Stormy waters nothing new to a president continuously in the spotlight

Suzanne Lynch recounts another extraordinary week in the presidency of Donald Trump

 

Monday, April 30th
Donald Trump appears at a scheduled press conference in the White House Rose Garden alongside the visiting president of Nigeria, minutes after Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivers a televised address from Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu claims Israel has what he terms “secret nuclear files” detailing Iran’s nuclear activity. Trump says the development shows he was “100 per cent right” on Iran, though he declines to say whether he will pull out of the Iran nuclear deal by a May 12th deadline. Other world leaders want Trump to stick with the deal, which has seen Iran limit its nuclear activities in return for an easing of sanctions.

The White House confirms that Ronny Jackson, the White House doctor who was forced to withdraw his nomination for veterans’ affairs secretary, is no longer the president’s physician. Meanwhile controversy continues over comedian Michelle Wolf’s comments about White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. She said Sanders “burns facts and uses the ash to create a perfect smokey eye”. In a statement, the White House Correspondents’ Association said her speech was “not in the spirit” of the event.

Tuesday, May 1st
The New York Times publishes a list of 49 questions that Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, is preparing to ask Trump. The president hits back on Twitter, saying it is “so disgraceful” that questions relating to the “Russian Witch Hunt” were leaked to the media.

He also denies reports of tension between himself and chief of staff John Kelly, amid reports that Kelly called him an “idiot” and “unhinged”.

The Washington Post reports that Mueller told the Trump team in March that the president could be subpoenaed to appear before prosecutors.

In a surprise move, EU countries are given some reprieve after the US decides to exempt them from steel and aluminium tariffs for another 30 days. The decision comes after lobbying by French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel during visits to Washington. While Brussels welcomes the move, the European Commission warns it won’t negotiate under threat.

Deputy attorney general Rob Rosenstein, appearing at an event in Washington, says the justice department won’t be extorted, as right-wing Republicans in Congress urge him to hand over documents relating to the Russia investigation.

Wednesday, May 2nd
Ty Cobb, the lawyer leading Trump’s response to the Mueller investigation, resigns and is replaced by Emmet Flood, a veteran attorney who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. Trump renews his attacks on the investigation on Twitter, claiming there was no obstruction of justice and describing accusations of collusion as a “hoax”.

Former New York mayor and now Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani gives an explosive interview to Sean Hannity of Fox News. Among the revelations is that Trump repaid his personal lawyer Michael Cohen the hush money Cohen paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump. The president had previously denied any knowledge of the payment. Giuliani also suggests that Ivanka Trump is out of bounds for the Mueller investigation, but is more ambiguous about her husband Jared Kushner, saying “men are disposable”.

Thursday, May 3rd
Trump backs up Giuliani on Twitter, confirming he reimbursed Cohen but claiming it was a “private contract between two parties” that had “nothing to do with the [election] campaign”. He says the agreement was signed to “stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair”.

Giuliani goes on a media blitz, giving a second interview to Fox and to several TV networks and newspapers. He says the payment proved there was no violation of campaign financing rules, noting that the president reimbursed Cohen from his own funds, but some legal experts dispute this interpretation.

While he insists that his comments on Fox had been cleared with the president in advance, White House aides were reportedly blindsided by his interview with Hannity. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirms that the first she heard that the president had indeed paid money to Stormy Daniels indirectly, was when she watched Giuliani’s interview on Wednesday night.

As the controversy deepens, Trump addresses 200 faith leaders at the White House to mark the National Day of Prayer. Despite claims by Giuliani earlier in the day that three American hostages would be released by North Korea by the end of the day, there is no news of their status. Meanwhile, NBC reports that the FBI wiretapped at least one phonecall between Michael Cohen and the White House.

Friday, May 4th
Trump flies to Dallas to address the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Speaking to reporters before his departure he says that Rudy Giuliani is a “great guy” but implies he has got his facts wrong: “He started yesterday. He’ll get his facts straight.” Giuliani later issues a statement, restating that the Stormy Daniels payment was a personal one, and would have been made whether Trump had been running for president or not. Trump also says a date and location for his planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been set, and that the US is “in constant contact with North Korea”. Addressing delegates later at the NRA convention, Trump promises to protect gun ownership rights while he is president. He also restates his proposal that trained teachers should carry conceal weapons in the classroom.

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