I’m a news reporter. All I do, all day, every day, sometimes to my detriment, is follow the news. I'm not the "mainstream media" and I prefer not to follow it. I keep my eyes on local and national reporters on Twitter, intelligence experts, political activists, conservative, independent and liberal pundits, politicians, members of Congress, Governors, etc. I get push notifications from every major news outlet in print (NYTimes, WSJ, WaPo), scour social media for updates about what people are focused on. I watch FoxNews sometimes and read Breitbart and other further right outlets every day. I get Breitbart's newsletter, get statements issued from members of Congress and their press secretaries who I’ve connected with in the wake of big news. I have a small but interesting group of “sources” close and far to the White House who will tell me via direct message on Twitter or text message their thoughts about something, almost always off the record. Former Obama appointees do some of the same.
On Monday, I gave my weekly update about the Trump administration. It’s been about 96 hours since then. So much has happened, so much craziness, that I know every American has trouble keeping up. I have trouble keeping up and it’s my job, it’s all I’m required to do every day. So below I’ve written a quick summation of the last 96 hours.
I’m making this post public on my personal and professional page so people can share it, because I think it’s incredibly important: it shows how the Trump administration works, how they flood the news, how they distort the storyline, how big, important journalism falls to the wayside of the most bombastic headlines. It shows how despite there being complete chaos and upheaval at the most important levels of government, the White House pushes on, because it truly is almost impossible to keep up. It shows that there is a rhyme and reason to the madness, that certain news outlets and the Trump admin are working together, that if you put some effort in you can follow everything.
This update is long, close to 3,000 words, but I ask that you read it. Share it. Like it. Because even though it’s just a quick 4 days, it’s an example of how much can happen in 4 days and how important it is we do our best to pay attention. Because really, really important stuff is happening. Dangerous stuff is happening. And some good stuff, too. The Trump administration is not all bad and I don't mean to imply they are. But they are, in some ways, doing incredible damage to our country and the office of the presidency. They are misleading Americans and dividing the media. They are *buying* the media and creating their own narratives. They are flooding the common political observer with news and craziness to the point we'd prefer to just not follow along. But we should follow, we need to follow, because this stuff is really important. And, it's worth saying, it's historic and wild and unusual and crazy. It's entertaining. It's easy to be interested. I've written this over the course of the last 3 days and tried to condense it here.
Importantly, I've left a lot out. Here is a chronological breakdown of the last few days:
Let’s start with Paul Manafort’s home being raided. News broke of the raid on Monday. It was a “no-knock raid” by the FBI, in which they took documents related to the campaign from Manafort’s home, as well as financial documents related to his previous work in Ukraine and Russia. Sources say those documents included notes from the now infamous Trump Jr. - Russian lawyer meeting.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, as the report breaks, Trump is busy claiming that the mainstream media isn’t covering the unanimous UN vote to sanction North Korea, a legislative victory I gave him credit for on Monday. Of course, the “MSM” had covered it extensively, as I noted on Twitter by screenshotting a dozen major media outlets headline stories on the sanctions. It’s also worth noting there have been 8 unanimous votes to sanction NK since 2006, so the President might be overplaying his hand a little bit — it really wasn't a story that deserved more than one news cycle.
The president also used his morning on Twitter to attack Sen. Blumenthal, who at the same time happened to be making an appearance on CNN, a network Trump repeatedly claims “not to watch.” Blumenthal once lied about his service in Vietnam, which Trump — who deferred from Vietnam 5 times for "bone spurs" — took to Twitter to remind people of.
Meanwhile, three marines had recently died, a mosque had been bombed in Minnesota, and the southern U.S. was facing horrible floods — but POTUS was silent on these issues.
Trump then Retweeted a story about a North Korea missile launch. The story was from Fox News and cited anonymous sources leaking national security intelligence, a seemingly hypocritical thing for a president to do when you remember he has repeatedly promised to prosecute leakers, as recently as last week.
The Republican National Convention hires Kayleigh McEnany as its spokesperson, a major win for team Trump. McEnany is a birther who defended Trump’s comments about “grabbing em by the p*ssy” by saying the part where he said “they let you do it” implied consent and that Trump shouldn’t be demonized like he was. She’s the same woman that infamously claimed on national television Obama, as POTUS, went golfing right after Daniel Pearl was beheaded by Islamic extremists. Pearl was beheaded in 2002, six years before Obama was elected president.
Breitbart news publishes a report slamming, naming and shaming NYTimes reporters for reaching out to members of a government agency and asking for confirmation on their reporting. They framed the story as NYTimes journalists “encouraging illegal government leaks,” apparently unaware that this is how investigative journalism works. To most, the story was an obvious hit piece directed by Bannon (Breitbart's former CEO who was granted an ethics waiver by the president to remain involved in Breitbart's operations) to discourage government employees from leaking and try to scare the journalists whose emails and names were exposed in the story. It also confirmed that Breitbart doesn’t know what journalism is.
North Korea drama heats up when Trump, from his Bedminster golf club, tells reporters that "North Korea best not make any more threats to the US. They will be met with fire & fury like the world has never seen.” This sent diplomats and foreign policy experts into an apoplectic fit. Trump was threatening an unstable world leader who recently miniaturized nuclear weapons, meaning he was capable of reaching the U.S. and certainly capable of reaching southeast Asian allies like South Korea, Japan, or Guam — where U.S. forces are located. Diplomats also expressed concern that the threats, if not followed with actual action, would diminish the President’s credibility and weaken U.S.’s stance abroad.
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear non-proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said this a few months ago:
“Imagine we’re in a crisis — if he recklessly Tweets, people could read these things in the worst possible light,” Lewis tells me. “The North Koreans have a plan to use nuclear weapons very early in a conflict. They’re not going to wait around. If they think we are going, they’re going to use nuclear weapons against South Korea and Japan.”
Several members of the Senate Intelligence committee publicly say that the Paul Manafort raid implies evidence of criminal wrongdoing. In order for the FBI to conduct such a raid, they’d need a federal judge to approve it. Others remind the committee members that the FBI raids the homes of innocent people all the time (which is true).
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tries to comfort Americans now worried about nuclear war:
"I think Americans should sleep well at night, I have no concerns about this particular rhetoric over the last few days."
Meanwhile, remember: there is no Assistant Secretary of State for Asia nor is there an Ambassador to South Korea. The State Department is largely understaffed, not because of Democratic obstruction but because Trump and Tillerson haven’t filled the positions or nominated people for them. It also seems worth noting that Tillerson, a former Exxon CEO, has no diplomatic experience.
White House sources tell the New York Times: ”The White House, including the national-security team, was unaware President Trump was preparing to speak publicly about North Korea.”
Then the White house then admits Trump’s words were “ad-libbed” … “improvised.” General Kelly, Trump’s new Chief of Staff who pundits said would “reign him in,” says he was surprised but not shocked. White House advisors say Americans shouldn’t look too much into the president's words.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis then says North Korea should "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of the regime and the destruction of its people." As NYTimes Maggie Haberman notes, this, of course, changes the red line again. Trump said North Korea needed to stop threatening or they would risk “fire and fury,” Mattis says they better not take any action or risk retaliation. Action and threats are quite different.
Trump Retweets a Fox News story that the U.S. air force took off from Guam and assures Americans can "fight tonight" if necessary.
Then, in a stunning move, Trump begins attacking his own party’s majority leader Mitch McConnell, who probably yields the 2nd most power in America behind Trump. McConnell, remember, would be the person who whips votes for an impeachment proceeding if the Russia investigation turns up any dirt on Trump. On inauguration day, POTUS promised to bring the country together. 200 days later, it seems his party is divided.
North Korea publicly reiterates their threat to fire on Guam, apparently unaffected by POTUS’s threats.
Sen. Blumenthal, who Trump spent Monday attacking, comes back on Wednesday with a statement on the Manafort raid and its implications. Remember, Blumenthal is on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Not the guy to make enemies with.
"Apparently there is now no question of clear evidence connecting Paul Manafort to some criminal wrongdoing,” he says.
News breaks quietly that Trump’s two most prominent African American supporters from the campaign, who were largely sold as being “organic Trump fans,” were being paid by Trump the whole time. They go by the name Diamond and Silk. Despite having no policy, health care or government background, they had recently appeared on Fox News with Sean Hannity to blast Obama and Congressional Republicans for the Affordable Care Act.
Thursday, Trump continues to attack McConnell after they apparently had a tense phone call while Trump was on his golf course in Bedminster, NJ (remember, by end of August, Trump will have spent more than three times as many days vacationing as Obama did at this point in his presidency. Trump infamously criticized Obama for golfing throughout his tenure).
Then the news of the raid gets an official timeline: it happened a month ago. People begin scouring the news reports from that day and realize the afternoon after the raid, Trump called for the firing of Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI director, on Twitter. McCabe took over after Trump fired James Comey. Trump claimed it was because McCabe, like special counsel Rob Mueller, has relationships with people who donated to Hillary Clinton, so their objectivity can’t be trusted. Turns out, Trump has given more money to Democrats then all of Bob Mueller’s prosecutors combined.
Then the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, watches as her spokesperson resigns and her chief of staff resigns in the same day, both coincidentally citing “family reasons.” I poke around to see if they are, on an off chance, related. They are not.
Trump shares a “poll” about who was a better president on Twitter: Donald Trump or Barack Obama. It was a Twitter poll, which is obviously the least reliable thing in the world because the only people who vote on it are the people following that account online. The poll shows 61% of the respondents chose Trump over Obama. The handle of the Twitter account was “@progresspolls.” The next day it comes out that the poll Trump shared was posted on account which had just changed its handle. Previously, it was a Pizza Gate conspiracy theory twitter account that amassed thousands of followers while claiming that Hillary Clinton and D.C. Democrats ran a child sex ring out of the basement of a D.C. pizza parlor. The conspiracy theory was shared so widely that you might remember a few months back when a Trump supporter drove from North Carolina to the pizza shop and discharged his rifle inside, claiming he was “investigating.”
On the back pages of the newspapers, a report breaks from the Kaiser Foundation that “mixed signals from President Donald Trump have created uncertainty “far outside the norm” and led insurers to seek higher premium increases for 2018 than would otherwise have been the case.” In other words, Trump’s negative messaging on health care and failure to change any laws are going to lead to double digit increases in your premiums.
Robert Jeffries, one of Trump’s favorite pastors, goes on Fox News and says “The Bible gives POTUS the moral authority to use whatever force necessary... to take out an evildoer like Kim Jong-un."
Trump launches Trump TV - a media outlet allegedly delivering “real news” paid for by Donald Trump and hosted by new RNC spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany. He continues to work on a deal to merge Sinclair media group and Tribune, which would give him the reach of 72% of the American market via local television and radio stations. Sinclair has notably aired pro-Trump propaganda repeatedly on its channels. News of Trump TV and the potential media merger are so disturbing that even conservative CEOs of news organizations like Newsmax, some of Trumps closest allies, have spoken out and said the deal would be “bad for American Democracy.”
Buzzfeed breaks a story that the EU diplomats said in meetings Trump would ask, “Did Obama do this?” and if the answer is yes, he will do the complete opposite without discussing the topic or listening to any arguments. “He is obsessed with Obama,” one said. Trump, remember, is one of the original birther conspiracy theorists — and this same day tweeted the poll asking people who was a better president, him or Obama.
Photos emerge from the week of Trump golfing with several different random guests at his club despite him claiming to be on a “working vacation.” The photos go viral. Then, Trump tweets, “Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!” again attacking his party’s majority leader.
A new report breaks that Paul Manafort apparently disclosed the meeting between Trump Jr and Russian lawyers to the FBI, as he was already feeling heat throughout the investigation. Remember: at the time the story broke last month, Trump and his team repeatedly lied about the nature of the meeting before confessing it was set up to get dirt on Hillary when the New York Times said they had emails to prove it. Then, Trump's laywers, sons, Fox News and Breitbart accused “Democrats” of setting up the meeting and then leaking the meeting to the NYTimes and FBI to hurt the Trump campaign.
U.S. spy agencies confirmed to NBC North Korea can now fit a nuke on one of their missiles.
Seb Gorka, who plays no clearly defined roll in the White House and has well-documented ties to neo-nazis and white nationalism, rebukes SoS Tillerson on his comments that Americans can rest easy about North Korea and that no strike is imminent: “the idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical” he says.
Trump claims on Twitter his first order of president was to modernize nuclear arsenal and it's now more powerful than ever before.
“This is patently absurd,” Stephen Schwartz, a nuclear weapons and weapons policy expert specializing in U.S. nukes, says in response. “Literally nothing has happened in the last 201 days to increase the overall power of the US nuclear arsenal.”
Trump holds another press conference at his golf club. In it, he responds to the news that Putin is expelling 755 diplomats from Russia, a huge blow to an opportunity for Russia and the U.S. to work together and a clear response to bipartisan sanctions against Russia from Congress. Trump shocks the room by profusely thanking Putin, saying the expelling of the diplomats will help cut costs of payroll, seemingly unaware that Putin expelling the diplomats does not mean they don't get paid or are fired. Trump's supporters claim he was clearly joking and making the point that expelling the diplomats doesn't hurt the U.S., which is of course patently untrue.
Instead, the diplomats will still be paid — not cuts to the payroll — but just unable to do their work. Nevermind the fact they now have to uproot their families and leave their homes in Russia, and they just watched the president thank Putin for booting them.
As one journalist tweeted:
“Wanna thank Putin for kicking me in the nuts. Always thought testicles were excessive once i was done having kids. Now i don’t need surgery”
A story is posted on the conservative news outlet The Nation that “some spies have questions about report Russia interfered in the election.” Several Fox News hosts share the story.
One of the former NSA officials quoted in this story, William Binney, is a regular contributor to RT, a Russian propaganda outlet.
Trump responds to the report that NK considering an attack on Guam: "Let's see what [Kim Jong Un] does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody's seen before.”
It occurs to some reporters that “President Trump has insulted or threatened nearly every person he's ever met, including his children, repeatedly. But not Putin. Not once.”
A Fox News military expert pseudo pundit says on national television that in a nuclear strike millions will die, but dismisses the seriousness because "they'll be mostly North Koreans.”
An Indystar investigation, the local newspaper in Indiana, uncovers that in Mike Pence’s home state they made it easier for people in Republican districts to vote while simultaneously making it more difficult for Democratic districts to vote through limited public transportation and polling booths from 2008 to 2016. The results on the recent election were profound.
“Most telling, Hamilton County saw a 63 percent increase in absentee voting from 2008 to 2016, while Marion County saw a 26 percent decline. Absentee ballots are used at early voting stations.”
Within the same two hours of each other, dozens of Republican members of Congress go on Twitter in a bizarre and not so random act and issue statements thanking Sen Majority leader Mitch McConnell for various legislative victories he’s led over the years: tax reform, gun laws, blocking a Democratic SCOTUS nominee. It appears Trump may be making the wrong enemy after all.
This morning, Trump tweets “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
It's now 2:11 pm on Friday.