How’s everyone doing? OK? Getting by? All feelings are valid—especially after this week, which was tumultuous, even by the value-adjusted standards of 2018. Even ignoring all the news below—which is a lot, trust us—there’s also Megyn Kelly’s departure from NBC, Saudi Arabia admitting that it intended to kill journalist Jamil Khashoggi after previously denying it, and the murder of two men in Kentucky. That’s all real, important stuff! (Well, OK, maybe not Megyn Kelly’s career prospects, but at least it’s more meaningful than caring about Kendall Jenner’s hair, which was also a topic of much discussion last week.) With all of this in the offing, it’s no surprise that we all reached the point of nervous exhaustion just trying to make it to the weekend. I mean, that’s not just us, right? Right?
What Happened: Last week, several potentially dangerous packages were intercepted on their way to a number of public figures.
What Really Happened: For some time now, George Soros—business magnate, philanthropist, and, famously, The Man Who Broke the Bank of England—has been a target of many accusations, from paying protestors to funding illegal immigrants. But last week, he became the target of something more serious.
The explosive device was discovered in the mailbox of a property co-owned by Soros. If there was any doubt that this was a politically motivated attack, it was wiped away when, two days later, this happened.
But that, worryingly, was just the beginning.
The news was dominated all Wednesday by the story, understandably, with each new development breathlessly covered as everyone expected something new and probably terrible to happen. The CNN package was, it turned out, mis-directed.
It also wasn’t the only mis-directed suspicious package.
Let’s just say that precision wasn’t necessarily the key for whoever was behind the mailings (Notably, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s name was also misspelled as were multiple addresses, according to reports.) What was going on was clearly a big deal, but was it terrorism? Not necessarily, if authorities were to be believed.
That’s right; multiple explosive devices sent to politicians and former public officials may not be terrorism because … Actually, we have no idea. Because it’s targeting Democrats? Who can even tell. Suffice to say, people weren’t exactly convinced by this argument, fittingly:
After offering just a retweet of a comment from Vice President Mike Pence and a vague statement from his press secretary, President Trump finally broke his silence about the events a number of hours later, at a pre-arranged event.
It’s … a start. Despite some saying that the message was too vague—Trump notably didn’t mention CNN by name—he repeated the positioning at a rally in Wisconsin later that day—
—but couldn’t help but return to his old habits during the same rally.
Well, who really thought that the president would fail to go after his favorite enemies just because someone was, you know, actually trying to kill them. The next day, Trump continued this line of thought on Twitter.
While he was attacking the media one day after CNN was sent a pipe bomb, dangerous packages continued to appear elsewhere.
A day later, bombs addressed to Cory Booker and former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper were discovered. For anyone paying attention, that’s nearly a dozen in the last week alone, as the FBI has officially confirmed. Despite this, the president continued to sew the seeds of disbelief about whether or not the threat is real—note the quote marks around “bomb” below.
Friday morning, authorities arrested Cesar Sayoc, a Florida man, in connection with the packages. Sayoc was charged with five federal crimes, including threatening former presidents. As of this writing, the investigation is still on-going.
The Takeaway: Let’s let legendary newsman Dan Rather put this into perspective, shall we?
In Which the Administration Refuses to Recognize the Civil Rights of Its Citizens
What Happened: While the nation was focused on the dangerous packages, the Trump Administration significantly upped its attacks on the trans community in a number of ways.
What Really Happened: In case anyone still thought that Sundays were relatively relaxed even in the whirlwind of 2018, last weekend proved that wasn’t the case anymore when the New York Times broke a very important story.
Revoking the rights of trans, gender nonconforming, non-binary, and intersex people is appalling and horrific, but shouldn’t be that surprising considering Trump tried to ban trans troops earlier this year. Beyond the initial shock of the report, social media was quickly flooded with messages in support of the trans and non-binary communities.
If the administration saw the negative feedback for the first Times story, it apparently had little impact, given what was to come later in the week.
Yes, not only is the Justice Department now OK with discrimination, but the US is also attacking use of gender in UN documentation. This is, unmistakably, a war on trans rights, which is to say, human rights.
The Takeaway: Despite what’s happening, there are many standing against it—including a pro bono legal defense team willing to fight the discrimination.
What Happened: Everyone knows that the president fudges the truth a lot, but this week he’s been lying a lot even for him.
What Really Happened: It’s fair to say that, at this point, we’ve all become aware of the fact that President Trump isn’t always truthful. After all, it’s been something that’s been happening for a while now; it’d be strange if people didn’t feel like it was something a little less shocking than it used to be, surely. But Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein shouldn’t be the only one talking about it. Let’s take a look at a recent example of one of the president’s untruths.
Even in the face of basic facts, the president was unrepentant.
But non-existent Californian riots weren’t the only outright fiction the president was peddling this week. Far from it, in fact; there was also a caravan of potential illegal immigrants moving towards the US, something that is half-true—there is a caravan of migrants moving north through South America, but they’re unlikely to make it en masse to the US border and they’re not “Middle Easterners,” as he claimed. When faced with those facts, he impressively declared, “There’s no proof of anything,” which is at once an admission on his part and an existential proposition about the failures of our own perception. Some have noted that Trump’s untruths have been getting … well, quite extreme, even by his own standards lately.
So why is he lying so brazenly, and so often? It’s very simple:
The obvious response to all of this is, “Just tell the truth and point out the lies.” But … has that really been a particularly successful attitude so far?
“There’s no proof of anything,” remember…
The Takeaway: Let a former National Security Council spokesperson for Barack Obama focus attention for you on this one.
In Which President Trump Admits What He Is (Maybe, Almost)
What Happened: At a rally for Ted Cruz, President Trump used his outside voice instead of his inside voice and told the crowd that, sure, he’s a nationalist. What could be wrong with that?
What Really Happened: Ever since—well, for a long time, considering both the birther thing and his comments on the Central Park Five, not to mention the past half-century, more or less—there have been rumors and clues and suspicions that President Trump is racist. Why else would he defend white nationalists at Charlottesville? But for many, they needed more proof. Like, for example, maybe this?
Well, there it is. By his own admission, the president is a nationalist, a term that is commonly paired with the word “white” and used as a polite way of saying “racist.” It was a potentially alarming admission, but there was one obvious question left unanswered by his announcement…
But this wasn’t the very first time Trump had used the term to describe himself.
Some tried to walk the comment back the next day—
—while others obfuscated what “nationalist” meant.
But maybe we should listen to the experts on this one.
What’s that saying about, if someone tells you who they are, believe them?
The Takeaway: For all those who believe that President Trump was either mistaken in his choice of language or speaking in such a code that it doesn’t really matter anyway, here’s what the author of a book about white supremacists had to say in response.
But Her Emails…
What Happened: For those who voted for Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton because they were concerned that her private email server was a security risk, this week brought a story that put everything in context.
What Really Happened: Perhaps you remember the whole thing during the 2016 election where Hillary Clinton was basically judged to be an untrustworthy candidate because she had a private email server—a server that then-candidate Trump claimed had been hacked by China (the FBI disagreed, by the way). It was, the argument went, proof that Hillary would be a bad choice because she’d represent a threat to national security. Hey! Guess what?
Oh. That’s not good. Indeed, the New York Times story is not good at all for anyone who actually worries about foreign powers eavesdropping on the conversations of the most powerful man in the world.
The story was, at least, oddly informative.
And there was also an … upside?
As the story gained traction through other outlets, it was only a matter of time before Russia and China, the two countries named as listening in on the president’s calls, weighed in publicly. Let’s just say that neither offered a denial that seemed entirely serious.
OK, there’s a little bit more to the Chinese response, but not too much more—and definitely nothing that felt as if it was a particularly important or serious matter.
As would only be expected at this point, the president took to Twitter to, uh, “correct” the story the following morning.
You can tell that he means it; look at the number of Os in “soooo.” But, there was one small problem with his tweet…
Oops. Or maybe that should be “Oooops”…?
The Takeaway: Let’s try to find the light at the end of this particularly upsetting tunnel, shall we?