It would be safe to say Donald Trumphasn’t had the best year. From his longtime adviser flipping on him, to inside revelations about the level of his ineptitude, to being named in court filings as having allegedly directed illegal campaign payments, the president has faced a barrage of scandals.
Trump also lost the House of Representatives, held a number of bizarre press conferences and demonstrated his lack of familiarity with umbrellas. The president did, however, score one recent success, when his neologism “smocking” proved popular.
Let’s take a look at Trump’s worst weeks of 2018.
Monday 12 – Friday 16 February 2018
What they were saying:“President Donald Trump hasn’t had a lot of good weeks since becoming president last January. But this one looks like one of the worst.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for their role in interfering in the 2016 election. Then it emerged that Rick Gates, a senior adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, was close to a plea deal with Mueller. Michael Cohen – who will be featuring heavily in this compilation – admitted paying porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump. That was on the day before Valentine’s Day.
The weekus horribilis didn’t stop there. The New Yorker reported on an alleged affair between former Playboy model Karen McDougal and Trump, and introduced the term “catch and kill” to the public lexicon. McDougal said the National Enquirer – run by Trump’s friend David Pecker – had paid her $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story, then buried it.
And: the Trump administration was criticised for not acting quickly enough in ousting the White House staff secretary, Rob Porter, after both his ex-wives accused Porter of domestic abuse.
Bonus misery: on Sunday 11 February the Washington Post reported how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Scott Pruitt, had been splurging taxpayers’ money on luxury travel. Pruitt was booted from the government in July.
Monday 16 – Friday 20 July
What they were saying: “President Donald Trump has had more than his share of bad weeks, but it’s hard to imagine any week worse than this one.”
This was the week of Trump’s now infamous tête-à-tête with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. In a joint press conference that Senator John McCain dubbed “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”, Trump appeared cowed and subservient alongside the Russian president.
In the live briefing, Trump sided with Putin on Russia meddling in the US election.
“He just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said, nodding to Putin.
“I will say this,” Trump continued, “I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
In doing so Trump rejected the advice of his own intelligence officials, who very much do see reason why it would be Russia who fiddled around in the 2016 vote. The meeting did little to quell rumors and speculation about the exact nature of Trump’s relationship with Putin.
“Treasonous,” said former CIA director John Brennan. “Thoughtless, dangerous, and weak,” said Chuck Schumer, Democratic minority leader in the Senate. “Shameful,” was the verdict of Republican senator Jeff Flake.
For his part, Trump said – after seeing the criticism – that he had used “a double negative”, and that he did believe his own agencies’ verdict on Russia. But that didn’t really fly.
“An insult to America’s intelligence,” was the verdict of the Washington Post.
Trump did get a football out of it though.
Monday 20 – Friday 24 August
What they were saying:“This has been, unequivocally, the worst week of Donald Trump’s presidency.”
This disaster of a week really centered around one bombshell hour.
Remember those payments to Daniels and McDougal? On Tuesday 21 August Michael Cohen admitted paying both women for their silence about alleged affairs, in an attempt to influence the election – which is illegal. (On 12 December Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for this and other crimes.) What’s more, Cohen said Donald Trump had directed him to make the payments.
Cohen told a judge in Manhattan the payments were made “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”. The candidate was Trump.
“I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principal purpose of influencing the election,” Cohen said.
Minutes earlier, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight charges of bank and tax fraud.
Later that week, on Friday 24 August, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization was granted immunity to talk to federal prosecutors about those Cohen payments. And David Pecker, CEO of American Media Inc, which publishes the National Enquirer, the magazine allegedly involved in buying, and suppressing, negative stories about Trump, was reportedto have been given the same immunity – for the same reason. (On 12 December AMI admitted it had made the payments, and admitted they were made to influence the election.)
Monday 3 – Friday 7 September
What they were saying:“It’s hard to pinpoint a worst week in what has been a presidency full of them.”
Another fine mess.
Bob Woodward’s explosive book portrayed a president gripped by anger, anxiety and paranoia, and a barely functioning White House where staff strain to rein in Trump’s impulses.
Senior aides regularly yanked official papers from Trump’s desk, according to Woodward, so the president couldn’t see or sign them. His national security team regularly balked at Trump’s lack of knowledge of world affairs and whims regarding military use – including one example where Trump suggested the US should “fucking kill” the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
On Wednesday 6 September a “senior official” in the Trump administration wrote an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times essentially confirming Woodward’s account. The official said “many” people in the White House were in effect working against Trump to sabotage parts of his agenda.
The unnamed official essentially confirmed much of Woodward’s reporting said there was a cabal of senior officials “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations”.
The book prompted a “West Wing witch-hunt”, according to CNN.
Monday 10 – Friday 14 December
What they were saying: “This week was nothing short of disastrous. In fact, this may just be Trump’s worst week of his presidency. And that’s no easy feat.”
What didn’t happen?
Nick Ayers, widely said to be Trump’s favoured choice for his next chief of staff, removed himself from the running on Sunday 9 December. It left a scramble for Trump to choose his new chief, amid reports that, basically, no one wanted the job.
The search continued all week, with Chris Christie said to be Trump’s second choice. Christie then dropped out on Friday.
While that was going on, Trump was digging himself a border control hole. In a meeting with top Democrats on Tuesday 11 December, shown live on TV, Trump was goaded into promising he would take ownership of a government shutdown over his border wall demand. That caused no end of problems.
Then on Wednesday 12 December, longtime Trump aide Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, for crimes including lying to Congress and making illegal payments to silence two women who alleged affairs with Trump. Cohen said he was directed to make the payments by Trump – directly implicating the president.
The same day, federal prosecutors said they had reached a deal not to pursue charges against the owners of the National Enquirer.As part of the agreement the owners admitted involvement in illegal payments “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign”.
Monday 17 – Friday 21 December
What they were saying: “The beginning of the end of the Trump presidency came and went a long time ago […] This week was a big step toward that endgame, and surely one of the most remarkable weeks in American history.”
What happened: Trump’s whirlwind end to 2018 continued.
After promising to shut down the government over his border wall, Trump flip-flopped, and the White House suggested it would find funding from somewhere else. Trump’s base let him know they didn’t like that idea, so Trump said he would shut down the government after all. And he did.
The shutdown is likely to continue into January, when Democrats will control the House, and when Trump is even less likely to get money for his wall.
In the meantime, Trump unilaterally announced that he would withdraw troops from Syria, prompting shrieks and howls from within Republican party.
His defence secretary, James Mattis – often categorised as one of the few remaining “adults in the room” in the White House – promptly resigned over the withdrawal. Usual Trump loyalists Senators Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell also criticized the president, and even the traditional sycophants at Fox & Friends weighed in to criticize Trump.
While Trump struggled on without his usual solace from the rightwing media, the stock market crumbled. It hit a one-year low, wiping out the year’s gains. CNN reported that stocks are on course for their “worst December since the Great Depression”. For a president who has tied his own success in office to the performance of the stock market, it was a dismal end to a dismal year.