Trumpocracy: Tracking the Creeping Authoritarianism of the 45th President

Conspiracy theories, attacks on the press, praise for tyrants, and other troubling moves by the Trump administration.

Timothy L. Hale/ZUMA

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Is Donald Trump a threat to democracy? From his executive orders targeting immigrants, to his personal attacks on federal judges (and many others), to his demonization of the media as the “enemy of the American people,” the 45th president’s actions have alarmed political observers of all stripes. Below is a running timeline tracking Trump’s numerous displays of authoritarian behavior, beginning from the day he was sworn in.

Editor’s note, 4/5/18: After more than 14 months of daily documentation here we have capped this timeline, as Trump continues to attack and politicize the US “Justice” Department, go after “stupid” corporations he dislikes, blast the media as “sick,” praise a conservative local TV network for a “fake news” script, lie about DACA policy, call for militarizing the US-Mexico border, reiterate wildly false claims of voter fraud, and bizarrely defer to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. We will continue to report on Trump’s further accumulation of anti-democratic actions elsewhere in Mother Jones.

Week 62: Floating pardons for Flynn and Manafort; throwing the 2020 census into crisis; going after Amazon; decrying unprecedented “fake news” in the wake of Stormy Daniels; claiming there are “enemy combatants pouring into our Country” (March 24 – March 30)

Day 434:  Trump reiterates his long-running disdain for Amazon, while his 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale criticizes the company for its ownership of “a political newspaper, The @washingtonpost.” (March 29)

Day 433: The New York Times reports that John Dowd, Trump’s recently resigned lead attorney in the Mueller investigation, floated the idea of presidential pardons to lawyers for top ex-Trump advisers Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort as the special counsel closed in on them. “The talks suggest that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel in exchange for leniency,” the Times reports. “Mr. Mueller’s team could investigate the prospect that Mr. Dowd made pardon offers to thwart the inquiry, although legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.”

Axios reports that people close to Trump say he is “obsessed” with gunning for Amazon, in part due to the tech giant’s ownership of The Washington Post, which Trump reportedly views as CEO Jeff Bezos’ “political weapon.” (March 28)

Day 432: Trump’s Commerce Department announces plans to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census, a move clearly designed to target immigrant populations and one that could dramatically distort the census results. Speaking to reporters, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders lies about the question being included almost continuously since 1965, when in fact it hasn’t been included since 1950.

– The Daily Beast reports on a mysterious effort by Trump ally American Media Inc. to flood supermarkets and other retailers with a 100-page glossy magazine promoting the “New Kingdom” of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a subject of concern with regard to self-dealing foreign policy in the Trump White House.(March 27)

Photo by the Daily Beast

Day 431: The morning after 60 Minutes airs a highly anticipated interview with porn actress Stormy Daniels about her relationship with Donald Trump, the president voices a sweeping attack on the media. “So much Fake News,” he tweets. “Never been more voluminous or more inaccurate.” (March 26)

Day 430:  Commenting on the recent passage of a congressional budget bill, including funds for the military and his proposed “border wall,” Trump claims that there are “enemy combatants pouring into our Country” and suggests that the wall should be built “through” the military as a matter of national defense. (March 25)

Week 61: Congratulating Vladimir Putin on his reelection; blasting a fired Andrew McCabe, “corrupt” FBI leadership, and the Mueller investigation by name; a growing problem with Sessions’ role in the McCabe firing; a call from Trump’s lawyer to shut down the Mueller investigation; hiring an anti-FBI conspiracy theorist featured on Fox News (March 17 – March 23)

Day 427:  Trump personally attacks “Crazy Joe Biden” on Twitter in response to comments from the former vice president about hypothetical physical violence against Trump over Trump’s glorification of sexual assault

– As White House staff turnover continues apace, including the departure of Trump’s attorney John DowdNew York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman reports that Trump may believe he is less and less in need of presidential advisers; Trump, according to one current adviser, is “starting to see the White House as Trump Org.” (March 22)

Day 426:  ABC News reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was previously under investigation by former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe concerning Sessions’ misleading comments to Congress about contacts with the Russian ambassador during the Trump campaign. Sessions—who has repeatedly violated his own recusal from any Justice Department matters related to the 2016 campaign—went on to fire McCabe.

– In a Justice Department memo, Sessions instructs federal prosecutors to pursue the death penalty for drug dealers, as President Trump has proposed.

– Trump rips the “Fake News Media” as “crazed” for reporting criticism of his embrace of Vladimir Putin’s reelection. (March 21)

Day 425:  Trump calls Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his reelection victory, less than three weeks after an assassination attempt in Britain using a military-grade nerve agent that Putin’s regime was almost certainly behind. “We had a very good call,” Trump tells reporters in the Oval Office, which did not include any discussion of the nerve agent attack. 

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tells reporters that the Trump administration isn’t interested in the fact that the Russian election was a sham. “We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate,” she says, continuing a long pattern of Trump and his aides showing a bizarre deference to Putin.

Trump’s latest posturing on Putin is met with intense criticism from Sen. John McCain and Sen. Mark Warner, among others, while drawing a notably more tepid response from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

According to the Washington Post, Trump’s conversation with Putin went directly against the counsel of his national security advisers, whose written briefing materials for Trump warned “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” the Russian leader on the election results. As the Post further notes, “Trump’s applause of Putin’s victory was in line with other congratulatory calls he has made, including to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for winning a much-disputed referendum that increased his already autocratic powers and to China’s President Xi Jinping for his ‘extraordinary elevation’ after Xi last month engineered the Communist Party’s elimination of presidential term limits.” (March 20)

Day 424:  Trump hails a morning appearance by Sean Hannity on “Fox & Friends” and soon decries “a total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest,” presumably again regarding the Mueller investigation.

– Trump adds to his legal team battling the Mueller investigation, hiring Washington lawyer Joseph E. diGenova, who has pushed anti-FBI conspiracy theories in support of Trump on Fox News. “Mr. diGenova has endorsed the notion that a secretive group of FBI agents concocted the Russia investigation as a way to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president,” the New York Times reports. “‘There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,’ [diGenova] said on Fox News in January. He added, ‘Make no mistake about it: A group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.'”

– CNN reports that White House advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump used a Trump Organization helicopter for travel between Washington and New York, a potential ethics violation. (March 19)

Day 423: In a series of morning tweets, Trump escalates his attacks on McCabe, Comey, and the Mueller investigation, including citing “Fox & Friends” and suggesting that evidence examined by Mueller from the two top FBI officials fired by Trump comes from “Fake Memos.” (March 18)

Day 422: In a celebratory tweet just hours after the firing of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump mocks McCabe as a “choirboy,” also denouncing his “sanctimonious” former boss James Comey and “the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI.”

John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers defending him against the Mueller investigation, tells the Daily Beast that the investigation should be shut down and suggests Mueller should be fired. Dowd says in a statement:

I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier.

Dowd says that he is speaking on behalf of Trump, “as his counsel.” He then backtracks after publication of the story, according to the Daily Beast, clarifying that he was speaking in his personal capacity, not on the president’s behalf. The McCabe firing and Dowd’s remarks draw scathing rebuke from senior Democratic senators Richard Blumenthal and Mark Warner, among others. As the New York Times notes: “Mr. McCabe was among the first at the FBI to scrutinize possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. And he is a potential witness to the question of whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice. Mr. Trump has taunted Mr. McCabe both publicly and privately, and Republican allies have cast him as the center of a ‘deep state’ effort to undermine the Trump presidency.”

Hours later, Trump again aims to discredit the Mueller investigation, reiterating corruption at the “highest levels” of the FBI, DOJ, and State Department, and attacks against the “Fake News” and McCabe, Comey, and others. He also disparages the Mueller investigation directly by name for the first time. (March 17)

Week 60: The disparagement and firing of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe; evidence of a political purge at the State Department; Trump’s war on “fake news” undermines local reporting on political corruption; a push to weaken the reach of federal courts; lying about a New York Times reporter; crass personal attacks during a campaign rally (March 10 – March 16)

Day 421: After months of political and personal attacks by President Trump against FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, Attorney General Jeff Sessions fires McCabe less than two days before McCabe is eligible for retirement. Sessions cites an internal DOJ report alleging that McCabe misled the DOJ inspector general over contacts with the media—but neither Sessions nor the DOJ makes public the report or any further details from it. McCabe says he is the target of a political attack by the Trump White House designed to discredit both him and the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

– Nuclear diplomacy by way of nepotism? On the heels of Rex Tillerson’s abrupt, chaotic firing as secretary of state, KBS World Radio reports that South Korea’s foreign minister will meet with Ivanka Trump, among others, during an upcoming trip to the United States. (March 16)

Day 420: Senior Democratic lawmakers Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel seek documents regarding what they call “extremely disturbing” whistleblower evidence that the Trump White House worked with Newt Gingrich, a former Dick Cheney aide, and others to conduct a political purge of State Department employees deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump. The targeted employees, including one involved in the Iran nuclear deal, were described with terms including “Turncoat,” “leaker and a troublemaker,” and “Obama/Clinton loyalists not at all supportive of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda.” As detailed by the two congressmen, such actions would likely violate federal laws protecting federal civil servants from undue political influence.

– As Attorney General Jeff Sessions considers whether to fire deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe just days before McCabe’s retirement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders disparages McCabe, an accomplished career civil servant, as a “bad actor.” Sessions’ involvement is the latest of multiple violations of his own recusal from Justice Department investigations in which he has a clear ethical conflict. (March 15)

Day 419: Despite successfully installing federal judges at a record pace, Trump falsely accuses senate Democrats of unprecedented obstruction against his nominees, calling it the “worst in US history!”  (March 14)

Day 417: Trump’s incessant drumbeat against “fake news”—meaning unflattering reporting that he doesn’t like—continues to be taken up by conservative politicians around the country as a means to undermining reporting on political corruption. The spread of that tactic comes as Trump tells the public to tune out the media: “Turn off the show – FAKE NEWS!”

Mother Jones’ Pema Levy reports that, after various setbacks for Trump’s executive orders on immigration, the administration is seeking to permanently remove the ability of federal judges to issue nationwide injunctions—orders that stop a policy from taking effect until the court has officially ruled on its legality. (March 12)

Day 416: Trump adds New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman to the long list of journalists he has personally attacked, calling her a lying “Hillary flunky” who supposedly was “not given access” to Trump in the Oval Office—an obvious lie. (March 11)

Day 415In a series of caustic, crass remarks during a campaign rally on behalf of a Republican congressional candidate in Pennsylvania, Trump goes on the attack against Oprah Winfrey (“I know her weakness”), NBC anchor Chuck Todd (“a sleeping son of a bitch”), and Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters (“a low-I.Q. individual”). He also hits on familiar themes including disparaging the free press, praising the dictators of China and North Korea, talking up capital punishment for drug dealers, and reiterating the need for cops to physically assault criminal suspects. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin soon defends Trump’s remarks as just a bunch of “funny” talk—simply a matter of what Trump likes to do at campaign rallies. (March 10)

Week 59: Hailing the “great” Xi Jinping’s power grab in China; policy planning for executing drug dealers—with advice from Singapore; citing a right-wing conspiracy theorist; anger over a photo of “disloyal” DOJ leaders; promoting yet another friend’s new book; seeking to brand Trump golf courses with the US presidential seal; slurring Gary Cohn as a “globalist” (March 3 – March 9)

Day 414: The Trump administration continues to consider executions as part of a solution to the opioid crisis: The Washington Post reports that Trump officials are studying policy that could allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers—and that the White House has received briefings on the issue from Singaporean representatives. (March 9)

Day 413: As national economic advisor Gary Cohn prepares to resign, Trump refers to Cohn during a cabinet meeting as a “globalist”—a slur popular on the political far right that has virulently antisemitic origins. Trump’s remarks echo the same from his budget director, Mick Mulvaney. (March 8)

Day 412: Trump uses his social media platform to promote the new book of yet another personal connection: Roma Downey—who is married to Mark Burnett, producer of Trump’s longtime NBC show “The Apprentice”—joins a growing list of people who stand to benefit commercially from Trump’s presidential endorsement, including Sean Hannity, Brian Kilmeade, Sheriff David Clarke, Dr. Robert Jeffress, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie. (March 7)

Day 410: Trump claims that the counterintelligence investigation opened by the FBI in 2016 concerning the Trump campaign and Russia was a ploy by the Obama administration to discredit him “so Crooked H would win.” He adds that Obama did “nothing” to stop Russian interference in the US election.

ProPublica reports that the Trump Organization has ordered the manufacture of tee markers for its golf courses that are emblazoned with the seal of the President of the United States, possibly violating federal law. (March 5)

A photo obtained by ProPublica: presidential seal tee markers reportedly produced for the Trump Organization

Day 408:  In a closed-doored gathering with Republican donors at Mar-a-Lago, Trump lauds President Xi Jinping of China for recently consolidating his power, possibly indefinitely. Riffing to laughter from the group, Trump suggests he could see doing the same for himself. “He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great,” Trump says, according to a recording of the event obtained by CNN. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day.”

– Trump picks up on a tweet from his son Donald Jr., promoting an article by a right-wing conspiracy theorist, to depict the American news media as “CRAZY!”

– The Washington Post reports that Trump became enraged over a photo that appeared in the media the previous Wednesday after he again publicly excoriated Attorney General Jeff Sessions; according to the Postthe image of Sessions dining that night with Rod Rosenstein, who remains in charge of the Russia investigation, and another top DOJ prosecutor left Trump “venting to friends and allies about a dinner he viewed as an intentional show of disloyalty.” (March 3)

Week 58: Talk of taking guns away without due process; blasting Jeff Sessions and the Russia investigation again; more personal attacks on the Florida cop who didn’t pursue the mass shooter; concealing Trump Organization profits; rejecting “inappropriate” media questions; potential nepotism at the FAA; death for drug dealers; hailing a Sandy Hook hoaxer (Feb. 24 – March 2)

Day 406: Trump openly expresses his interest in executing drug dealers (following a media report that he’s said so privately). He suggests that autocratic regimes elsewhere in the world “have much less of a drug problem than we do” thanks to their use of the death penalty.

– At the State Department, asked whether the US might sanction Russia over chemical warfare used by the Kremlin-backed regime in Syria, spokesperson Heather Nauert accuses reporters of being “so obsessed” with Russia’s attack on the 2016 US elections. The familiar theme often floated from the podium in the White House press briefing room does not go over well: “I’m sorry,” retorts one reporter, “I reject your assertion that everybody in this room is obsessed. It’s not germane to the question at hand. The question at hand is, What is the US going to do to hold Russia accountable?” (March 1)

Day 405: Trump renews his fierce public attack on Jeff Sessions, calling the attorney general he appointed “DISGRACEFUL” for utilizing the Justice Department’s inspector general while failing to aggressively investigate what Trump alleges was “potentially massive FISA abuse” by his political opponents.

In a sign of how toxic the relationship may have become, Sessions pushes back against Trump in a statement: “As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.” The Washington Post reports that behind the scenes Trump has derisively referred to Sessions as “Mr. Magoo” and lamented that he is stuck with Sessions, who he believes has been insufficiently loyal to him.

– In a discussion with lawmakers about gun regulations broadcast live from the White House, Trump talks up his desire to aggressively take guns away from potentially dangerous people without first allowing due process. After Vice President Mike Pence says “Allow due process, so that no one’s rights are trampled,” Trump jumps in to contradict him: “Or, Mike, take the firearms first and then go to court. Because a lot of times, by the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court, to get the due process procedures. I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida…To go to court would have taken a long time.” (Feb. 28)

Day 404: Trump returns to blasting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and talking up allegations about “Mrs. Clinton’s criminality” via Fox News. (Feb. 27)

Day 403: During a meeting with governors at the White House, Trump continues personally attacking the Broward County Sheriff’s deputy who failed to go into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the Feb. 14 gun massacre, referring to him as “disgusting” and “a disgrace.” (Trump also claims that he would’ve “run in there” himself, “even if I didn’t have a weapon.”)

– The Trump Organization continues refusing to disclose how much it has profited from foreign governments spending money at Trump hotels during the Trump presidency.

– Ivanka Trump, who officially serves in the role of assistant to the president of the United States, says in an interview with NBC News that it is “pretty inappropriate” for the media to ask her about credible allegations of sexual misconduct against the president of the United States. She makes the remarks while representing the US at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. (Feb. 26)

Day 402: Axios reports that President Trump is considering appointing his own personal pilot to head the Federal Aviation Administration.

Axios reports that Trump has privately been talking up his desire to execute major drug traffickers, a la policy in China, Singapore, and the Philippines, whose murderous strongman leader, Rodrigo Duterte, Trump has repeatedly praised. (Feb. 25)

Day 401: “This whole Witch Hunt is an illegal disgrace,” Trump again says of the ongoing Russia investigation, “and Obama did nothing about Russia!” Trump also distorts a quote from Fox News to again smear Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff—a member of a House committee investigating the Trump campaign and Russia—who Trump calls a “total phony.” 

– On Fox News, Trump accuses Schiff of “probably illegal” leaking. “He’s a bad guy,” Trump says.

– On Twitter, Trump blasts “Democrat judges” in Pennsylvania, citing Fox News and again wading into the ongoing fight in that state over partisan gerrymandering.

– For reasons unclear, Trump promotes a three-year-old tweet riffing about black conservatives who “love America” and don’t “vote Democrat,” from fringe media figure Wayne Dupree. With the Florida high school massacre continuing to dominate the news, Trump’s effusive tweet seems especially bizarre given that Dupree has long pushed ugly conspiracy theories about mass shooting victims and survivors. Dupree has said that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012 was a hoax involving “crisis actors” posing as grieving parents, and made a similar claim about the Florida high school survivors. A month after 20 first graders and six educators were murdered at Sandy Hook, the man whose words Trump highlighted on this Saturday morning wrote about Sandy Hook parents: “Unemotional, detached, contrived. With two real children involved, if this were real, they would be real and would be with their children, consoling them, not promoting the New World Order agenda of total control, including the control of children’s minds.” (Feb. 24)

Week 57: Blaming the Florida school massacre on the Russia investigation; siding with Putin over Democrats and the US media; lying about denying Russia’s attacks on the 2016 elections; selling access to Donald Jr. in India; attacking Oprah; calling a critic in Congress a “monster”; promoting another anti-CNN cartoon and a CNN conspiracy theory (Feb. 17 – Feb. 23)

Day 400: Trump personally rebukes the Broward County Sheriff’s deputy who failed to go after the mass shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb 14. “When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage, or something happened, but he certainly did a poor job—there’s no question about that,” Trump says, also suggesting the officer was “a coward.”

– Trump underscores the importance of his daughter Ivanka leading US diplomacy in South Korea. (Feb. 23)

Day 399: CNN reports that US Citizenship and Immigration Services has changed its mission statement to no longer include the term “nation of immigrants.” 

– Trump cites a conspiracy theory promoted by Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson regarding CNN’s allegedly “scripted” handling of a Parkland shooting survivor; Trump uses the false claim to trash CNN once again. (Feb. 22)

Day 398: Trump returns to attacking the federal law enforcement system over the Russia investigation, including undermining his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and again calling for the prosecution of his Democratic political opponents. (Feb. 21)

Day 397: During a White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Sanders reiterates Trump’s comments blaming the FBI for allegedly failing to prevent the Florida school massacre because of the ongoing Russia investigation, which Sanders calls “clearly a hoax.”

– Trump rips the “Fake News Washington Post” and sides with Fox News against one of the numerous women accusing him of sexual assault.

– The president inserts himself into a highly partisan state-level battle over gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, suggesting a fight “all the way to the Supreme Court.”

– Trump ridicules CNN and MSNBC and its “two really dishonest newscasters” for covering “the anti-Trump Russia rally wall-to-wall.” (Feb. 20)

Day 396: The Washington Post reports that Donald Trump Jr., while on a business trip in India to promote the Trump Organization’s real estate investments, will also deliver a foreign policy speech on behalf of the Trump administration. The price of admission? About $38,000, according to the Post. “Trump’s company is literally selling access to the president’s son overseas,” says an ethics watchdog group. (Feb. 19)

Day 395: Blaming Democrats and the Obama administration for failing to combat Russian interference in US elections, Trump says, “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow.” He also claims that he “never” denied the existence of Kremlin interference in the 2016 US elections—when in fact he denied its existence many times.

– Trump tweets another anti-CNN cartoon, this time by a person who also drew Hillary Clinton in blackface.

Oprah Winfrey makes Trump’s ever-growing list of individual people targeted for insults and personal attacks over politics: Trump calls her “very insecure” and says he hopes she runs for president in 2020 “so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!” He also goes after Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff again, referring to him as a “monster.” (Feb. 18)

Day 394: Trump blames the Florida school massacre on the Russia investigation. “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter,” he tweets. “They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign—there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!” 

As Trump reiterates “NO COLLUSION” and tries to deflect focus from Robert Mueller’s bombshell indictment of 13 Russians, Trump’s deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley suggests on Fox News that “Democrats and the mainstream media” have done more harm to America than Putin’s regime has. (Feb. 17)

Week 56: Lying about a US intelligence assessment of Russia’s attack on the 2016 elections; the tactics of Trumpism spread further into Congress; a new conspiracy theory on the Mueller probe (Feb. 10 – Feb. 16)

Day 391: Speaking in an interview with Axios about Russia’s attacks on the US political system, Vice President Mike Pence claims that “it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any effect on the outcome of the 2016 election.” Pence’s claim is flat-out false—the US intelligence community did not assess the impact on the elections from the Russian operations. (Feb. 14)

Politico reports that GOP House Intelligence Committee chairman and key Trump ally Devin Nunes has taken a page out of the White House playbook to end-run the media, launching a partisan “alternative” news site of his own. (It does not go well.

– Trump lets loose another broadside against the media, “whose approval ratings are correctly at their lowest levels in history!” (Feb. 11)

Day 387: Citing a New York Times story, Trump suggests a new, if vague conspiracy theory about the Russia investigation. (Feb. 10)

Week 55: Evidence that Trump and his press secretary lied about FBI communications on James Comey’s firing; calling Democrats “un-American” and “treasonous” for their response to the State of the Union; ordering up a costly military parade; politicizing the death of a NFL player; smearing two former US intelligence chiefs and accusing a congressman of a federal crime without evidence; claiming the Nunes memo “totally vindicates ‘Trump'” (Feb. 3 – Feb. 9)

Day 383: Turning again to the ongoing battle in Washington over immigration policy, Trump quickly politicizes the tragic death of Edwin Jackson, an African American NFL player.

– Press secretary Sarah Sanders and other White House aides claim that Trump calling Democratic lawmakers “un-American” and “treasonous” the prior day was just him “joking”—an excuse the White House often uses to mop up incendiary and offensive remarks from Trump.

– The Washington Post reports that Trump, who got five draft deferments instead of serving during the Vietnam War, has ordered plans drawn up for a large-scale, costly military parade in the nation’s capital. “The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” an unnamed military official told the Post. (Trump was quite taken with a display of martial power during his July 2017 visit to Paris.)  “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.” (Feb. 6)

Day 382: The national security experts at Lawfare reveal more than 100 pages of FOIA’d communications from the FBI showing that Trump and his press secretary Sarah Sanders lied about the state of morale at the bureau as well as “countless” FBI officials allegedly telling the Trump White House that they supported Trump’s decision to fire director James Comey. “This material tells a dramatic story about the FBI’s reaction to the Comey firing,” the Lawfare experts write, “but it is neither a story of gratitude to the president nor a story of an organization in turmoil relieved by a much-needed leadership transition.”

As the special agent in charge of the Detroit field office said of Comey’s firing, “I hope this is an instance of fake news.” His counterpart in the Knoxville field office wrote: “Unexpected news such as this is hard to understand but I know you all know our Director stood for what is right and what is true!!!…He truly made us better when we needed it the most.”

The 103 pages of FBI communications obtained by Lawfare, published in their entirety, show “that no aspect of the White House’s statements about the bureau were accurate—and, indeed, that the White House engendered at least some resentment among the rank and file for whom it purported to speak. As Amy Hess, the special agent in charge in Louisville, put it: ‘On a personal note, I vehemently disagree with any negative assertions about the credibility of this institution or the people herein.'”

– On Twitter, Trump attacks the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, blasting “Little Adam Schiff” as “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington” along with Comey, Sen. Mark Warner, and former US intelligence chiefs John Brennan and James Clapper. Without evidence, Trump accuses Schiff of a serious federal crime: “Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!”

Trump also praises Rep. Devin Nunes—whose duplicitous memo aimed at giving Trump cover from the Russia investigation caused a political firestorm—a “Great American Hero.” 

– Later in the day, speaking after a factory tour in Ohio, Trump derides Democrats as “un-American” and “treasonous” for not applauding enough during his recent State of the Union address. “Honestly, it was bad energy,” Trump says. “Even on really positive news…they were like death,” he continues, emphasizing: “And un-American. Un-American. Somebody said ‘treasonous’—yeah, I guess, why not. Can we call that treason? Why not. I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.” (Feb. 5)

Day 380: Trump suggests the 2016 election was tilted against him by corrupt actors at the FBI, selectively citing a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. He also says of the now-public and highly controversial document from ally Devin Nunes, “This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on.” (Feb. 3)

Week 54: Smearing Republican leaders of the FBI and DOJ as corrupt Democratic partisans; collaborating with Sean Hannity—who threatens Jim Comey; asking Rod Rosenstein for a “team” loyalty pledge; seeking power to fire any federal employee; a call from Paul Ryan to “cleanse” the FBI; a refusal to enforce congressionally mandated Russia sanctions (Jan. 27 – Feb. 2)

Day 379: As House Republicans release the deceptive Nunes memo on the Trump-Russia investigation, Trump blasts the “top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and Justice Department” as corrupt Democratic partisans. His remarks defy that those leaders are longtime Republicans who were appointed by Republican presidents, including the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, who Trump himself appointed six months earlier with high praise.

Adding to his affront against US law enforcement leaders, Trump quotes and cites Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton, a Fox News regular who has led a smear campaign depicting the FBI and DOJ as deeply corrupt. When later asked by reporters in the Oval Office whether the Nunes memo will lead him to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Trump replies, “You figure that one out.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s close ally Sean Hannity—whose Fox News network got exclusive early access to the Nunes memo prior to its release, and who Trump reportedly speaks with regularly—threatens former FBI Director James Comey with the implication that Comey may be arrested.

On his evening Fox News broadcast, Hannity declares that “Comey is running scared. He’s out of his mind right now, now that he is exposed with this memo.” Hannity reiterates that “crimes have been committed” by the leaders of the FBI and Justice Department, and that “Comey, McCabe, Rosenstein and others all need to be investigated and, in many cases, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

– Trump promotes a divisively partisan opinion piece showering him with Dear Leader-esque praise, authored by a Washington Times/Fox News contributor who declares: “President Trump has officially transformed himself from merely a great American president into a historic world leader.”  (Feb. 2)

Day 378: The Daily Beast reports that President Trump has been in frequent contact with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity about releasing the Nunes memo to the public: “In their conversations, Trump and Hannity discussed the Nunes memo’s supposed bombshell-level significance, and how it could shed light on the alleged anti-Trump bias and “corruption” at the FBI. On these calls, Trump has directly referenced specific recent Hannity segments related to #ReleaseTheMemo, according to one of three sources with knowledge of their conversations.”

– Together with praise for Fox News, Trump notes that 45.6 million people watched his State of the Union address. He claims this is “the highest number in history,” which is false by millions. (Feb. 1)

Day 377: A report from CNN reveals yet more of a pattern of Trump seeking personal loyalty from top US officials involved in investigating him and his presidential campaign. During a White House meeting in December, CNN reports, Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for information about the special counsel’s investigation, and whether Rosenstein was “on my team.” Trump also reportedly gave GOP lawmakers questions they should ask Rosenstein during his congressional testimony. (Jan. 31)

Day 376: During his first official State of the Union address, Trump signals he will continue to target the Mueller investigation: He tells a GOP lawmaker that he plans to release the Nunes memo “100 percent”—following a speech in which he calls on Congress to give his White House the authority to summarily fire any federal employee deemed to “undermine the public trust, or fail the American people.”

– Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan explicitly backs the Trump White House campaign to release the Nunes memo, telling the hosts of “Fox & Friends” that there is a need to “cleanse” the FBI.

– In a textbook example of “whataboutism” concerning the Russia investigation, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway says that much of the media that was critical of Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign “tried to interfere in the election.” (Jan. 30)

Day 375: Bloomberg reports that on his recent flight to Davos, Trump erupted in anger over news that a top Justice Department official pushed back hard against releasing the Nunes memo, and that Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly had recently been leaning on top DOJ officials and “lecturing them about White House expectations.”

– The Trump administration declines to enforce congressionally mandated sanctions against Russia, stating that the law itself is a deterrent and therefore does not need to be enforced. (Jan. 29)

Week 53: Lying about attempting to fire Mueller; participating in a smear campaign against the Mueller investigation; politically pressuring the acting FBI director in the Oval Office; attacking “Fake News CNN” again despite a mass murder threat; targeting Hispanic voter data; using US troops as a political prop (Jan. 20 – 26)

Day 372: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trump denies a bombshell report from the New York Times that he moved to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in June 2017 and only backed down when White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit. “Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical New York Times,” Trump says of the Mueller story, which is also confirmed by reporting from the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Fox News, and other outlets. (Fox News backs away from its own reporting after Trump calls the story “fake.”) In other remarks from him at Davos, Trump gets booed for emphasizing “how fake the press can be.” (Jan. 26)

– Trump returns to taunting “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer” about negotiations over immigration policy.

Day 370: Talking to reporters at the White House just ahead of departing for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trump again points up a conspiracy theory about “missing texts” from FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who Trump and some Republican lawmakers allege were lined up against Trump and for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. Trump also half-heartedly denies, as reported by the Washington Post, that he asked acting FBI director Andrew McCabe how he voted in 2016 during an Oval Office meeting with McCabe shortly after Trump fired James Comey. “I don’t think so,” Trump says of asking about McCabe’s vote—and then goes on to suggest that it wouldn’t matter if he had asked the FBI leader: “I don’t know what’s the big deal with that, because I would ask you who you voted for, who did you vote for? I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I don’t remember that, I saw that this morning, I don’t remember asking him that question.” (Jan. 24)

Day 369: As Fox News and Trump partisans in Congress push a story about “missing texts” that is aimed at discrediting Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, Trump personally joins in on the effort: He calls out two senior FBI officials—one of whom he recently accused of “treason”—and refers to the issue as “one of the biggest stories in a long time.”

Later in the day, Trump goes after “FBI lovers” Peter Strzok and Lisa Page again on Twitter. With questions swirling anew about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ role in the Trump-Russia investigation, Sen. Mark Warner warns that there could be long-term damage to American democracy from the sustained attacks against the FBI and DOJ spearheaded by Trump allies in the House.

– Less than 24 hours after news breaks that a Michigan man cited “fake news” as he made racist and antisemitic comments and threatened to commit mass murder at CNN headquarters, Trump freshly taunts “Fake News CNN.” Trump also adds correspondent Jim Acosta to the long list of individuals he goes after with bullying nicknames, dubbing him “Crazy Jim Acosta.”

– The Washington Post reports that shortly after firing FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, Trump summoned acting FBI director Andrew McCabe to the Oval Office for a conversation and, despite the ongoing political firestorm, asked him who he voted for in the 2016 presidential election. (McCabe told Trump he didn’t vote in November 2016.) The Post further reports that Trump “also vented his anger at McCabe over the several hundred thousand dollars in donations that his wife, a Democrat, received for her failed 2015 Virginia state Senate bid from a political action committee controlled by a close friend of Hillary Clinton.” An unnamed White House official quoted in the story says that Trump “frequently complained” about McCabe, “labeling him a Democrat.” (Jan. 23)

Day 368: The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration’s recently dissolved voter fraud commission specifically targeted Hispanics with its request for data from Texas, home to the nation’s second largest Hispanic population. (Jan. 22)

Day 367: On the second day of a US government shutdown, Vice President Mike Pence uses the US military as a political prop to blame Democrats in Congress for the impasse. “The president, the vice president, and the American people are NOT GOING TO PUT UP WITH IT,” Pence says, speaking to American troops stationed in the Middle East. (Jan. 21) 

NEXT: WEEKS 27 – 52 —>

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