The Trump Chronicles: Week One
If you were wondering where I’ve been, it’s partly due to an increase in work, but also because I’ve been trying to start a new process: documenting, week by week, all of the highlights of the Trump presidency. Today is for Trump’s first week only, and from my experience wallowing in this bizarre depth of insanity, I can say that this job is a filthy one indeed. I feel like I need a shower.
A bizarre quality of this surreal nightmare is how it seems to stretch out time. These events happened literally a few weeks ago, but many of them seem to already fade in the distance, as if the extreme gravity of Trump’s madness has dilated time itself in some Kafkaesque version of relativity.
I hope to get the first three weeks out there over the next several days, and to catch up with events soon—and then, over time, keep this up, so that I and anyone out there who wants it can have access to a highly detailed list of this slow-motion train wreck of a presidency. I am trying to be as thorough as I can (one of the reasons this is taking so long), hopefully including much more than most of the lists you may be seeing.
Here’s the first week!
💣 Trump gave a brief inaugural address filled with bleak and foreboding messages—and similarly filled with hyperbole and misinformation. He claimed that our education system is “flush with cash” (too many schools are underfunded despite international comparisons); that crime is rampant (it is at a decades-long low); that we somehow refuse to defend our own borders; that we suffer from the “very sad depletion of our military” (our military is greater than most other militaries combined); that our wealth has fled overseas (it actually has fled into the pockets of people like Trump); that he would “bring back our jobs” (jobs were steadily gained in a record streak under Obama, and manufacturing jobs were lost due to automation, not going overseas); that he would “get our people off of welfare and back to work” (people on welfare dropped precipitously under both Clinton and Obama); that he would make sure that we “buy American and hire American” (Trump often violated both rules himself).
💣 Trump issued his first executive order: “Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal,” in which he vowed to repeal healthcare coverage for 20 to 30 million Americans, and opened the door for states and various agencies to undermine and sabotage that coverage before any repeal could become official. A Harvard study found that the repeal of the ACA could lead to the deaths of 43,956 Americans every year.
💣 Trump issued an order to retract a rate reduction for American mortgage holders, effectively costing millions of American home owners hundreds of dollars a year.
💣 Trump orders all ambassadors to leave office immediately, without confirming—or, in most cases, even naming—replacements. Since that time, U.S. embassies worldwide have been without ambassadors. Trump confirms that the position of ambassador to the United Kingdom will be filled by the owner of the New York Jets, joining Bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman as ambassador to Israel.
💣 In one of his first acts as president of the United States, Trump divisively and ungraciously tweeted on the POTUS account, “January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again!” On his personal account, he tweeted, “Today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”
Because under Obama, the people were never actually represented, and were horribly oppressed—unlike now. And to prove that, under the Trump administration, “our government is controlled by the people,” Trump nominated a cabinet full of Washington insiders and billionaires, whose focus was to benefit rich people and corporations against the interests of the people of the nation.
💣 Trump’s inauguration is weakly attended, with far fewer attendees than recent first inaugurals. Trump’s motorcade passes empty reviewing stands and deserted streets. The National Park Service re-tweeted images showing Trump’s crowd to be vastly smaller than Obama’s in 2009. The Twitter account was promptly shut down and was soon forced to apologize.
💣 Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is cleared as a senior White House adviser despite anti-nepotism laws and massive financial conflicts of interest.
💣 Trump addressed employees at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, standing in front of the memorial wall with the names of 117 fallen CIA officers. Most of Trump’s speech focused on the number of people at his inauguration, his “running war “with the “dishonest media,” and how he is portrayed on magazine covers. Trump speculated about how many people in the audience may have voted for him.
Trump’s speech was viewed as political, inappropriate, and an insult, prompting former CIA Director John Brennan to express sadness and anger at Trump’s “self-aggrandizement” at the agency.
It was later reported that the first three rows of the audience were stacked with Trump staffers and invitees, who were largely responsible for the applause. It was similarly noted that the engagement was a photo op for Trump’s benefit, and was not somehow an attempt to speak to CIA staffers; the hall chosen for the event was small, and hundreds more could have attended were it held in one of the facility’s auditoriums.
All of this just ten days after Trump tweeted, “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
💣 The Trump administration begins its relationship with the press with an impressive set of lies. Sean Spicer meets with reporters, and tries to sell the impression that the Trump inauguration had impressive crowds, after the media reported the quite obvious facts to the contrary. Spicer claimed that ridership on the Metro was higher than 2012 (Spicer’s numbers were wrong, and the comparisons to a second inauguration were specious); he also claimed that white flooring on the mall made the crowds seem more sparse (false); and he claimed that “fencing and magnetometers” somehow limited the crowd size.
Oh, and no one was allowed to ask any questions at the briefing.
While Trump was bragging and complaining and Spicer was telling lies, 3 million people participated in the Women’s Marches nationwide; in fact, the Washington march alone had three times as many participants than Trump’s inauguration.
When the media responded by noting the obvious lies, Trump and his staff tried to turn attention to a reporter who mistakenly tweeted (but never reported) that a bust of MLK had been removed from the Oval Office.
💣 Massive protests continue nationwide and worldwide.
💣 Trump tweeted about his inauguration ratings: “31 million people watched the Inauguration, 11 million more than the very good ratings from 4 years ago!” Trump, like Spicer, tried to compare his first inauguration to Obama’s second; in fact, the Neilson ratings Trump cited showed that Trump’s inauguration viewership was 5th in recent history, behind Reagan, Obama, Carter, and Nixon.
💣 On NBC’s Meet the Press, Kellyanne Conway responded to Chuck Todd’s criticism of Spicer’s lies by stating that Spicer was simply citing “alternative facts.” Everyone is agog at the blatant and more than a little Orwellian endorsement of outright lies. The New York Times sets the facts straight.
💣 Trump signed a presidential memoranda ordering a federal hiring freeze. The GAO (Government Accountability Office) stated in the past that such freezes “disrupted agency operations, and in some cases, increased costs to the Government.” Federal managers across the board and even some Republicans criticized the move as detrimental. The freeze screws over veterans in particular.
💣 It is announced that the 230 protesters arrested in D.C. on inauguration day could be fined up to $250,000 and sent to prison for ten years. Six of those arrested were journalists, who were not protesting at all, but instead were simply covering the event.
💣 Senate Republicans began the process of confirming Trump’s nominees at what they hoped would be a breakneck speed, hypocritically admonishing Democrats from doing anything to question anyone Trump nominated, clearly stating that any questioning would be considered childish and unprofessional. Despite many absurdly unqualified candidates, many with horrific financial conflicts of interest, Republicans had been demanding that the nominees be allowed to pass without full ethics checks, much less a background check by the FBI. Chuck Schumer had famously schooled McConnell by sending him his own letter from 8 years previous, demanding that all Obama nominees submit to rigorous ethics and FBI checks.
💣 Trump continues to refuse to release his tax returns, despite (1) Trump having the most obvious conflicts and potential for financial corruption, and (2) all sitting presidents for 40 years having followed the rule assiduously.
💣 Trump has a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; while the official report was that they discussed ways to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the conversation likely involved discussions about relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move that would outrage Palestinians and inflame the region.
💣 Trump reinstates the “Mexico City Policy”, better known as the “Global Gag Rule,” in another presidential memorandum. Trump radically expanded the policy, which blocks desperately needed U.S. medical funding for any foreign hospital or other institution not just for performing abortions (even if the funding is separate from the U.S. aid), but prevents anyone in the institution from even mentioning abortion or referring any woman to an agency that performs them—much less advocating for the procedure to be legal.
💣 Trump claims, extirely without any evidence or support whatsoever, that he lost the popular vote only because three to five million illegal votes were supposedly cast.
💣 Sean Spicer held another press conference, accusing the media this time of trying to “undercut the tremendous support” for Trump, calling that “demoralizing” and “frustrating.” Spicer reiterated the deceptively out-of-context Nielsen ratings.
💣 Ethics experts filed a lawsuit against Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, as his businesses accept payments from foreign governments.
💣 In a generally overlooked story, Trump came to be in violation of a lease agreement for his D.C. hotel. Since Trump refuses to divest ownership in his business interests, he’s violating an agreement that elected officials not benefit from the contract.
💣 Trump signed one executive order on infrastructure projects and four presidential memoranda (Dakota Pipeline, Keystone Pipeline, all pipelines, and all manufacturers), all of which effectively cut as much regulation as is possible in such orders, allowing for expedited construction of oil pipelines, factories, and any number of building projects with a minimum of study or concern for major environmental impact. Essentially, “Go ahead and pollute the crap out of everything, industry!”
💣 Trump tweeted, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible “carnage” going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!” It turns out that his tweet was basically regurgitating exactly what he watched on Fox News minutes earlier. He retweeted it on the POTUS feed.
💣 FBI Director James Comey, who illegally violated the Hatch Act and was instrumental in handing the election to Trump, announced that he had been asked by Trump to stay on in his position—despite Trump firing nearly everyone else from the Obama administration. One guess as to why.
💣 In what has to be the definitive display of being a “sore winner,” Trump continued to insist that 3-5 million people voted illegally and that he should have won the popular vote. He told ABC News, “You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion.”
Most of Trump’s claims of “illegal votes” are not votes at all—people being registered in two states or despite being dead is not the same as those people voting illegally.
The media quickly pointed out the embarrassing fact that no less than five of Trump’s family and staff—Steve Bannon, Tiffany Trump, Jared Kushner, Sean Spicer, and Steven Mnuchin—are all registered in two states, which, under Trump’s broad definition, makes them illegal voters.
The New York Times begins calling the claim a “lie”—a fully justifiable statement, but shocking in that news agencies rarely go so far as to state that fact, no matter how obvious it is. The Times backs up its assertions with the facts.
💣 A White House online petition for Trump to release his tax returns reached 100,000 signatures—previously held as the threshold requiring an official response. “We expect an immediate response from President Trump, and are holding our breath for him to comply,” said no one ever. A day earlier, Kellyanne Conway repeated the lie that Trump’s refusal to release his returns was somehow because he’s still under audit by the IRS.
💣 Israel approved a huge new wave of settlement construction in the West Bank, likely spurred by Trump’s encouragement, possibly discussed in his phone call with Netanyahu two days previously.
💣 Trump, continuing his record-breaking flurry of executive orders and memoranda, signs two more; these two address his stances on immigration, promising to build the border wall and speed up deportations. Trump ordered a 50% increase in immigration officers, from 20,000 to 30,000.
The orders also called for stripping cities of federal funding if they continue to act as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants and their families.
Stating that “”We do not need new laws,” Trump signed the order to build the wall with no provisions for funding. He stated that planning for the construction would begin immediately, and the wall would begin building within months.
💣 Continuing his absurd lie that 3-5 million people illegally voted for Clinton, Trump vowed to open a major investigation into double registration and registration after death, despite neither of those points being any indication whatsoever of actual illegal voting. The White House did not say if they would issue indictments or arrests of Tiffany Trump, Steve Bannon, or any of the other three White House senior officers who all, by Trump’s apparent reckoning, are insidious criminals.
💣 In what stands to be continued violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution as well as generally being a massive conflict of interest, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort doubled membership prices to $200,000, cashing in directly on Trump’s presidency.
💣 In the wake of the new presidency, there persists a sense that Trump has made people more comfortable expressing racist views, and that hate crimes are happening more as a result. A few recent examples: a swastika and the word “Trump” were spray-painted on a high school building in Cincinnati, along with racist and homophobic slurs on benches and equipment; a man in New York State pulled a gun on a taxi driver, spewing racist slurs; anti-Semitic messages and swastikas have been part of vandalism in Connecticut, Maryland, and Illinois; a mosque was vandalized in California; and much more.
💣 In a decidedly under-reported story, Trump called on his Defense Secretary to draft plans which would escalate U.S. involvement in Syria and Iraq, possibly including ground troops. Why has this not gotten much greater coverage? Possibly because:
💣 Trump’s chief strategist, former editor of Breitbart, and famously racist and misogynistic member of the alt-right, openly and frighteningly castigated the media: “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. … I want you to quote this: The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
Bannon also remarked, “The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong… a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there.” He then ranted that reporters and editors, who he claimed were “activists of the Clinton campaign” should have been fired, and was angry that they had not been. He said that the media therefore has “no power” and was “humiliated.”
Already, the administration’s intense hatred of the media was well-known, but Bannon’s remarks bordered on the hysterical; it is no secret that these people want to undermine all faith in the media so they can supplant their own—shall we say—alternative facts. Their constant assault on the press threatens to collapse the cornerstone of American democracy.
💣 Trump, in an interview with ABC News, blasted them and other media outlets for reporting on his CIA speech “inaccurately,” instead lauding Fox News for being the only ones to get it right: “That speech was a home run. That speech, if you look at Fox, OK, I’ll mention you — we see what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming and — and they were all CIA.”
Trump continued later, “They gave me a standing ovation for a long period of time. They never even sat down, most of them, during the speech. There was love in the room. You and other networks covered it very inaccurately. I hate to say this to you and you probably won’t put it on but turn on Fox and see how it was covered. And see how people respond to that speech.”
Trump repeatedly crowed about how great the speech was, how much the CIA loved it, how the CIA loved him, and how all the people in the audience were CIA—and that the non-Fox media tried to “downplay” and “demean” the speech.
💣 In the same interview, Trump puts down Obama and Democrats for tolerating the high murder rate in Chicago, and claims that the problem is “very easily fixable.”
💣 Again in the same interview, Trump reiterates his lies about voter fraud. He cited a Pew report from February 2012 which included a statement that a lack of ability to “keep up with voters as they move or die can lead to problems with the rolls, including the perception that they lack integrity or could be susceptible to fraud.”
When Muir pointed out that the article found no evidence of actual fraud, and that the Pew reporter confirmed that fact, Trump immediately turned on the very reporter he so often used as his verifiable source: “He’s groveling again. You know, I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they wanna write something that you wanna hear but not necessarily millions of people wanna hear or have to hear.”
That, of course, makes no sense. Trump misinterpreted the report—intentionally or not—to mean that there was widespread fraud, when the report only said that the system had flaws that could be perceived as susceptible to fraud.
💣 Trump tweeted in frustration that “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.” In response, Mexican president Peña Nieto took Trump’s advice and canceled the meeting.
Trump, outraged that Nieto called him on his weak-ass bluff, angrily tweeted, “Mexico has taken advantage of the U.S. for long enough. Massive trade deficits & little help on the very weak border must change, NOW!”
💣 Trump shouts out for his pick as CIA chief at a Republican political retreat, apparently not aware that (1) the man was not there, and (2) it being a political retreat, it would be unethical for him to be there—to say the least.