The Slatest

It’s Been a Tremendous Week for the Dignity and Influence of the Office of the Presidency

Trump, seated at a table, holds his hands close together to indicate that something is small.
Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Quite a doozy of a last four days here with President Donald Trump:

• News broke that a 32-year-old Chinese woman was arrested over the weekend after having successfully talked her way onto the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Florida resort, while carrying a “malware-loaded thumb drive.” The Miami Herald noted that comments made by the woman indicated that she may have intended to attend events at the resort which had been promoted by Cindy Yang, a businesswoman and frequent Mar-a-Lago patron who founded the spa at which New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was recently accused of soliciting prostitution. (Yang no longer owns the spa involved in the Kraft case and has not been charged with any crime but, per the Herald, still owns other similar establishments which have “attracted the attention of at least two local police agencies over allegations of prostitution” and “are discussed online as places where men can pay for sexual extras.”)

• House Democrats disclosed the testimony of a White House whistleblower who says that Trump administration political appointees have issued security clearances to approximately 25 individuals, including two “senior” officials who appear to be Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, whose applications were initially denied by career staffers because of “serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct.”

• Trump said, in response to a request issued by the House Ways and Means Committee, that his tax returns are under audit, which is an excuse for not releasing them that he has been making for three years and is dubious both legally (nothing prevents an individual from making their own tax returns public even if they’re being audited) and practically (he’s never provided any actual evidence that an audit is ongoing).

• The Washington Post and New York Times reported that members of Robert Mueller’s special counsel team have been telling associates that their findings regarding Trump’s conduct were more “troubling” and “alarming” than was conveyed by Attorney General William Barr in the summary Barr issued on March 24. Barr had defended Trump’s Russia-related conduct on multiple occasions before Trump nominated him to be attorney general.

• Trump said in a White House appearance that his father had been born in Germany, which is something he has said at least three times now despite it being an established matter of public record that his father was born in New York City.

• Trump told reporters that he is nominating Herman Cain, a Fox News pundit and former fast-food pizza executive who dropped out of the 2012 presidential race after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, to a seat on the Federal Reserve Board.

• Trump speculated at a dinner event that the noise produced by wind turbines causes cancer, a specious claim for which there is no empirical … ah, I mean, you get it. It’s not true.

• And he tweeted a video of prospective Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden edited so as to depict Biden massaging himself inappropriately.

On issues of policy, meanwhile, the week was characterized by the Republican Party’s frantic efforts to ignore-slash-walk-back their party leader’s spontaneous threats to attempt to pass another Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill and to close the Mexican border, courses of action that would have been politically and economically self-destructive, respectively.

Of course, many of our presidents have, at various times, engaged in corruption, debasement of the office, recklessness, and clueless governance. What makes this era special is that those things are always all happening, at the same time, interspersed with random baffling events like the president lying about or forgetting what hemisphere his father was born in. And this is potentially going to be happening for another six years! My goodness.