Jul 27, 2019

One week of the not-normal presidency

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The best way to keep Donald Trump’s presidency in perspective isn’t to go down the rabbit hole with every fight he picks, or with every statement that mangles reality. It’s to look at the total volume of how often he does it.

  • We looked through all of his public comments and tweets for this week, and found an avalanche of personal attacks, complaints, and statements at odds with reality. One came close to setting off a diplomatic crisis.

Why it matters: Trump’s fights with opponents and battles with the truth don’t make him unique — you can find examples with any president. But there are few who would have racked up this many examples in a single week. For the sake of history, it’s important not to lose sight of how unusual it is.

The list:

  1. He heckled Robert Mueller, both before the former special counsel’s testimony (tweeting “why didn’t Robert Mueller investigate the investigators?”) and afterwards (“Robert Mueller did a horrible job”).
  2. He attacked reporters who asked him to respond to Mueller’s testimony, calling one “fake news” and another “untruthful.”
  3. He infuriated the leaders of Afghanistan after noting that “if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth.” Afghanistan officials demanded a clarification.
  4. India denied his claim that Modi asked him to mediate the conflict over Kashmir.
  5. He suggested investigating Barack Obama's book deal: "Let's look into Obama the way they've looked at me ... Let's subpoena all of his records."
  6. He kept attacking four Democratic congresswomen of color, tweeting that the group was “a very Racist group of troublemakers.”
  7. He denied a Washington Post report that he had talking points on the lawmakers, even though there’s a photo of them.
  8. He attacked the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, calling her “horrible,” “a horror show” and “grossly incompetent.”
  9. He claimed with no evidence that undocumented immigrants “vote many times, not just twice, not just three times.” He’s made similar claims before, even though Trump’s own commission found no widespread evidence of voter fraud.
  10. He claimed that Article 2 of the Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want as President.” (It doesn’t.)
  11. He accused the news media of inventing sources: “There are no seven sources. They make them up.” (We don’t.)
  12. He charged that social media companies “censor opinions” and “decide what information citizens are going to be given,” and claimed his supporters have told him “they make it so hard to follow you.” (Go to Twitter, look up @realDonaldTrump, and see if it’s hard to follow him.)

The big picture: You don’t have to go back too far to find other factually challenged presidents. Richard Nixon is the obvious example, but think of LBJ, too: his dishonesty about the Vietnam War had deadly consequences. Or Bill Clinton, impeached for perjury.

  • The challenge is how to think about it in real time — how to focus on the statements that matter and take a pass on the ones that don’t.
  • The volume makes it a challenge to cover this White House. We’ve tried not to get caught up in every possible fact check of a trivial statement or attack or tweet. But the overload itself is worth acknowledging.
  • Same with the spectacle of a president constantly attacking his investigators, just as he heckles his political opponents in personal terms. It barely registers as we’ve all gotten used to it, but it’s not how most presidents have operated.

The bottom line: There’s a lot of noise around Trump, and most of the daily noise is not worth your time. But the sheer volume of incidents — and the distance they’ve created from a normal presidency — are definitely worth your attention.

Go deeper: Read Trump's "Executive Time"-filled leaked private schedules

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Japan's economy minister outlined plans on Monday to end the nationwide state of emergency as the number of new novel coronavirus cases continues to decline to fewer than 50 a day, per Bloomberg. Japan has reported 16,550 cases and 820 deaths.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.