“He has a compulsive desire to dominate and win; he expects loyalty but is incapable of gratitude; he uses and discards people; he feels entitled; he has no moral compass; he is an expert spinner of news and spreader of misinformation; he’s a con artist; he excels at demeaning other people; he is a misogynist; he is a man of inward weakness who projects outward strength.”
— Shakespeare Theatre Company Director David Muse describing Richard III in the “Asides” playbill (I bet you thought this quote was about someone else!)
Wouldn’t it be great to write only about big issues and policy debates? Unfortunately, real life intervenes, rendering it impossible to avoid addressing the recurring Trump train wreck that keeps happening à la Groundhog Day.
While there are innumerable candidates for the dubious honor of the worst week of Donald Trump’s presidency, a recent one might win the prize. It was arguably his most calamitous in the two-years-that-seems-like-an-eternity that he has besmirched the White House. It was at least a quadruple-whammy:
1. Trump’s ill-considered and unprepared-for summit meeting with North Korea’s current dictator, Kim Jong Un, was simultaneously a disaster and a godsend. Following last year’s Kim summit debacle, Trump falsely proclaimed that North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat to the U.S.” In return for (1) abandoning our annual joint military exercises with South Korea and (2) legitimizing the North Korean despot on the world stage, Trump came away with nada. This time around, the Great Dealmaker discovered that Kim has been playing him and walked away from the summit with less than nothing. That was something of a relief. Fears were rampant that Trump in his desperation to score a win would give up the farm to Kim, promising to (1) pull our troops out of South Korea, (2) lift sanctions on the North, and/or (3) sign a peace treaty with Kim. We dodged multiple bullets there.
2. While Trump was in Vietnam sans any bone spur-ious excuse, he was completely upstaged back home by the public testimony of his long-time “fixer,” the Farfel-like Michael Cohen. (Aside: ask yourself why someone needs a fixer). Democrats received enough ammunition from Cohen to conduct investigations into Trump’s criminal intrigues for the next millennium. It was bad enough for Trump that Cohen brought with him documents demonstrating Trump’s manipulation of his financial statements depending on what he desired to achieve — bank loans, insurance coverage, Forbes 400 rankings, tax reductions, etc. Prosecutors label that kind of dishonesty bank fraud, insurance fraud and tax fraud. However, there was much more than mere cheating that Cohen alleged.
House committee Republicans wisely chose not to defend the President from Cohen’s accusations, never even mentioning Trump’s name during the seven-hour hearing. Instead, they focused on discrediting Cohen for being a convicted liar, setting aside that his previous lies were all in defense of Trump. This time around, of course, Cohen had every incentive to tell the truth because (1) his prosecutors now know what is true and what is not, and (2) he hopes for a reduced jail sentence for being honest.
3. The revelation that Trump overruled the entire U.S. intelligence establishment (once again) and ordered that first son-in-law Jared Kushner receive a Top Secret security clearance despite his being deemed a major security risk. This so troubled White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Counsel Don McGahn that they wrote contemporaneous memoranda to protect themselves from complicity in Trump’s reckless running roughshod over legitimate national security concerns.
4. The capstone on Trump’s dreadful week was his taking the word of the world’s most despicable autocrat (Kim) that he knew nothing about his regime’s brutal torture and murder of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, who was returned to his parents in a coma and on the verge of death. This, of course, is perhaps the most consistent trait the otherwise mercurial Trump displays: accepting the lies told him by foreign dictators over the facts presented him by his own government. Trump buys into every outrageous claim his autocrat buddies make: Mohammed Bin Salman knew nothing about the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi and Vladimir Putin did not interfere in the 2016 election.
The sad fact is that Trump’s abysmal weeks are also ours.
Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann is a law professor, legal blogger, author of seven books and part-time resident of the Finger Lakes.