The Parthenon

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Column: The president’s bad week

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If you haven’t heard, President Donald Trump has had a bad week.

It began with a Washington Post story from last Thursday which said national security adviser Michael Flynn had discussed sanctions — imposed by the Obama administration in relation to Russia’s influencing of the 2016 election — with Russian Ambassador Segey Kislyak. The Russian connection certainly didn’t bode well for an administration haunted by unproven reports of Russian collusion and Trump’s weekend of risking national security at Mar-a-Lago didn’t repair the negative optics of the situation.

But on Monday, the scandal came to a climax after it was discovered the White House had been warned by Sally Yates, the former attorney general who was fired for refusing to defend Trump’s travel ban, that Flynn had “misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador” and was potentially susceptible to Russian blackmail, according to The Washington Post.

Later, another report surfaced that indicated Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence on the nature of the Russian phone calls. Pence had backed up Flynn on the Russian phone calls as recently as this month. But according to The Washington Post, Pence was out of the loop, learning about the content of the calls a full two weeks after others within the administration.

This string of events led Trump to request the resignation of Flynn Monday night. While the president has said that his decision was based on Flynn’s misleading of Pence, the Russian connection made such an explanation difficult to stomach.

But it became impossible to ignore when, only the next day, The New York Times reported Trump campaign officials and associates “had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”

Though The Times’ reporting did not confirm collusion between the Trump campaign or, more importantly, prove that Trump was aware of or had directed the communications, it’s not a stretch to arrive to either of those conclusions. Since then, a number of Democratic and a few Republican representatives have made calls for investigations into the president’s potential Russian ties, but none such investigations have materialized as of yet.

But Trump’s week only became more disastrous when his labor secretary nominee withdrew after “senior GOP officials informed the White House Tuesday night and Wednesday that Puzder lacked a viable path for confirmation.” Puzder was a far from flawless nominee, with public accusations of domestic abuse dating back decades.

What was Trump’s response to these bombshell events, you ask? Did he immediately speak to the American people, assure them that the reports were incorrect and offer to set the record straight as soon as possible?

Of course not.

Instead, Trump took to Twitter, where he lambasted the media, once again calling them “fake news” and twisting the narrative to say “the real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy.” Trump has yet to clarify whether the stories in the press are “fake news,” classified information or, somehow, both.

The president then capped off his disastrous week by holding an impromptu and hastily organized press conference. Because Trump is predictable, it’s no surprise that the press conference was more theater than substantive politics, but it was admittedly encouraging that the president was offering himself up to the press — for over an hour, no less — rather than releasing his aids to spread misinformation on every cable television news network.

However, because this is Trump, the event mostly consisted of the leader of the free world insulting reporters while refusing to give legitimate answers to basic questions.

But, though the president made his distaste with the press clear throughout, the press has nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the past days have seen brilliant journalism from The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, all sources that broke significant stories in the past week with independently verified sources. Journalism is alive and well, and anyone who doubts this need only take a look at the past week.

Jared Casto can be contacted at [email protected]

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