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Trump's worst week ever? From Mueller and Michael Cohen to Bush's funeral, the past seven days were disastrous

The walls are closing in on Trump, but just as important, his defensive structures are beginning to crack.
Image: Donald Trump
It's been a terrible, awful, no good seven days.Jamie Squire / Getty Images

In some respects, this past week — at least until Friday evening — had a shiny veneer of normalcy. President Donald Trump spent an uncharacteristically not-terrible time at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. Perhaps he was feeling good, having just signed an agreement on the revised NAFTA deal. Indeed, following a promising dinner with China’s President Xi Jinping, the president happily tweeted about the promises he claimed China had made, perhaps expecting more good news in the days ahead. Then there was the Rasmussen poll that rather optimistically put Trump’s approval rating at 50 percent (it’s probably closer to 42 or 43 percent.)

And yet, this week was nothing short of disastrous. In fact, this may just be Trump’s worst week of his presidency. And that’s no easy feat.

This was clear even before Mueller released two new court filings. The most damning one recommended prison time for Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, and detailed his coordination with Trump on contacts with Russia and other matters.

But ultimately, Mueller’s Friday-night news dump was really just an exclamation point. Strategically, the events of the past few days show just how vulnerable Trump really is.

Mueller’s Friday-night news dump was really just an exclamation point. Strategically, the events of the past few days show just how vulnerable Trump really is.

For starters, the days-long and very public mourning of the late President George H.W. Bush often felt like one long subtweet of the current president. As speech after speech praised Bush’s patriotism, his sense of familial duty and his enduring integrity, it was practically impossible not to draw a parallel with Trump: a draft-dodger, cheating husband and abusive boss.

Then there was the sentencing memo for Michael Flynn that showed the former national security adviser has been telling investigators much more than anyone expected. This came on the heels of last week’s revelation that Cohen had been in contact with Kremlin officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, asking for favors from Putin to build a Trump Tower in Moscow even after Trump had already secured the Republican nomination.

Meanwhile an emoluments lawsuit accusing the president of violating the anti-corruption clauses of the Constitution has been steadily working its way through the court system. This week, a judge gave the order for discovery in the case, meaning the White House can soon expect subpoenas ordering the Trump Organization to turn over all manner of documents, including tax returns.

In the Senate, Trump’s clumsy efforts to protect Saudi Arabia after the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have backfired spectacularly. Perhaps nothing summed up how big an error in judgement this was better than Republican Sen Lindsey Graham, who emerged from a meeting with CIA Director Gina Haspel to tell reporters, “There’s no smoking gun — there’s a smoking saw,” linking Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to the killing. Besides the awful optics, this matters because Trump cannot afford any cracks in his Congressional coalition. Without Senate Republican support, the threat from the newly Democratic House of Representatives becomes much greater.

Outside of Washington, D.C., Trump has found reinforcements (and presumably comfort) among investors, who have seen their wealth increase recently — for which the president happily took credit. But the stock market has taken a series of nosedives in response to questions about the substance of Trump’s China negotiations, as well as broader worries of a possible U.S. economic slowdown ahead. Signs that the economy may be starting to falter means one of the strongest arguments from Trump defenders — that his crassness is worth his economic savvy — could lose its power.

Of course, this is not Trump’s first difficult stretch. The competition for his worst week ever is brutal.

Beginning with Trump’s first days in office and the phony claims about the size of inaugural crowds, few days go by without scandal.

Who could forget, for example, the brief, tornado-tenure of Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci in July of 2017. That week, Trump called for Hillary to be prosecuted; he gave such a stunning speech to the Boy Scouts Jamboree that the organization had to apologize for Trump’s behavior. Then Scaramucci was recorded and quoted calling chief of staff Reince Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic” and describing Steve Bannon engaging in self-pleasuring contortions. It was also when Sen. John McCain doomed Trump’s promised repeal of Obamacare.

Beginning with Trump’s first days in office and the phony claims about the size of inaugural crowds, few days go by without scandal.

Then there was the week of the infamous Helsinki meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a one-on-one exchange whose precise content remains a mystery, but whose subsequent press conference left jaws agape around the world. Some called it “the most surreal moment in 70 years of Russian-American relations,” a performance so disturbing Americans openly discussed whether it amounted to treason.

And this doesn’t even touch on the week Robert Mueller was named special counsel, or the emergence of Stormy Daniels and her stories about extramarital relations, or the week of Charlottesville, when torch-carrying American neo-Nazis clashed with opponents and the president of the United States said there were “very fine people on both sides,” the day the Trump administration started taking children from their parents and putting them in cages.

All of those were terrible. But I still maintain that this week is more consequential, because it shows not only that the walls closing in on Trump, but also, more importantly that, his defenses are beginning to crack.

And that means this terrible, awful, no good week is probably about to turn into an even worse month.

CORRECTION (Dec. 9, 2018, 1:40 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the Saudi journalist who was killed. He is Jamal Khashoggi, not Kashoggi.