As the dour Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran wrote, “Speech and silence: We feel safer with a madman who talks than with one who cannot open his mouth.” Cioran, we now know, was wrong. In the third week of Donald Trump’s messy and overreaching presidency, nearly every time Trump opened his mouth—whether it was in a call with Vladimir Putin, in a rant about “Easy D” on Twitter, or in private talks excoriating Press Secretary Sean Spicer for getting owned by Melissa McCarthy on Saturday Night Live—the country’s sense of security, both literal and existential, took a hit.
If Trump’s first two weeks were defined by a flurry of activity—mostly executive orders aimed at fulfilling his authoritarian campaign promises—his third week was when the institutions of government struck back. In retrospect, the blistering pace of Trump’s first two weeks stemmed from his ignorance of the presidency’s powers—as if Trump and his key aides, especially dinner theater Thomas Cromwell Steve Bannon, were learning the limits of the office by pushing its boundaries. It should come as no surprise that Trump’s third week in office ended with a devastating report about Trump feeling overwhelmed by it all. He can’t manage the U.S. government on a practical or intellectual level—his administration, like the country itself, seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Trump’s third week started relatively quietly. The biggest story on Friday morning was adviser Kellyanne Conway’s invocation of the fictional “Bowling Green Massacre” to defend Trump’s controversial immigration executive order, which banned travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. Conway later claimed that she had misspoken, despite the fact that she had brought up the “Bowling Green Massacre” on at least one prior occasion. Trump’s administration, obsessed with shouting “FAKE NEWS” at its detractors, is the reputed massacre’s largest purveyor this side of Alex Jones’s diet pill dispensary, InfoWars.
Trump himself began Friday by stoking his beef with Arnold Schwarzenegger—and then claimed that a knife attack that injured one in France was proof that we need a Muslim ban. Trump also began to fulfill Republicans’ longstanding goal of dismantling the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act—we’re now returning to the glorious pre-crash days in which financial advisers could tell people to take shitty bets and profit from the results. Meanwhile, it emerged that congressional Republicans, who are seemingly already at the end of their rope, are officially too scared to repeal Obamacare—the new buzzword is not “repeal” or “replace” but “repair.” (That doesn’t mean that they actually have a plan, though; Frank Luntz just told them it sounds good.) Ivanka Trump took credit for her father’s decision not to repeal federal workplace protections for LGBTQ people—good publicity that neither she nor her father deserve. We learned that 100,000 visas were revoked as part of Trump’s travel ban. And the U.S. government also placed sanctions on Iran in response to its ballistic missile tests.
But all of that was prologue to the moment that would define the week ahead: At the end of the day, a Washington judge halted Trump’s immigration executive order.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that the George W. Bush-appointed judge who struck down the travel ban was a “so-called judge.” It quickly became clear that Trump’s understanding of the separation of powers was, at best, minimal—his reaction to the decision oscillated between “confused” and “mad.” But by attacking the credibility of a judge solely because that judge ruled against him, Trump alienated America’s judges and many conservatives. Trump also went to his happy place, Mar-a-Lago, where he attended a Marie Antoinette–themed ball because irony really did die after 9/11. And shortly after 11:30 p.m., Melissa McCarthy straight up owned Sean Spicer.
On Sunday, Trump kept tweeting about the judge he didn’t like (he was apparently so rattled by the SNL skit that he refused to mention it publicly). This time, he took things further, arguing that any terror attacks that took place while the travel ban was halted should be blamed on the judge, which is terrifying and absurd. In an interview that aired before the Super Bowl, Trump said Putin was good and America was bad. Vice President Mike Pence, who still doesn’t know what to do with his face when on television, went to the Super Bowl. And in a New York Times report, it emerged that Trump is extremely lonely and sad in Washington, retiring to his quarters at 6:30 p.m. to look at Twitter and watch television in his bathrobe. It also became clear that Bannon had been calling the shots for much of the first two weeks—and that he had Trump sign things he didn’t understand to give Bannon more power. As Clio Chang wrote, “Trump is angry that he treated him like a human fountain pen, sneaking his way into the National Security Council through an executive order that Trump apparently didn’t read.” Also, the Patriots won the Super Bowl, which sucks.
On Monday, Trump hit back at this story—or more accurately a Morning Joe segment about the story—in what can only described as his funniest tweet.
This, of course, is not something someone who calls their own shots based on the accumulation of data would say. It is something a very big boy would say, however. Also on Monday: Goldman Sachs started to get cold feet about its good buddy Donald Trump; the House of Commons told Trump to sod off back to his lorry, mate; John Yoo, of all people, hammered him for “executive overreach”; and Trump’s diet and exercise habits disgusted the nation.
On Tuesday, Betsy DeVos paid her way into the Department of Education, where she will fulfill Jesus’s goal of snatching the pencils out of poor kids’ hands. The Kingdom of Heaven is here at last. Still, despite the millions her family has handed out, DeVos only barely snuck into the Education Department—Pence had to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate. DeVos will presumably learn what the Department of Education does sometime in the next month. Trump joked with some sheriffs that they should destroy the career of one of his critics, which is a totally cool and normal thing for a president to joke about and doesn’t bode poorly at all for the future of law and order in this country. Jake Tapper gave Kellyanne Conway a 25-minute swirlie on air. Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced by Speaker of the Jowls Mitch McConnell for reading a letter from Martin Luther King’s widow that stated that Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, was terrible for African-American voting rights, which is true. And Department of Justice lawyers stammered and long-paused their way through a hearing on the Muslim ban in what can only be described as “bad lawyering.”
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted—possibly during a security briefing—that Nordstrom’s shouldn’t have dropped his precious girl Ivanka’s clothing line, once again proving that he absolutely will use the presidency to further the business interests of his family. Ivanka’s clothing line was dropped from Nordstrom’s (and a bunch of other places) because her father is racist and also because the clothes are butt. Jeff Sessions followed DeVos’s lead and snuck into Trump’s cabinet late Wednesday, despite obviously being a nightmare. It became even clearer that Donald Trump hates Sean Spicer and is blaming him for his administration’s many failures—Trump was also apparently particularly disgusted that Spicer was lampooned by a woman. And Neil Gorscuh, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, told a bunch of senators that he was disturbed by Trump’s attacks on the judiciary. This obviously endeared him to fence-sitting Democrats (who will probably confirm him because they’re made of Jell-O), but also obviously pissed off Trump, who is incapable of taking criticism of any kind, even criticism that will help his dang nominee get on the Court.
Which means, of course, that Trump took to Twitter the following morning. Trump first claimed that Gorsuch’s comments had been taken out of context, even though Gorsuch’s own spokesman had confirmed them. This led to an insane White House narrative that Gorsuch was actually speaking only in the abstract—that he was just saying, apropos of nothing, that attacks on the judiciary are bad, as if the president of the United States had literally not just told people to blame terror attacks on a Bush-appointed judge. Trump also blasted Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who first informed the press about Gorsuch’s comments, for having lied about his military service. He then moved on to familiar target, John McCain, who he attacked for calling a failed raid in Yemen that left a Navy SEAL and an American child dead a failed raid. Trump, of course, served in the branch of the military devoted to avoiding STDs.
In the Trump administration’s most obvious ethics breach yet, Kellyanne Conway told people to buy Ivanka’s stuff because she’s sad. Even Jason “Mr. Benghazi” Chaffetz, who steadfastly refuses to investigate the Trump administration after subpoenaing everyone in Washington who used the letters B,E,N,G,H,A,Z, and I in email correspondence, had to clap down on brazen shit like that. At Jeff Sessions’s swearing in, Trump and Sessions touted an imaginary crime wave that they will use to restrict the voting and civil rights of nonwhite citizens. Later in the day, Trump also said that he was open to the Gang of Eight immigration bill, even though he is the embodiment of the backlash to that bill, which suggests that he has no idea what it is. He also told Vladimir Putin that the so-called New START treaty was a raw deal, even though he had absolutely no idea what it is.
The cherry on the cake of Trump’s bad week came late Thursday, when the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court ruled in no uncertain terms that Trump’s executive order on immigration sucked and violated people’s rights. “The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States,” the judges wrote. “Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.” Trump then published his second-funniest tweet.
To top it all off, it became clear that Michael Flynn (and a number of Trump administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence) had lied about the nature of Flynn’s late-December phone calls with Russian officials.
Finally, it looks like Rosie O’Donnell may play Steve Bannon on SNL. If she does, given the last week, Trump might start a civil war.