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The Week in Trump: A look back at the last week in Washington and beyond

A new season of “House of Cards” is out, and it’s looking increasingly like President Underwood can’t top Donald Trump. In today’s Trump update, I talk a bit about Jared Kushner’s increasing involvement in the Russia probe, Trump’s disastrous trip to Europe, and Elon Musk’s dilemma.

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Jared Kushner’s increasing involvement in the Russia scandal

Late last week the news broke that Trump son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner reportedly asked the Russian ambassador, in a secret meeting in Trump Tower NYC in December, to set up a covert line of communications between Team Trump and the Kremlin. According to US intelligence intercepts, the discussion proposed using Russian diplomatic facilities in the US as safe houses where Trump advisers could communicate with Moscow, without fearing that US intelligence would be listening in.

It’s a remarkable claim. Since I’d reported on this last week, Donald Trump retweeted a Fox News story, putatively defending Kushner, but in fact confirming that he did discuss the matter with the Russians at the meeting. The Fox story claims that it was the Russian ambassador who brought the idea up. Whether that’s true or not — this is Fox, after all — by retweeting the story, Trump confirms that the report is true in so far as the notion of a covert communications channel to thwart the CIA was discussed. Also interesting, the pro-Kushner Fox story says nothing about Kushner’s response to the proposal. If Kushner was aghast at the suggestion, you’d think Fox would say that. They didn’t.

Also odd, on Twitter this morning, Trump defended former campaign foreign policy aide Carter Page. If you’ve seen Page during one of his ubiquitous (and just plain weird) TV interviews, you know the guy is a few kopeks short of a ruble. For Trump to defend Page is politically dumb. Then again, Trump continues to defend former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is also being investigated. So we know Trump’s political savvy isn’t all that.

Trump’s big Saudi, Israeli and European adventure

Saudi Arabia

So, you may have heard that Donald Trump went to Saudi Arabia, Israel and then Brussels and Sicily. You also may have heard that the trip was a huge disaster, and it was. It started with Trump going to Saudi Arabia, where, after having spent the entire 2016 campaign criticizing Hillary for her ties to the Saudi Kingdom, Trump curtsied to the Saudi King. It went downhill from there.

Another big criticism Trump had of Hillary: The Saudis gave millions to the Clinton Foundation, which the CF then used to help save people with AIDS and Malaria in developing countries. Still, Trump was furious — this was corruption, he claimed. So what does Trump do? When he’s in Saudi Arabia, the Saudis give his daughter Ivanka $ 100 million for her foundation. And that’s perfectly okay.

Israel

Next up, Trump heads to Israel, where his wife Melania slaps his hand when he tries to grab it while walking from Air Force One, then Trump gives a public talk about his trip and mentions that he just got back from the Middle East, not realizing that Israel is still in the Middle East. To make matters worse, Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross bragged to CNBC about how great it was that no one was protesting against Trump in Saudi Arabia. The host had to inform Ross that protesting in Saudi Arabia was subject to ten years imprisonment.

Europe

Then Trump gets to Europe, where he proceeds to alienate every ally we have. The flavor of the trip was captured beautifully in this video of Trump shoving another European head of state aside in order to position himself better in the group photo. Not to be outdone, new French President Emanuel Macron — Trump openly sided with his campaign rival, far-right extremist Marine Le Pen — faked out Trump by pretending to go for a handshake with him, then hugging German Chancellor Angela Merkel instead. The video is brutal. In another video, you see Trump and Macron shaking hands, and Macron effectively fighting back against Trump’s “shake and yank” handshake style — Trump notoriously yanks the arm of anyone he’s shaking hands with, in order to throw them off their balance and dominate them. Macron was having none of it. Later, Macron told the press that he knew what Trump was doing, and he wasn’t going to accept it, so he didn’t.

Then there was that moment when the White House dissed the First Gentleman of Luxembourg. He and his husband, the PM, are gay.

The evidence of just how disastrously Trump did in Europe? Angela Merkel’s speech once she got back home, in which she said Europe is now on its own, and can no longer count on America and Great Britain. The Soviets and the Russians have been trying for nearly 70 years to break America away from Europe. Donald Trump accomplished it in only four months.

Elon Musk & Donald Trump on Climate Change

A number of us asked a few months back why self-professed do-good corporate execs like Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had signed up for Donald Trump’s “manufacturing council.” We felt that it simply gave Trump cover for abominable policies like the Muslim ban and gutting climate change accords.

Initially, Elon Musk had publicly defended the Muslim ban. But after the public outcry, he fortunately changed his tune. And on climate change, and the Paris Accords in particular, Musk said he personally raised the issue with Trump earlier this year, and he was “cautiously optimistic of a positive decision.” Now that it looks like Trump will be pulling out of the Paris Accords, Musk must quit Trump’s business council. If serving on the council serves no good, then why be there. Here’s more in my story today.

That’s it for the news today. Hope you’re enjoying the spring.

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