We should have known it was coming. After a quiet Labor Day weekend, the news floodgates opened on Tuesday and the torrent hasn’t stopped.
First came bombshell teasers for Bob Woodward’s new expose of the Trump White House, followed by fireworks from Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearings. Then a “senior White House official” broke the Internet with an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, describing a quiet coups by the “steady-state” that’s thwarting Trump’s amoral and impulsive presidency.
Apart from these headline-grabbers, there was more — and worse stories — that slipped beneath the radar.
What follows is a roundup the nine WTF revelations in one of the WTFiest news weeks of 2018.
1) Trump called Jeff Sessions “retarded”
In excerpts from Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, the president reportedly told White House deputies that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner” who “couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.” Woodward also reports Trump called Sessions an “idiot” to his face.
Trump quickly denied the claim and bashed Woodward’s book:
The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb southerner.” I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
But the Daily Beast found “two people with direct knowledge of Trump’s comments” who confirmed that Trump, who has used the pejorative openly in the past, indeed called Sessions a “retard.”
2) Defense Secretary James Mattis stopped Trump from assassinating Syria’s dictator
James “Mad Dog” Mattis foiled Trump’s orders to assassinate the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in the spring of 2017, according to Woodward. Mattis is also said to have likened the president’s intellect and demeanor to a “fifth or sixth grader.” Mattis has denied Woodward’s account as “fiction.” In a statement, Woodward said: “I stand by my reporting.”
3) John Kelly said of Trump’s White House: “We’re in Crazytown”
Calling his Chief of Staff position the “worst job I’ve ever had,” Woodward reports that John Kelly said of the president, “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here.” Kelly has said the Woodward account “total B.S.”
4) The Trump White House seeks indefinite migrant-child detention
With more than 400 migrant children still separated from their parents in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s abusive “zero tolerance” border enforcement, the White House this week unveiled a proposed rule that would allow for indefinite detention of migrant children, jailed with their parents. Since 1997, the government has been banned from holding minors for longer than 20 days in immigrant detention. MSNBC’s anchor Chris Hayes’ reaction was appropriately provocative:
Gitmo for childrenhttps://t.co/wwYr7UttJQ
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 6, 2018
5) Brett Kavanaugh refused to shake the hand of a Parkland parent
During a break on the first day of his Supreme Court hearings, Kavanaugh was approached by Fred Guttenberg, who lost a daughter in the Parkland school massacre. Guttenberg attempted to shake the nominee’s hand. Kavanaugh buttoned his blazer and spun away. “I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence,” Guttenberg tweeted. (The NRA announced plans to spend upwards of $1 million in support of Kavanaugh’s nomination.)
6) A “Senior White House Official” penned a New York Times op-ed describing a quasi-coup
Writing anonymously in the New York Times, a senior official asserted that a cabal within the Trump White House is working to undermine the president to protect America’s democracy. The official reveals that Trump’s inner circle has spoken of removing him from office: “Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president,” the official wrote. “But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.”
In response, Trump has shown all of the character flaws the author alleges. He’s repetitively harped on the “failing” New York Times, suggesting alternately that the senior official a) does not exist and b) may be guilty of “TREASON?” demanding that “the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”
In a #BeBest moment, Sarah Huckabee Sanders released the New York Times’ switchboard number, inviting angry Americans to demand the identity of the official, while more than a dozen top Trump deputies, including Vice President Mike Pence, publicly denied they authored the op-ed.
7) Marco Rubio threatened Alex Jones
A Senate hearing with executives from Twitter and Facebook inspired InfoWars honcho and noted conspiracist Alex Jones to visit Washington, where he sparred with Senator Marco Rubio. During a hallway press gaggle, Jones heckled Rubio, leading Rubio to call him a “dumbass.” After Jones patted Rubio on the shoulder, the Florida Republican warned him: “Don’t Touch me, I’m asking you not to touch me.” Jones shot back: “I don’t want to get arrested.” Rubio then menaced: “You’re not going to get arrested man, I’ll take care of you myself.” Jones completed the encounter calling Rubio “a little gangster thug.” One day later, Jones was banned from Twitter after video of a similar confrontation with a CNN reporter surfaced.
8) Cory Booker published Kavanaugh docs; risking expulsion from the Senate.
In an act of “civil disobedience,” New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker released emails from Brett Kavanaugh that had been designated “confidential” to the judiciary committee. When Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, rebuked Booker and read a Senate rule that appeared to threaten Booker with “expulsion” from the Senate, Booker replied, “Bring it!” Several other Democratic members of the committee stood with Booker, including by releasing other “committee confidential” records.
9) Kavanaugh called birth control “abortion-inducing drugs”
Describing his dissent in a case where an employer wanted no part in provisioning birth control to employees, Kavanaugh referred to common forms of contraception — which by definition prevent pregnancy, and do not terminate it — as “abortion inducing drugs.” Watch:
Kavanaugh seems to refer to birth control as "abortion-inducing drugs" pic.twitter.com/JILxzYiN6b
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 6, 2018