Last week, we received additional confirmation of how outrageously President Trump behaved in his efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and to absolve Russia of 2016 election interference. A second whistleblower emerged with further information about the July 25 call between Zelensky and Trump, and the original whistleblower reported that a White House official who listened in on the call found it “crazy” and “frightening.” The Post also reported that political appointees in the White House budget office froze aid to Ukraine despite concerns from career officials that doing so was improper.
The Ukraine scandal deepened when Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born associates of Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, were arrested by the FBI on charges of violating federal campaign finance laws to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars from murky sources to Republican candidates. While working with Giuliani to dig up dirt on Biden, they were also attempting to profit from their political connections to strike cushy business deals in Ukraine.
Trump claims that he was fighting corruption in Ukraine. Instead he was fostering corruption. Marie Yovanovitch told Congress that she was abruptly fired as ambassador to Ukraine not only because she was unwilling to further Giuliani’s plot to malign Biden but also because “individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
By the end of the week, there were reports that Giuliani himself was being investigated by his former colleagues in the Southern District of New York on charges of violating lobbying laws. If Giuliani is indicted, he would join a long list of Trump associates — including the president’s personal lawyer, campaign chairman and national security adviser — who have run afoul of the law.
The former mayor of New York also featured prominently in another scandal that broke last week: The New York Times reported that Giuliani and former attorney general Michael Mukasey persuaded Trump to try to release their client, Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who has been sitting in jail on charges of orchestrating a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade sanctions on Iran. Trump asked his then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for help to free Zarrab, but Tillerson refused. In any other administration, this would have been headline news for weeks, but because of the glut of corruption in this administration, this story has come and gone.
While the administration continued to leak like crazy, more senior officials were leaving the sinking ship. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan — the fourth individual to hold that post in the Trump administration — announced he was quitting on Friday, apparently because he objected to being undercut by Trump and other extreme nativists. His critical post will become vacant. Also quitting was Michael McKinley, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was reportedly upset by “the secretary’s lack of public support for diplomats who have been named in the Ukraine controversy.”
The courts continued to rebuke the administration for its unlawful conduct. In just one day last week, Trump lost five major court cases concerning his attempts to keep his tax returns secret and to impose draconian restrictions on immigration.
Trump added to the chaos on Sunday night, Oct. 6, by impetuously giving Turkey a green light to invade northern Syria, thereby allowing Islamic State prisoners to escape and the United States’ Kurdish allies to be slaughtered. In one week, Trump undid five years of work to defeat Islamic State and foster a moderate, secular zone in Syria.
Seemingly unperturbed by the ethical and geopolitical disasters in his wake, Trump continued with his usual routine: golfing, watching TV (he urged his Twitter followers to vote for his former press secretary Sean Spicer on “Dancing With the Stars”), wallowing in maudlin self-pity (“Serial killers,” he tweeted, “get more Due Process than the Democrats give to the President”), and of course spewing bombastic insults. At a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Trump reviled not only Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) but also other Somali refugees who have found haven in Minnesota. Racist and xenophobic comments are Trump’s go-to moves when he’s feeling the political heat.
Note that this is an incomplete chronicle of only one week — albeit a week that is a strong contender (against some stiff competition) for the worst week of Trump’s entire presidency. Commentator Charlie Sykes notes that in 1980 the question was: “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?” In 2020 it will be: “Can you take another four years of this?” I can’t even take another week like last week — much less four more years.