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February 19, 2018

"President Trump began the weekend believing that something good had just happened to him: An indictment leveled against 13 Russians for interfering with the 2016 election had not accused him or anyone around him of wrongdoing," The New York Times reports. But "the president's mood began to darken as it became clearer to him that some commentators were portraying the indictment as nothing for him to celebrate," and Trump then unleashed what The Washington Post calls "a defiant and error-laden tweetstorm that was remarkable even by his own combative standards."

On CNN's New Day, host Dave Briggs asked Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) about this, noting that Trump sent "12 tweets just about this indictment, but none pushing back on Russia, none suggesting how we might punish them or prevent it from happening again in 2018." Dent said "the Russians meddling in our election is well-known," and "I think the president has been very soft on Russia. His rhetoric, he's been very accommodating to Vladimir Putin."

It's time for Trump and his team "to step up and start fighting fire with fire," Dent said. "Maybe we should be sharing with the Russian people the corrupt nature of the Russian regime and how they've all profited. ... I can't, for the life of me, understand why the president is so reluctant to push back much harder on the Russians."

Dent also said he thinks after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, people "have had enough of this," and between stricter background checks and no guns for people on the no-fly list, "there are things we can do and should do."

Dent is retiring after this term. Peter Weber

9:13 a.m. ET

Koko, the western lowland gorilla who was taught sign language by Dr. Francine Patterson in the early 1970s, died this week in her sleep at the age of 46, the Gorilla Foundation said Thursday.

Koko famously appeared on the 1978 cover of National Geographic in a photo she took of herself in a mirror. Koko "revealed the depth and strength of a gorilla's emotional life," NPR writes, mourning her adopted kitten, Ball, when it was hit by a car in 1984. "Cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love," Koko had signed to Patterson in response to the question "What happened to Ball?" She reportedly knew some 1,000 signs, and 2,000 words of spoken English, the New York Post reports.

The Gorilla Foundation wrote that Koko's "impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world." Learn more about Koko in the documentary below. Jeva Lange

8:48 a.m. ET
Amos Ben Gershom/Getty Images

The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu, has been charged with fraud and breach of public trust as part of a food-ordering scandal, The Jerusalem Post reports. The charges stem from a scheme that ran between September 2010 and March 2013, in which Sara Netanyahu and then-Prime Minister's Office Deputy Director-General Ezra Seidoff allegedly lied about employing a cook in order to "circumvent and exploit regulations that stated, 'in a case where a cook is not employed in the [prime minister's] official residence, it is permitted to order prepared food as needed,'" the Post writes. Netanyahu is accused of having ordered more than $100,000 worth of meals while falsely claiming cooks were not on the staff.

There is some historical weight to the charges against Sara Netanyahu; former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin resigned in 1977 when his wife, Leah, was discovered to hold a U.S. dollar bank account, which at the time was illegal.

Benjamin Netanyahu is also under investigation into allegations of corruption. He is expected to face an indictment by early 2019, The Jerusalem Post reports. Jeva Lange

8:17 a.m. ET

President Trump got his Time cover, but it probably isn't what he was hoping for.

Trump loves being on the cover of Time so much that he has a fake cover of himself hanging in at least four of his golf courses. The magazine's latest cover, though, is a striking condemnation of his recently revoked policy of separating children from their parents: "Welcome to America" is the only text on the cover other than Time itself.

Take a look at the powerful cover below, and see how New York City's tabloids tackled the same topic here. Jeva Lange

8:00 a.m. ET

President Trump's supporters have a new chant, and it goes something like SPACE FORCE! SPACE FORCE! While certainly a marked improvement over "lock her up," even the Air Force and Defense secretaries have opposed the creation of the sixth branch of the armed forces, pointing out that space-related military missions already have a home under the Air Force's umbrella.

Still, it does have a pretty cool ring, which Trump himself tested out by repeating "Space Force" thoughtfully back to the crowd. Watch the Space Force enthusiasm below. Jeva Lange

7:54 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, President Trump did something no politician likes to do: He at least tacitly admitted he was wrong and made a dramatic retreat. Just about everyone outside the White House urged him to stop separating families detained at the border under his "zero tolerance" policy — Republicans, Democrats, the pope, every living first lady (including the one currently living in the White House), pollsters — but none of that convinced him to cave and sign his executive order, reports Mike Allen at Axios. "TV was the tipping point."

"The president watches more cable news than most Americans," a "person who knows Trump's mind" told Axios. "So he experienced an overdose of the outrage and the media frenzy. None of the White House messaging seemed to be helping. So he decided, mostly on his own rather than at the urging of advisers, that some action was required to change the narrative." A source close to Trump added: "This was the biggest communications fail I've seen out of this White House, and that's really saying something. The president, senior staffers, Cabinet members, and outside surrogates all trumpeted different talking points."

In fact, according to The Washington Post's count, the Trump administration changed its story on family separation at least 14 times.

Clearly, Trump "acted because of political necessity, not a change of heart," writes Los Angeles Times political columnist George Skelton. "The heart-rending sound of children crying for their mothers and the disturbing sight of little kids confined in wire cages are more powerful than any president." All the talking points in the world couldn't put out that "wildfire of public revulsion," he said. So "Trump finally did the right thing and stopped tormenting little kids. At least for now. We don't know what he'll do next, but hopefully there'll be sound and video." Peter Weber

7:26 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House is voting Thursday on a pair of immigration bills, neither of which is assured to garner enough support to pass. The bill with the best shot, known as the compromise bill, will need the support of House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), although he told reporters after a visible disagreement with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday that it "is not ready for prime time," Politico reports.

A procedural vote early Thursday morning is planned to amend a drafting error in the bill, which accidentally allocated President Trump's wall $125 billion rather than $25 billion. The later votes on the bills will be a test for Trump, who spent Tuesday and Wednesday meeting with Republicans on the Hill in hopes of flipping them to support the White House-backed legislation. Jeva Lange

6:50 a.m. ET

The number of Democrats who rank immigration as the most important issue facing the country jumped 10 percentage points in the last week, to 18 percent, while independents are also more engaged, with 11 percent picking it as the nation's most pressing issue, according to an Axios/SurveyMonkey poll released Thursday. Republican interest in immigration hasn't really changed much since early May, when, as now, 21 percent listed it as their most important issue.

What seems to have changed is that Americans were "bombarded by the images and sounds of families being separated after trying to cross the border illegally" — a Trump policy that Axios' Mike Allen calls "the biggest blunder of the Trump presidency." The "big question" going forward, Axios says, is "whether Democrats will stay as interested as Republicans, who have consistently ranked immigration as a much higher priority than it is for Democrats and independents." The poll was conducted online June 15-19 among 3,936 adults, and the modeled error estimate is ±2.5 percentage points. Peter Weber

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