The news cycle in the Trump era moves quickly. This year, frankly, it moved a little too quickly. A tweet that under normal circumstances would end a presidency got forgotten hours later when the president, say, reached for his phone after getting slighted by Don Lemon. With that in mind, here are eight absurd moments of the Trump administration that we’d still be talking about if it wasn’t for the actual, fundamental destruction of the country.
Trump Admits to Obstructing Justice on National Television
Shortly after firing FBI Director James Comey on what everyone in the administration insisted was the recommendation of the attorney general and deputy attorney general, President Trump went on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt to set the record straight: He was going to fire Comey no matter what the Justice Department told him, because Comey was just giving him too much grief over the whole Russia thing.
It was quite astounding to watch. Always on brand, Trump was eager to make it clear that he was the decider-in-chief, even when that decision was basically admitting to obstruction of justice on prime time national television. This was no grueling, extended Frost/Nixon interrogation, either. In the released video of the interview, Trump offered the information unprompted before the one-minute mark.
Anyone who assumed Trump’s confession would be a death knell for his time in office can probably be forgiven for their naivety—it was the early days, after all. Seven months later, Trump is still president, and while the interview might have helped kick start the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russian efforts at meddling in the election, it sure looks like that dude is about to get the axe, too. — Drew Salisbury
Infowars Gets a Temporary Press Pass
In May, far-right conspiracy-theorist website Infowars announced it had secured press passes to cover White House daily press briefings. Under any other administration, it would have been unthinkable: a media outlet run by a man who hawks brain pills and once claimed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were literal demons who attract flies and give off the smell of sulfur being legitimized by the office of the President of the United States. But Trump had already told Alex Jones just how “amazing” his reputation was when he appeared on Infowars as a candidate, so there actually wasn’t too much to be surprised about.
Still, seeing Infowars “Washington D.C. bureau chief” Jerome Corsi tweet a picture of himself from the White House press room was an unsettling image, and not merely due to the light sprinkling of dandruff on his jacket shoulder and lapel. The media, at its theoretical best, is supposed to be in that room as a representative of the American public, asking antagonistic, tough questions of the administration. Corsi, obviously, had no such plans.
Thankfully, other members of the press quickly confirmed Corsi had only received a temporary one-day pass—the same sort a high school kid visiting on behalf of his student paper might get—but Corsi vowed to apply for permanent credentials in “about three months.” Since then, we haven’t heard anything from him or his website about it, a rare moment of relief. — Drew Salisbury
Trump Thanks Putin for Expelling U.S. Diplomats
In 2016, the United States intelligence community concluded that Russia engaged in a wide-ranging campaign to disrupt the presidential election. Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to brush aside the idea that Russia is in any way responsible for his victory, most likely due to some combination of extreme narcissism and fear that perhaps there was some sort of collusion among his campaign staff that may have risen to the level of criminality.
The Trump-Russia story is obviously not a scandal that has escaped the American public’s minds, but some aspects of the story would probably have been much bigger deals under any other president. For example: Trump thanked Vladimir Putin for expelling hundreds of diplomats from his country in retaliation for sanctions levied by Barack Obama. “I want to thank him, because we’re trying to cut down our payroll and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” is not the customary response to a world leader expelling one’s own diplomats. — Jordan Freiman
Trump Throws Paper Towels at Hurricane Victims in Puerto Rico
There was a time when presidents were expected to comfort the American people in the wake of a tragedy. Various presidents have failed at this task before, but none so spectacularly and predictably as Donald Trump did in his response to Hurricane Maria and the devastation it brought to Puerto Rico. The island was without power and clean water for weeks. There are still portions of Puerto Rico that lack these basic necessities. Meanwhile, a few days after the storm hit, Trump showed up and threw some paper towels into a crowd, which, incredibly, didn’t solve all of their problems.
Less than three months after Maria hit, as the governor of Puerto Rico is demanding a reassessment of the death toll, the image of Trump carelessly tossing some meager provisions to a waiting crowd has all but slipped from our collective memory in light of the true horror stories on the ground. But it would be hard to imagine a more condescending action from our president, short of Trump throwing a half-eaten sandwich over his shoulder and hitting a crying child in the face. The paper towels, the constant mentioning of Puerto Rico’s debt, and the refusal to do anything beyond the absolute minimum to help the victims of the storm all demonstrated just how little Trump and his administration cared about the country at a time when it needed its government the most. It should be a presidency-ruining scandal, but we’ll probably never hear about it again after 2017. — Jordan Freiman
President Trump Talks to Boy Scouts About Yacht Sex
President Trump didn’t have many opportunities during his first 11 months in office to remind the public that he’s a horny old creep, but there were moments he couldn’t contain himself. During a political rally in North Dakota, Trump made uncomfortable sexual innuendos toward his daughter and adviser Ivanka, who joined him for the event. The president’s slimiest display of sexual bravado, though, came during a speech delivered to Boy Scouts.
“[My friend] sold his company for a tremendous amount of money,” Trump, unprompted, told the children attending the annual Boy Scout Jamboree in July. “And he went out and bought a big yacht. And he had a very…interesting life. I won’t go any more into that because you’re Boy Scouts, so I’m not gonna tell you what he did. Should I tell you? Should I tell you? Ahh, you’re Boy Scouts, but you know life.”
The crowd of pre-pubescent boys laughed when the president joked about his rich old friend’s sex life. Trump, of course, was very proud of himself. “There was a standing ovation from the time I walked out to the time I left, and for five minutes after I had already gone,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “And I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were thankful.”
Trump’s delusional self-flattery bit him in the butt a few days later when the Boy Scouts denied that any such call took place. Chief scout executive Michael Surbaugh went so far as to publicly apologize for the speech. Surbaugh criticized Trump for inserting “political rhetoric” into the address—Trump bragged to the pre-teens about “that incredible night with the maps” when he won the election—but didn’t mention the president’s tangent about fucking on boats. The world must have moved on because the image was too much to bear. — Tosten Burks
President Trump Promotes Fox News Segment Demanding House Speaker’s Resignation
Two months into his term, President Trump’s addiction to live-tweeting Fox News mutated into a craven display of explicit presidential messaging via hackneyed cable punditry when he directed the public to watch Judge Jeanine Pirro’s show on the same night she happened to demand House Speaker Paul Ryan step down from his post.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2017
— Jeanine Pirro (@JudgeJeanine) March 26, 2017
Pirro’s opening monologue was allegedly prompted by Ryan’s inability to rally support for the American Health Care Act, an Obamacare repeal package that floundered after thousands of Americans protested its intent to raise sick and poor people’s premiums. Trump frequently blames his own failure to drive or comprehend the legislative calendar on the incompetence of top legislators, and his Judge Jeanine promo was proof that he’s down to air out this irritation via nightly news shows, like they’re teasers for future personnel decisions under his administration. This passive aggression is even more pathetic given Trump never has the courage to personally fire his own employees.
The most insane part was when former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, whom I literally forgot about before writing this sentence, stopped by Chris Wallace’s show Fox News Sunday to deny the implication that Trump’s tweet had any connection to Pirro’s plans to use that night’s show to attack the lawmaker with whom the president happened to be most mad at the time. “I will go on record, we do love Judge Jeanine and so does the president,” Preibus said. “I think it was more coincidental, Chris.” (It wasn’t.) — Tosten Burks
President Trump Accuses a Cable News Critic of Murder
President Trump likes to use social media to throw public tantrums every time he believes a reporter or cable news personality slights him by pointing out his inability to tell the truth. This should be shocking in its own right, but the honest truth is that just 11 months in his first term, we’re pretty much numb to the leader of the free world using Twitter as a tool to settle petty vendettas or taunt adversarial autocrats bent on nuking the U.S. back to the Pleistocene era. The President using Twitter to play nuclear chicken with Kim “Rocket Man” Jong-un got plenty of attention, but what left the national conversation fairly quickly was a November 29 tweet essentially accusing “Morning Joe” co-host and one-time Trump supporter Joe Scarborough of murder.
“And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the ‘unsolved mystery’ that took place in Florida years ago?” Trump tweeted. “ Investigate!”
So now that Matt Lauer is gone when will the Fake News practitioners at NBC be terminating the contract of Phil Griffin? And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the “unsolved mystery” that took place in Florida years ago? Investigate!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2017
Here’s the thing, there is no “unsolved mystery.” In 2001, when Scarborough was a Republican congressman in Florida, a 28-year-old intern named Lori Klausutis died in his office. She lost consciousness as a result of a heart condition, hit her head on a desk while passing out, and died as a result of the trauma to the head. The medical examiner ruled the death an accident and Scarborough left public office shortly after. Klausutis’s death was certainly tragic, but not the result of foul play.
For any other president, this story would have had the opposition party calling for impeachment, but for Trump, the early morning tweet had been bumped out of the news cycle by the afternoon. — Maggie Serota
Trump Gets Called Out on Electoral Victory Lie in Real Time
President Trump has a void in his soul that can only be filled with lavish praise and a gallon of Diet Coke. Nowhere is his toxic narcissism more apparent than in his pathological need to inflate his electoral victory into an imagined landslide. In what became probably the most humiliating moment of short-lived White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s career, the president made him call an impromptu press conference and blatantly lie about easily fact-checked crowd sizes from the previous day’s inauguration, or pulling three to five million illegal immigrants out of thin air who happened to vote for Hillary Clinton, thus giving her a large popular vote margin over Trump, but an electoral loss. President Trump made the mistake of claiming that he had “the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan” at an impromptu press briefing he held in February. That wasn’t even close to true and NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander was on hand to provide the following live fact-check:
Getting caught in this humiliating of a lie in real time would follow any other president to the end of their term, but for Trump this was just another Thursday. — Maggie Serota