Why Donald Trump's wild week matters. A lot.

Here are some of the things Donald Trump did in a week that at first appeared to be an incoherent torrent of unrelate...

Posted: Jun 17, 2018 10:05 AM
Updated: Jun 17, 2018 10:06 AM

Here are some of the things Donald Trump did in a week that at first appeared to be an incoherent torrent of unrelated events but may end up being one of the most significant of his presidency:

He tore at the fabric of the Western alliance, challenged American values at home and abroad, praised autocrats and adopted their rhetoric and positions. He blamed Democrats for his own policy of separating kids from undocumented migrant parents and set off a trade war with China. After meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an epochal encounter in Singapore, he shocked the world by saying the murderous dictator loved his people. And back home, another round of primaries and clashes with the cowed congressional GOP only served to cement his power over his party.

Yet while the President plunged into a staggering range of issues and controversies, there was a method to it all.

More than ever before, Trump imposed his personality and political will on Washington and the world. He went further than ever in crafting an alternative reality around his White House that may be misleading but has enthralled millions of people.

Trump's impromptu press conference on the North Lawn of the White House on Friday unfolded as a breathtaking display of charisma, misrepresentation, hubris and salesmanship that has no obvious parallel in the modern history of Western democracies.

And Trump, as his West Wing staff begins to hollow out and his fascination with the techniques and personalities of global autocracy grows, appears intent on expanding the scope of his own power.

He was so confident he even let reporters in on his secret in Singapore when he said that he believed Kim would follow through on vague commitments to denuclearize but would just change his story if the North Korean leader fell short.

"I may stand before you in six months and say, 'Hey, I was wrong.' I don't know that I'll ever admit that, but I'll find some kind of an excuse," Trump said.

A different world

All politicians paint a version of reality that can inspire and motivate their followers. But few have gone as far as Trump in creating a different dimension that blurs established fact, defies accountability and knocks the rest of politics off its axis.

Trump constructed a world in which an inspector general's report from the Justice Department cleared him of collusion and invalidated Robert Mueller's investigation -- it did not.

He claimed he had lifted the North Korean nuclear threat -- he did not -- and Pyongyang has so far done nothing after the summit to destroy its nuclear and missile program.

Trump claimed there were hugs and kisses at the end of the G7 summit -- in fact multiple diplomatic sources have described the meeting as the most acrimonious in the modern history of the West.

The President insisted that a law passed by Democrats required the separation of children from their parents when undocumented families cross the southern border. That is not correct.

The point about Trump's embroidered versions of truth is not that it's misleading but that it offers a narrative that his allies in conservative media and on Capitol Hill can inflate.

There aren't many dissidents in the Republican Party but Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker -- who has the luxury of a looming retirement that permits him to critique the President -- warned the GOP risked becoming a "cult-like" situation.

Throughout the week, Trump appeared to be sending up trial balloons on the nature of power -- sometimes flippant and sometimes sinister.

For instance in a Fox News interview on Friday, he noted that when Kim speaks "his people sit up at attention," adding, "I want my people to do the same."

He later insisted he was kidding, though it didn't seem like it at the time. After all, Trump had earlier in the week saluted a general from North Korea, where the armed forces are the instrument behind the world's worst human rights record.

The President also slammed US and South Korean military maneuvers as "provocative" and called for Russia to be let back into the G7/G8, continuing his odd habit of adopting the foreign policy positions of US adversaries in Beijing, Pyongyang and Moscow.

Another aspect of Trump's method of power projection that doesn't seem funny is his frequent musing over his pardon power and insistence that he could even wield it to absolve himself if necessary.

His top lawyer Rudy Giuliani also fueled an impression of a president willing to flex expansive power power when he insisted that the inspector general's report meant the Mueller probe should be frozen then told the New York Daily News that the investigation could be "cleaned up" with presidential pardons.

Trump's explainers often accuse the media of taking the President's words too literally or of mistaking his sarcasm for intent when he slips into autocratic rhetoric.

Some Republicans say his unorthodox approach to North Korea, and his heavy flattery of Kim may be worth a try.

"We have a little window open and the President is trying to go through it in the way that he does things, some people don't like it, some people may think it's not appropriate. But we have got some sunshine where we had nothing," Scott Jennings, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, told CNN's Jake Tapper on Friday.

"And I think most Americans are going to say -- well we are trying something different and maybe that's the answer."

The cult of the victim

But Trump's media appearances this week have also revealed another trait he shares with his autocratic friends like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kim -- a tendency to conjure a feeling of victimhood around himself, his followers and the nation.

For Trump, when the media fact checks his many falsehoods or points out that his summit with Kim produced no verifiable framework for North Korea's denuclearization, it's evidence of "unfair" coverage by "the fake news."

Any suggestion that his campaign colluded with Russia or that he obstructed justice is evidence of a "deep state" witch hunt against him.

His entire vision for diplomacy is based on a transactional calculation of dollars won and lost and the idea that America's oldest allies, many in the G7, have been ripping it off for years.

And by stoking resentment over immigration, he is making an implicit case to his supporters that their culture is being victimized by outsiders.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University, has conducted in-depth studies of fascism and says that the idea of victimhood is an essential component of the methodology of many autocrats.

"It has two dimensions. First is the idea that the strongman is ... there to be a savior of a people who have been ripped off by other nations -- or mistreated ... 'we got a raw deal, other powers are taking advantage of us so we have to go it alone,'" Ben-Ghiat said, noting Trump's "America First" philosophy.

"The other dimension is because these rulers present themselves as embodying the nation, their own victimhood narrative (means) ... when you attack them you are attacking the nation."

Trump came close to embodying the second dimension, portraying himself as the personification of the United States in his response to the FBI raid on the office and residencies of his personal lawyer Michael Cohen in April.

"It's an attack on our country in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for," the President said.

Ultimately, the fate of Trump's efforts to test the limits on his power will depend on countering weight of institutions. He has already outfoxed his Republican critics. Democrats must mount a comeback at the ballot box if they are to thwart him.

America's allies in Europe are showing signs of fighting back -- though in the final analysis they depend on US might for their security.

Perhaps the most viable check on Trump is the law. And there were ominous signs for the President on Friday after his ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort was jailed for violating bail conditions -- a move that will hike pressure on him to cooperate with Mueller.

CNN's Kara Scannell reported that Cohen, stung by his treatment by Trump, has told family and friends he is willing to cooperate with federal authorities.

While those developments hint at potential threats to Trump, they could also tempt him to use the powers he has been publicly flexing. If he does, American democracy could face a fateful test.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 540277

Reported Deaths: 7022
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1125861667
Ramsey46611846
Dakota41151414
Anoka37226413
Washington24233273
Stearns20532215
St. Louis16380295
Scott15455116
Wright14317124
Olmsted1256996
Sherburne1020879
Carver946043
Clay765189
Rice7408100
Blue Earth676840
Kandiyohi618879
Crow Wing591786
Chisago535648
Otter Tail531673
Benton518396
Mower446032
Winona434549
Douglas432170
Goodhue429871
Nobles396147
Morrison382859
McLeod381154
Beltrami365057
Isanti360159
Polk358966
Itasca356851
Steele346614
Becker344848
Lyon341848
Carlton322152
Freeborn319429
Pine305321
Nicollet298542
Brown289139
Mille Lacs269547
Le Sueur265022
Todd264830
Cass241426
Meeker227037
Waseca225820
Martin209029
Wabasha19793
Roseau194018
Dodge16794
Hubbard167641
Renville167443
Redwood163335
Houston161814
Cottonwood151420
Fillmore15039
Pennington148419
Chippewa143636
Faribault141619
Wadena139820
Sibley132110
Aitkin126736
Kanabec124921
Watonwan12429
Rock120918
Jackson113010
Yellow Medicine108218
Pipestone107225
Murray10149
Pope9906
Swift97118
Marshall83717
Stevens79010
Lake77819
Wilkin75412
Clearwater75314
Koochiching74312
Lac qui Parle73022
Big Stone5544
Lincoln5532
Grant5388
Norman5119
Mahnomen4898
Unassigned48578
Kittson44322
Red Lake3796
Traverse3585
Lake of the Woods2932
Cook1440

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 354875

Reported Deaths: 5797
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55489598
Linn20153329
Scott18692234
Black Hawk15460306
Woodbury14773219
Johnson1384380
Dubuque13023202
Dallas1082196
Pottawattamie10612160
Story1024447
Warren548286
Clinton530789
Cerro Gordo518586
Webster506091
Sioux502673
Marshall476274
Muscatine454796
Des Moines439065
Wapello4245120
Buena Vista420940
Jasper406270
Plymouth393779
Lee366655
Marion353975
Jones292055
Henry285337
Bremer278260
Carroll277650
Crawford261539
Boone256131
Benton248955
Washington247849
Dickinson238643
Mahaska223049
Jackson216842
Kossuth211461
Clay208325
Tama206371
Delaware200939
Winneshiek192533
Page189020
Buchanan187331
Cedar182623
Fayette182641
Wright178635
Hardin178542
Hamilton176949
Harrison174673
Clayton165355
Butler161834
Mills157420
Cherokee156438
Floyd154342
Lyon153541
Poweshiek152133
Madison151919
Allamakee149051
Iowa144624
Hancock142634
Winnebago135331
Grundy134832
Cass133954
Calhoun133011
Jefferson130535
Emmet127140
Shelby126537
Louisa126049
Appanoose125847
Sac125819
Mitchell125241
Union123732
Chickasaw122015
Humboldt117926
Guthrie116728
Franklin112321
Palo Alto109622
Howard102622
Unassigned10030
Montgomery99737
Clarke98023
Keokuk94330
Monroe93128
Ida88533
Adair84032
Pocahontas83021
Monona80430
Davis79824
Greene76310
Lucas74822
Osceola73716
Worth6978
Taylor64812
Fremont60410
Decatur5889
Van Buren55318
Ringgold53322
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Audubon4939
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