It was the get-out-your-popcorn moment of the week.
On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump hoped to head to Capitol Hill to sell his tax plan to fellow Republicans. Instead, the day turned into an open civil war between Trump and members of his own party.
Just before Trump arrived, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who announced in September that he would not be running for his seat in 2018, unleashed a full-frontal assault on the president, saying Trump’s behaviour was “debasing the nation”. The president was furious, lashing back on Twitter at “Liddle Bob”, adding he could not get re-elected “dog catcher”.
But it was not over. That same day, Republican Senator Jeff Flake stood up on the Senate floor and announced that he, too, would not run again in 2018. His rebuke of Trump was unrestrained and riveting. “We were not made great as a country by indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorifying in the things that divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake,” Flake said.
Trump brushed off the criticism, relishing the fact that the two Senators were leaving. “He was against me before he ever knew me,” Trump said about Flake on Wednesday. “His poll numbers are terrible.”
He was right: Flake was projected to get slaughtered in next year’s re-election bid by another, more Trump-like, candidate. Some Republican legislators are expecting similar challenges and Flake has warned there will be others who may choose to speak out. Keep that popcorn warm.
Sure, it is called the “Steele Dossier”, but let’s face it – it is code for urinating Russian prostitutes.
The research file, which includes unproven salacious allegations about Trump, first surfaced in January – but this week, it took on new life thanks to his former opponent.
The dossier is named for an ex-British spy, Christopher Steele, who was hired by an opposition research firm to dig up dirt on Trump during the 2016 election campaign. Up until this week, the research was part of the FBI investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Moscow.
But on Monday, new reports surfaced that the campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee had a hand in funding the dossier, something they had previously denied. It has given Trump more ammunition in his persistent assertion that the collusion claims are bogus. “This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election,” Trump told reporters.
Clinton campaign officials have dismissed the file as typical opposition research and argue coverage of it is an attempt by Trump to divert attention away from collusion allegations.
Under the cover of night, the US Senate voted on Wednesday in favour of a rule rollback that could have a huge impact on American consumers.
The rule allows Americans to launch class-action lawsuits against big banks and credit-card companies in financial disputes. In announcing its implementation in July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) justified the change, saying it ensures consumers do not have to go it alone in disputes with banks and credit companies, which can cost an individual massive legal fees, sometimes in a dispute over a nominal amount.
The White House and Republicans in Congress disagreed, claiming the CFPB rule encourages trial lawyers to create “frivolous” lawsuits. Vice President Mike Pence made the trip to Capitol Hill to cast the tie-breaking vote in favour of killing the rule. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren called the decision “a giant wet kiss to Wall Street.”
He has said it before, but on Wednesday, Trump wanted, once again, to remind the world that he is smart. Reason? Unknown.
“I went to an Ivy League college,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before leaving for a Texas trip. “I’m a very intelligent person.”
In the past month, he has had to respond to reports that his own secretary of state called him “a moron” and has faced a number of attacks from Senator Bob Corker, a top Republican, who has questioned Trump’s competence and referred to the White House as “an adult day care center” on Twitter.
During the campaign, Trump told a news programme: “I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”
On Thursday, Trump declared a public health emergency with respect to the opioid crisis. The overuse and abuse of painkillers have gripped American communities and is the leading cause of overdose deaths in the US, taking 91 lives every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But what made his announcement different from others is that it is personal for this president. Trump has had his own experience with addiction, through his older brother, Fred, who died in 1981 at the age of 43. He was an alcoholic.
In what appeared to be an unscripted moment, Trump told the story to people in the White House East Room. “He had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol – believe me, very, very tough life,” Trump lamented. “To this day, I’ve never had a drink. And I have no longing for it.”