“That was some, that was some crowd,” President Trump reminisced, according to cell phone video from the hospital in El Paso the president visited on Wednesday. “And we had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot, they said his crowd was wonderful.” If this musing on crowd size was a peculiar way to comfort the bereaved—the ostensible reason for his trip to Texas and to Dayton, Ohio, both of which had suffered mass murders last weekend—it was not the president’s only lapse from conventional behavior. On the plane from Dayton to El Paso, he tweeted disparaging remarks about two Ohio politicians he had met with, who he did think were sufficiently thrilled about his arrival, calling one of them “failed Presidential Candidate (0%) Sherrod Brown…”
Twitter Trump was in full flower on Wednesday, but Teleprompter Trump—as the Washington Post has dubbed the two—turned up earlier in the week. On Monday, reading from a script with all the enthusiasm of a captive in a hostage video, the president decried “destructive partisanship,” offered the bizarre conjecture that “mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun” and implored the nation to “stop the glorification of violence in our society,” which he laid at the feet of “gruesome and grisly video games.” (In response, Walmart, the site of the El Paso shootings, announced that it will be removing displays of some video games, but has no plans to stop selling guns.) By yesterday afternoon, Twitter Trump was back, retweeting unfounded conspiracy theories on the death of his old pal Jeffrey Epstein, including, “BREAKING: Documents were unsealed yesterday revealing that top Democrats, including Bill Clinton, took private trips to Jeffrey Epstein’s pedophilia island’.”
A third Trump showed up Friday morning—live-and-in-person Trump, happy to provide impromptu answers to reporters’ questions on the White House lawn. (These shouting-over-the-helicopter sessions have replaced traditional press briefings.) Before buzzing off to a couple of campaign benefits in the Hamptons, the president declared that he was in favor of “very meaningful background checks,” and predicted that the NRA, who he described as “really good people, great patriots” who “love our country” were “going to get on board.”
Well maybe. But let us remind you that we have been down this road before. As the New York Times recounted on Friday, in 2013 Trump said he supported background checks for gun purchases to “weed out the sickos.” By 2015 he had changed his mind, telling Ammoland magazine that he opposed expanded checks. After the Parkland massacre last year he flipped again, insisting that stronger checks would be “fully backed” by his administration. But after a late-night confab with the NRA, he threatened to veto a background check bill.
In other news, the week saw a pair of fresh lawsuits: on Tuesday, the president sued the state of California over a proposed law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns if they want to run in the state’s primary elections. On Thursday, former FBI official Andrew McCabe sued the FBI and the Justice Department, alleging that his dismissal was retaliatory and politically motivated, part of the president’s “unconstitutional plan” to discredit employees who were “deemed to be his partisan opponents.”
And guess who is going on vacation? Though Fox News insists that this is a long-planned hiatus, Tucker Carlson said at the close of his show on Wednesday that he is taking a break, as outrage mounted at Carlson’s statement that the whole notion of white supremacy is “hoax.” By Friday, seven Democratic candidates for the White House, including Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker begged to disagree with the Fox host, declaring with varying degrees of vehemence that they consider the president a white supremacist.
Lastly, in what officials are calling the largest single-state workplace enforcement action in U.S. history, ICE agents swept through seven Mississippi food plants on Wednesday, arresting approximately 680 people that the agency alleged were undocumented. It was the first day of school in Mississippi, and the surprise raids left many children alone, petrified, and without parents at the end of the school day. “Our brothers and sisters, our fellow citizens—6 years old, 5 years old, 7 years old, 11 years old—they left to go to school yesterday, excited about education, and terror hit them while they were gone,” said the Rev. James Evans, a co-founder of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance.
Asked about this human tragedy, an ICE official replied, “We are a law enforcement agency, not a social services agency.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue