Welcome back! Did you miss us? More importantly, do you feel like you missed some news last week? It’s highly likely that you did—it was a doozy. Not only did President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen mysteriously find new documents further implicating the president in wrongdoing, news reports outed Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner as someone whom officials thought shouldn’t be given security clearance. On top of that, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange came under new threat of being expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy he’s called home for quite some time. Perhaps we should consider this a week of old favorites reappearing in the news? After all, it was also a week where Brexit continued to flounder towards disaster, and even lawyers from the O.J. Simpson trial are back in the public eye. Come to think of it, people have also been talking about Joe Biden and Merrick Garland last week, too. Is this what a glitch in the Matrix looks like? Are we stuck in a never-ending time loop?
Here’s what else people have been talking about over the past seven days. And, perhaps, will still be talking about in the next seven days or longer, if time continues to hold little meaning.
Mueller Report or Bust
What Happened: When will the public see the Mueller report? Last week, that question continued to linger, especially as Congress and even former Mueller associates started to wonder what was really going on with at the Department of Justice.
What Really Happened: Following the delivery of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Attorney General Bill Barr, Congress demanded to see the full report by April 2. Barr, in response, told them that they’d get a redacted version by “mid-April”. Sure enough, come April 2, Barr hadn’t delivered the report and didn’t seem in any particular rush to do so, which meant there was one obvious next step.
Let’s get the obvious question out the way first, shall we? (The answer to the following question is yes, by the way.)
Before anyone gets too excited about what this might mean, let’s take a breath and consider the reality of what this actually means in practice. Because it’s not as impressive as it looks, really.
Or, maybe it could be?
The issue of whether or not to release the full report became a more pressing one after the subpoenas were approved, however, thanks to a couple of big news stories from The New York Times and The Washington Post that suggested, well, maybe there was a coverup of sorts underway after all.
So, does any of this change the question of whether or not the House Intelligence Committee’s subpoenas will be issued? Apparently so.
Oh, and people should perhaps expect more than just the subpoenas, it seems.
The Takeaway: At least we can depend on the reliability of events as they unfold, I guess?
Tweets About Borders
What Happened: President Trump made some threats about immigration, then backed away from them.
What Really Happened: The fact that Trump doesn’t want people from Mexico coming to the US to live is no secret—please remember how his campaign started, after all—but at the start of this week, he doubled down on that. Again.
Yes, the president threatened to close the US/Mexico border entirely last week in order to get his way. (He also announced plans to cut aid to three Central American countries, a move that some explained was more likely to increase illegal immigration.) This was, to say the least, an impractical, if not unrealistic, solution, as many people were quick to point out.
Not all Republican leaders immediately agreed, setting up the potential for some awkward conversations down the road.
Well, that’s a shift. And not the only one, either.
How can he explain the way that he’s literally saying something entirely different on the same topic as he did earlier in the same week? Since you asked…
Still, all’s well that ends … well? That’s one thing about manufactured crises: It’s genuinely difficult to know whether or not they’re over, and how well they’ve turned out.
The Takeaway: Let’s just say that this was another moment where the president stood fast about what he believed in and move on.
Or, to hear him tell the story…
The Return of Trumps Tax Returns
What Happened: Donald Trump is the first President of the United States in more than four decades who didn’t release his tax returns to the public. Last week, that matter might have been taken out of his hands.
What Really Happened: As it happened, authorizing the subpoena-ing of the Mueller report was the least of the president’s information-request-related worries midweek, thanks to another Congressional investigation development—something both unexpected and which people had literally been waiting months for.
Yes, Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee formally requested six years of the president’s tax returns from the IRS. Actually, he did more than that; he also asked for a statement about whether or not Trump was—as he’s claimed for years—under audit, as well as information about the audit if it exists. It’s worth noting that he’s not subpoena-ing anyone; this is a different type of request, but no less binding.
It should be noted that it doesn’t really matter whether or not Trump feels inclined to agree with the request; he’s not the one being asked, the IRS is.
Also, as noted above, there’s not really any room for the IRS to say “no” to this request.
The next day, it became public knowledge that Trump had maybe been planning for something like this for awhile.
So, what next?
The Takeaway: For what it’s worth, Richard Neal’s request wasn’t even the only Trump-accounting-related issue people were talking about with regards to asking for more information on Wednesday. Let’s think about this as the beginning of another chapter in a long, long running story.
It’s Clearly Time For An Alias Reboot
What Happened: Just in case the glamor of the Winter White House had faded across the past two years, a dash of intrigue was added thanks to an arrest at Mar-a-Lago that suggested all kinds of sexy subterfuge.
What Really Happened: As everyone may remember, President Trump is fond of spending his weekends in his Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, AKA “the Winter White House,” where he gets to rub shoulders with rich socialites who pay large sums of money to gain access to the president and maybe get high-profile government positions as a result. But, it emerged last week, that’s not the only people he gets to hang out with down there.
OK, this does look kind of fishy.
As it happened, the Secret Service wasn’t ready to take the blame for this in any way whatsoever. In fact, just the opposite, as it released a statement that made it very, very clear that it wanted no part in this whole thing, thank you very much.
The Salahi reference, in case you’re wondering, is to a 2009 event where two stars of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of DC crashed a state dinner at the White House. (Thanks, Obama.) Let’s forget about the Secret Service, then, and congratulate the true hero of this story: The random receptionist who thought that something was up. When you see something, say something, right?
But, wait; this whole current story gets just a little weirder.
Perhaps this explains why Trump wasn’t worried about this substantial breach of security, when asked about it.
We should all be so zen.
The Takeaway: Bearing in mind that the Secret Service has, it seems, washed its hands about the security of Trump’s properties, the idea that security is so lax that someone can just wander in with malware isn’t really a good sign, right?
The Answer, My Friend, Is Blowin’ In the Wind
What Happened: There are, we suppose, arguments to be made against wind power. Saying that the noise from wind turbines can cause cancer is most definitely not one of those arguments, however.
What Really Happened: It’s fair to say that, in this column, we point out a lot of things that the president says that are … well, kind of stupid, to be honest. Whether it’s misinformed, racist, hateful, or simply manipulatively playing on his audience’s fears, the past few years have made it abundantly clear that President Trump is no stranger to saying things that are, to be blunt, ridiculous. But last week, addressing the National Republican Congressional Committee, he might have hit a new peak.
Yes, really. Let’s just look at that again, shall we?
The exact quote, for the curious, is “If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value. And they say the noise causes cancer.” Let’s get this out the way first: No, it doesn’t, not at all, because that’s absolutely stupid. Trump also, for what it’s worth, claimed that windmills are “a graveyard for birds,” adding, “If you love birds, you never want to walk under a windmill, because it’s a sad, sad sight.”
OK, Twitter: Just have at it.
Of course a hashtag happened, investigating the “truth” behind the idea that #WindmillsCauseCancer.
For anyone thinking, “Well, at least this is so clearly out of touch with reality no one even pretended to agree with him,” guess what?
The Takeaway: If there’s a moment of true surprise to this entire story, it might be that “the noise from wind turbines gives you cancer” is not something only Trump believes, which raises the question of what other conspiracies he’s into.