President Donald Trump's tangled web of scandals has plagued his administration, paralyzed his domestic agenda and undermined America's long cherished global relationships. Arizona Senator John McCain, a Republican and no fan of Trump's, criticized the president in an interview with the Guardian. Asked if America's global standing was much better under President Barack Obama he responded, "As far as American leadership is concerned, yes."
South Carolina's Senator Lindsay Graham, who ran against Trump in the GOP primaries last year, expressed his frustration with the president on Face the Nation Sunday. "Well, I think it was true that he's not under investigation for colluding with the Russians, and I don't think what was said amounts to obstruction of justice. Now, what the president did was inappropriate," he said. Then, perhaps addressing Trump, he added, "You may be the first president in history to go down because you can't stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that if you just were quiet, would clear you."
Following reports that the president may have shared classified information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last month, Tennessee's Senator Bob Corker provided reporters a gloomy characterization of the White House. "Obviously, they're in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening." Following former FBI Director James Comey's damning testimony about the president last week, some Republicans are straining to explain their continued support for Trump even though he reportedly asked Comey to publicly exonerate him. House Speaker Paul Ryan explained, "The president's new at this. He's new to government, and so he probably wasn't steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between the Department of Justice, FBI and the White House. He's just new to this."
As the dark cloud of scandal hangs over the White House, the president is having difficulty filling key positions throughout his administration. Staff shakeups are rumored, with the latest being a report by Politico that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has until July 4th to clean up the mess. Meanwhile, against the advice of his advisers, Trump continues to strike out on Twitter. "I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very 'cowardly!'" he wrote Sunday.
The president has repeatedly hinted for weeks that there may be tapes of his conversations with James Comey. If tapes do exist they could set the record straight on exactly whether he asked Comey in their private meetings to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom he fired last month. Skeptics note that it is hard to believe that the president would not immediately release a tape that supports his account of the Comey meetings.
Meanwhile, the White House is doing all it can to change the subject, but with little success. On Monday, President Trump held his first meeting with his full cabinet, reminding his team, "We're here to change Washington." He called Democrats "obstructionists" and went on to tout his own accomplishments as president. With news cameras rolling on the proceeding, he said, "Never has there been a president--with few exceptions, in the case of FDR he had a major Depression to handle--who passed more legislation, who's done more things than what we've done." Well President Trump, you are certainly no FDR, President Harry Truman passed more legislation than you, and much of what you have passed is not significant.
New York Times correspondent Glenn Thrush tweeted about the event, "This interminable cabinet (camera) spray, where everybody pays tribute to Trump, is one of the most exquisitely awkward public events I've ever seen." The beleaguered Reince Priebus even thanked Trump for the "blessing" of being able to work for him. Maybe that will buy Priebus more time?
On Tuesday the nation's attention will turn to Attorney General Jeff Session's public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which he requested. Session has said he wants to answer questions raised by Comey's testimony last Thursday. Session's knows his most important audience will be the president. Trump was reportedly angry at Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, and there have been rumors that the attorney general is on thin ice. Sessions had earlier failed to report meetings that he had with Russian officials during the transition. Before recusing himself, Sessions said, "I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign." That was not true.
Can Jefferson Beauregard Sessions really be trusted to answer Senator's questions accurately in a public hearing with Donald Trump holding the sword of Damocles over his head? Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.