You might have thought this was the start of a bright new chapter in Acosta's career. Instead it was the President disposing of his labor secretary, four days after explosive new sex trafficking charges against financier Jeffrey Epstein cast a harsh light on the plea deal Acosta helped broker in 2008 when he was US Attorney in Florida.
"Acosta let him go with a plea to two minor state-level charges (for which he was sentenced to 13 months behind bars but served most of it on work release). The deal also inexplicably immunized Epstein's co-conspirators...Worse, as a federal judge ruled recently, Acosta violated the rights of Epstein's victims by entering into the sweetheart plea deal without notifying them first, as the law requires."
Former associates of Epstein spent much of the week distancing themselves as far as they could from him. "For decades," wrote Michael D'Antonio
, "Epstein cultivated an East Coast axis of elites,
assembling an impressive roster of associations" that included Trump and President Bill Clinton, who issued a statement saying he had no ties to Epstein other than traveling on his jet in 2002 and 2003 and knew nothing of his crimes.
Trump said Friday he didn't think well of Epstein and had kicked him out of Mar-a-Lago years ago. In 2002, though, Trump was quoted by New York Magazine, calling Epstein a "terrific guy."
On Tuesday, Jill Filipovic
wrote, "At the same time Epstein's arrest was dominating headlines, the President invited Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, to a Treasury Department dinner, and sat him in a seat of honor, at the President's own table. Kraft was recently charged with soliciting a woman in connection with prostitution while visiting a Florida massage parlor. Kraft has pleaded not guilty. Kraft's case is mild compared with what other Trump cronies have done. But with that dinner invitation on that particular night, Trump signaled loud and clear he doesn't mind being around an accused sex criminal
Surrender on citizenship question
For nearly a week, Trump and his administration hinted that he might order a citizenship question to be added to the US Census, in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling that the government couldn't do so without providing a valid reason. And yet, when he came to the Rose Garden Thursday afternoon, he signaled defeat, instead endorsing a longstanding Census Bureau plan to get citizenship data through other means.
The zigzag followed days of confusing and conflicting signals; at one point the Justice Department even requested (but failed to obtain) permission from judges to replace its team of lawyers.
"US Attorney General William Barr insisted that 'the President is right on the legal grounds' and 'the Supreme Court decision was wrong,'" wrote David Gans
. "But two weeks after the court's ruling, neither Barr nor anyone else has come up with a valid reason for adding the citizenship question to the 2020 Census...Quite plainly, no such reason exists
On the same afternoon as the Census announcement, Trump held a "social media summit" with conservative and right-wing extremists arguing that major platforms weren't giving them enough props. To SE Cupp, it brought to mind Festivus, the farcical "airing of grievances" holiday made famous in Seinfeld.
"This, of course, is not a social media summit -- and here's how you know: none of the major social media platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook, are invited to attend...This is not something to fear, folks — it's something to pity
," Cupp wrote.
It was almost if the sequence of events was designed to prove that Britain's Ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, was right when he secretly cabled his government that the Trump administration was "inept," "clumsy" and "uniquely dysfunctional."
Of course, Darroch's cables stopped being confidential a week ago, when the Daily Mail published a story on them. And by the end of the week, Darroch was out of a job.
In her weekly CNN column, Samantha Vinograd
urged Trump not to "kill the messenger" in his fury over Darroch's cables. "Trump can dish out a lot of public diatribes, but he can't take criticism
"Darroch was just doing his job and sharing analysis with his government to help craft approaches to Trump. While Trump probably won't be able to let this one go and will denigrate Darroch, he's the one who has done damage to our special relationship, not these cables." Indeed, Trump couldn't let it go. He tweeted that Darroch was a "very stupid guy." (In happier times, at the start of Trump's term, Darroch wrote an op-ed for CNN on the UK's loan of a bust of Winston Churchill
to Trump for the Oval Office.)
Special relationship? That's the term Churchill coined for the alliance between the US and his country in his iconic 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech in Missouri. Let's face it, wrote Peter Bergen
, It doesn't make sense anymore. "That special relationship is now defunct -- politically, militarily and economically
, even if it still lives on at a vestigial, cultural level." The UK's military has shrunk to less than the size of the US Marine Corps. Its economy is clouded by its looming divorce from the European Union, Bergen noted. And while President Trump has expressed warm feelings toward the UK's likely next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, "that can change on a dime."
Last week Johnson did his best to accommodate Trump, whom he may see as a kindred spirit. When the ambassador's job was hanging by a thread, and even though the UK government was standing behind him, Johnson refused to say he would keep Darroch in office in the face of Trump's outrage. Darroch immediately quit.
"What worries British moderates -- including many in the Conservative Party," wrote Kate Maltby
, "is that Johnson reminds them all too much of another bombastic leader who whipped up the worst sentiments of a largely white male base in a primary election, but went on to find that much of the rest of the nation was happy to join in at the general election. We could be about to see the release of 'Trump II: This Time He's British.'"
Larger than life
The week began with a series of large earthquakes in California and ended with the arrival of Tropical Storm Barry on the Louisiana coast. For Jeff Yang
, a transplant to California who was camping with his son in Ventura County during the Ridgecrest temblor, this was something new. "My 11-year-old son and I were brushing our teeth when the quake hit.
The bathroom stall doors began flipping back and forth. Water in the sinks sloshed. The floor felt rubbery and unsteady, like a boat rocking in a squall. When we rushed outside, cars were jolting forward and back on their wheels, and the trees were swaying without breeze."
"My son grabbed me tightly around the waist and squeezed his eyes shut. 'Tell me when it's over!' he shrieked. Right as he said that, the shaking stopped." But the learning didn't.
Yang reflected on what would likely happen in the event of a major earthquake in a huge city like Los Angeles. A 2008 US Geological Survey report on the potential impact of a 7.8 magnitude quake predicted, he wrote, "Deaths in the multiple thousands, 50,000 or more injuries requiring emergency care, about $213 billion in economic losses, impassable roads and highways, shattered water lines that might take up to six months to repair and at least 1,600 fire outbreaks..."
There is an alert system that can provide 30 to 60 seconds of warning before a major quake, Yang wrote, but Trump "has zeroed out funding for the USGS's earthquake early warning" in two budget proposals.
In Louisiana, Liz Williams Russell
was viewing Tropical Storm Barry with concern. It was hitting at a time when the Mississippi River was an unusually high level. But it is not just a local story. "Climate change is not a future scenario here.
With every event, Louisiana is learning lessons and carving pathways to address the realities many of our friends around the country may soon face."
What it takes to win
When Michelle Akers was a girl, she dreamed of being "Mean" Joe Greene and playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. "I wore his No. 75 jersey daily and practiced catching Super Bowl-winning touchdown passes in my front yard for hours." But when she told that to her third-grade class, her teacher said, "Michelle, girls cannot play football." Akers wouldn't back down though, and wound up in the principal's office.
Akers' persistence paid off -- she became a star in the World Cup-winning US teams of 1991 and 1999. She wrote this week as the US women's national soccer team got its ticker tape victory parade: "What this 2019 World Champion team demands for themselves -- and put first in their lives -- will be their biggest message of change: Respect. Equal opportunity. Team and family. Individual choice. Excellence. Into a new era.
Pelosi vs. the Squad?
Nancy Pelosi ate omelets with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd
at a restaurant near San Francisco Bay. "The trim speaker, wearing white pants and a purple cardigan to match her purple Manolo heels, stabbed her fork into one of my home fries
," Dowd wrote. That wasn't the most newsworthy part of the column, though.
The House Speaker criticized the four high-profile freshmen Democrats of "the Squad", including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for failing to support the House's border bill: "All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn't have any following," she told Dowd. Pelosi later clarified that she did not mean the four did not have a public following but rather that they were unable to attract support among House Democrats for their stance on the bill.
"What makes Pelosi's remark so stunning," observed Dean Obeidallah
, "is that it flies in the face of her often-repeated philosophy
that she has espoused to House Democrats since taking control of the chamber in the 2018 midterms. 'Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power,' she wrote last November." He also faulted her for opposing the idea of launching an effort to impeach Trump.
But there's less than meets the eye to the Pelosi vs. the Squad narrative, wrote David Graham
in the Atlantic: "The rhetorical sparring does obscure a broader Democratic unity.
The border-funding vote aside, there's barely any daylight between Democrats on matters actually before the House. The Squad has broken with Pelosi on just two votes so far, according to ProPublica's tracker."
Check out these other strong political takes:
Don't underestimate Trump
For all the charges of ineptitude, Trump's support among Republicans is very strong, the economy is producing good numbers and he has "the full weight of the conservative media universe behind him," wrote Julian Zelizer
. In these respects, he looks much more formidable as a candidate for re-election
than Presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, who lost their bids for a second term. The Democrats would be making a mistake to count him out.
argued that Democrats are aligning themselves on the unpopular sides of a host of issues including border enforcement, immigration, free college and tax cuts. "Typically, in political campaigns, you try to take more positions that the public prefers than not," he wrote. "But in this Democratic primary for president the candidates seem to be doing the opposite.
As the next Democratic debates loomed -- on CNN July 30 and 31 -- there was still discussion of the aftermath of last month's face-offs. After the Kamala Harris-Joe Biden moment, busing for the purpose of integrating schools--an issue from the 1970s -- is making a comeback as a topic in the news, John Avlon noted.
"Busing retains its ability to inflame debate. But it's worth noting that it is not anywhere near the top issues Democratic voters want to hear candidates address; those would be healthcare, immigration, the economy and the climate crisis." Still, America has a school segregation problem, even though busing hasn't been a popular remedy. Avlon wrote, "we also need to confront this uncomfortable fact: by some measures we have lost ground in recent decades in the effort to desegregate our public schools
Biden, meanwhile, released years of tax returns, drawing a sharp contrast with a President who won't release his. Tax expert Edward McCaffery
noted that the Bidens' income jumped to a total of nearly $16 million, largely from book royalties and speaking fees, since leaving office, but he argued the most important thing is that they paid taxes at rates similar to those of other working Americans
-- as opposed to billionaires like Trump who can find ways to avoid paying any substantial taxes.
In a news-filled week, there were many compelling perspectives that didn't make the top headlines, but which we recommend, along with one final take below:
And one for the road:
"The sober-curious are not necessarily alcoholics. They may not want to be teetotalers. But they want relief from the pressure to drink to excess.
" So wrote Holly Thomas
, who's based in London, and offered a window into what may be an increasingly popular movement among young people everywhere.
"Like so many activities we undertake automatically - scrolling Instagram for hours, or mainlining syrupy lattes, it's only in its absence that we realize the toll it takes," Thomas wrote. "A realignment of priorities not only makes sense in terms of benefiting other areas of life. For some, it might also restore the potential for a more discerning alcohol intake that promises pleasure rather than pain."