We may never know what Donald Trump's actual beliefs are, if any exist. What's been made clear though with the pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio—a man who, among other things, established a brutal outdoor prison that he himself referred to as a "concentration camp,"—is that the president is doubling down on his full-on political embrace of racism, if only out of pure stubbornness and contempt for those who would challenge him. Meanwhile, people need real help down in Texas, and the Mueller investigation just keeps getting more to investigate. This week's Trump administration panic power rankings begin with the fourth estate.
1. Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman (Last Week: NA)
The Washington Post team on the Trump-Russia beat broke news Sunday night that, contrary to everything the president and his campaign suggested about having little-to-no business ties to Russia, the Trump organization was in fact attempting to negotiate a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow until well into the campaign. Very red meat for investigators.
2. Felix Sater (NA)
Following up on the Post’s story, the New York Times dug up some email correspondence from Sater, a Trump business associate, in which he brags of the potential Trump Tower Moscow deal, “our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.” #emails.
3. Robert Mueller (2)
It’s now no longer a matter of whether Mueller will refer Trump for indictment, but just exactly how many indictments. Sunday’s Post bombshell should keep the special investigator’s office busy for awhile, and last night brought word that Mueller’s team is looking into Trump’s alleged dictation of a false statement on behalf of his son Don Jr. regarding a meeting between his campaign and Russian representatives. He’s also still got Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort in pocket, with Jared Kushner and Don Jr. soon to come. It’ll be at least a year before this investigation is wrapped up, and the fact that it’s already reached this level of the hierarchy doesn’t bode well for anyone who is/was in the Trump camp.
4. Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey (NA)
This should be a cause for panic because it’s an unprecedented natural disaster that’s already claimed several lives and will have taken a catastrophic toll on Texas when it’s all over. But mostly the president seems to be concerned with optics. This would be cause for panic even for a competent president, because there's really only so much that can be done to mitigate the damage. For the current president however, the best course of action is to let the adults take care of things while he keeps sulking in a corner and selling hats.
5. Donald Trump (6)
The CIC followed up last week’s basically normal speech announcing a new Afghanistan strategy with a sparsely attended psychotic rant in the burning Arizona heat. He saw another close advisor fired under mysterious circumstances and pardoned from justice an absolute madman (read at your leisure) in real-life Yosemite Sam Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Last night he defended (was he defending it?) the timing of his pardon announcement by noting he thought it would get higher TV ratings because of everyone watching the coverage of the hurricane, an event he spent much of tweeting about his precious wall. Simply stunning. Oh, and while Mexico has once again reiterated that they will be paying for zero walls, they are sending aid to Texas.
6. Joe Arpaio (NA)
Somehow this evil caricature of police abuse of power and total disregard for constitutional rights attained folk hero status in Trump's eyes, and now he’s free to be a mouthpiece and public representative of all that is Trumpism seven months into its ascent to power. What could go wrong?
7-9. Paul Manafort (9), Jared Kushner (4), Donald Trump Jr. (5)
All were physically at the meeting Mueller is now digging more deeply into. A meeting made all the more damning given the revelations about Trump Tower Moscow.
Tie-10. Rex Tillerson (NA) and Gary Cohn (NA)
“The President speaks for himself.” Secretary of State Tillerson said this on Fox News on Sunday. “Speaks for himself,” as in, “his values do not represent those of the country he’s in charge of.” Those five words are now being used as the underpinnings of news analysis the world over suggesting that none of the president’s men respect him, nor do they feel the need to pretend publicly. Cohn, the National Economic Council Director, allegedly drafted a resignation letter after bashing Trump’s “both sides” comments following Charlottesville. These two won’t be the last to sidle away.
12. Sebastian Gorka (NA)
Poor Seb. Had to add an extra spot to the rankings just to fit in the most recent administration castoff, who was either fired and banned from the White House, or resigned, depending on who you ask. He’s a close Bannon ally, so he’ll have a pulpit from which to take revenge.