV show, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.