The hidden side of politics

Paul Ryan to Congress: kthxbai

Reported by WIRED:

If the first week of April felt a little (comparatively speaking) light on political melodrama, last week made up for it, and how. Whether it was a Republican former congressman being found guilty of 23 felonies, the National Enquirer apparently buying a rumor about President Trump to bury it or the president considering rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership months after leaving it, there was a lot going on last week. And that’s not even mentioning the following massive topics of conversation on our favorite information super highways.

The Raid on Michael Cohen

What Happened: Yet another member of Trump’s team got some unwanted attention from the Feds last week. Next up? The president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

What Really Happened: Last week started slowly, without any particularly big news stories dominating the conversation on the airwaves and around virtual water coolers. Well, aside from this story, of course:

Yes, Michael Cohen, longtime personal attorney to the President of the United States, had his office and current residence—a hotel room—raided by federal authorities on Monday, which is … well, there’s no way to avoid saying it, a very big deal. Especially when details of the raid started to leak.

Those complaining that this clearly meant that special counsel Robert Mueller was over-extending his reach—and there were many of them—had a couple of difficult facts to consider. Firstly, this one.

Secondly, this wasn’t entirely Mueller’s doing; instead, it was all under the purview of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Which meant that there was even one more layer of oversight to contend with, for those convinced of a Deep State conspiracy theory. Oh, and also, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had personally signed off on the raids. Actually, perhaps that’s just grist for the Deep State conspiracy theory after all. Speaking of conspiracy theories, did the president know what was going on?

Well, perhaps he wasn’t watching his usual news network, then.

Don’t worry; things got worse, because of course they did. But Trump found out about the raid in a way that suggested he maybe wasn’t paying attention.

A raid carried out by federal authorities is “breaking in”? That’s certainly a new twist on things. But that wasn’t the only strange assertion the president made while addressing the press on Monday afternoon.

But let’s get back to Cohen for a bit. Did you know that he had another job?

Emphasis on the had, if the GOP’s website is to be believed.

The world was on tenterhooks until the following morning, waiting to see if, and how, the president would tweet in response to the entire situation. Suffice to say, Trump didn’t disappoint.

The Takeaway: Then again, perhaps the increasing complications of all the investigations in Washington and their related ephemera explain a mystery that some have wondered about for some time.

Say Goodnight, Mr. Meuller

What Happened: Now that it appears authorities have crossed a “red line” for President Trump, people started to wonder, is it time for the him to seek retribution?

What Really Happened: Following the Michael Cohen raid, it became increasingly clear that the White House and its top occupant were certainly looking at trying to shut down the special counsel’s investigation. How do we know this? Well, they pretty much told everyone.

As the media wrestled with what would happen if Trump tried to fire Mueller, others started to get worried about the possibility.

Funny story about that, Senator Blumenthal: Other people were thinking the same thing.

As should only be expected, all of this attention on the subject made the president’s contrarian Twitter self kick in.

At the same time, however, reports started to emerge that Trump’s legal team started to shy away from the idea. File under: Mission accomplished, perhaps? Or maybe it’s all a feint, and the plan to fire Rod Rosenstein is already underway.

The Takeaway: Let’s just take a second to put this into perspective, though.

…Oh, crap.

Next Up: The Senate Hearing On ‘Why Does the Phone Keep Making That Noise?’

What Happened: Turns out, lawmakers who are, on average, septuagenarians aren’t the best people to ask about complicated technology and social media matters.

What Really Happened: If there was one winner following the raid on Michael Cohen and its subsequent events, it was probably Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who likely was relieved his testimonies to Congress didn’t end up being the biggest news stories of the week. That’s not to say that they weren’t interesting, especially when it came to the list of topics he promised to follow up on. The second day—in which Zuckerberg addressed the House—proved to be more revealing as he faced tougher questioning, but it was the first day that caught the attention of the internet, for reasons of novelty, tension, and ultimately humor. After all, it initially promised to be a tough session getting to the bottom of the issues—

—but as it turned out, many were disappointed in the actual inquiry offered by senators when given the rare chance to question one of the more reclusive figures when it comes to accountability.

Although some in the media were understandably disappointed by the Senate’s questioning, social media instead found itself fascinated by a running theme in Zuckerberg’s responses:

There was, however, one exchange that seemed to bring people around to Zuckerberg’s side.

Of course, for those wondering what they missed by not tuning in for the hearings, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

The Takeaway: One can only hope Aaron Sorkin is writing a sequel to The Social Network about all of this.

The Final Days of Paul Ryan

What Happened: Turns out, we won’t have Paul Ryan to kick about for much longer. Which, given how much he was kicked last week, is probably a good thing.

What Really Happened: And then, as if everything else wasn’t enough last week, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced he wouldn’t be seeking reelection this year. Because, you know, there’s never a better time to take things easy than when the head of your party is under investigation and potentially about to cause a constitutional crisis. The news broke in dribs and drabs throughout the morning on Wednesday.

Even as the various eulogies for Ryan’s career hit the internet—preemptively, as he plans to serve out the rest of his current term, retiring in January—people were starting to wonder what was really going on and unpacking Ryan’s own spin. Not everyone was feeling a need to praise Ryan’s tenure, however.

Still, at least Ryan was apparently part of the hot new trend: Republicans resigning even though their party controls all three branches of government. How many are resigning, you ask?

…The actual number is 43, as of this writing. Maybe they all want to spend time with their families. That’s completely normal and not at all strange, right?

The Takeaway: If this is, as Ryan suggests, all about his family and nothing else, the timing of his announcement really stinks.

Who’re You Going to Believe, Me Or Your Lyin’ Eyes?

What Happened: As luck and publishing schedules would have it, just as investigators started looking into more of Trump’s allies, a nemesis from earlier in the president’s tenure made a reappearance last week. But the GOP was ready for him. Kind of.

What Really Happened: We’re just days away from the release of A Higher Loyalty, the memoir from former FBI chief James Comey that promises to be … well, let’s just say “unfavorable,” to President Trump. That’s not merely speculation: According to a leak from those who’ve seen the book, it features White House Chief of Staff John Kelly calling Trump “dishonorable” for firing Comey. So, faced with this kind of information hanging over everything, what could the White House and Republican Party do to counterpunch?

Well, that’s … a plan? The site is already live, complete with small print that says, “Paid for by the Republican National Committee. Not Authorized By Any Candidate or Candidate’s Committee,” which probably means that President Trump isn’t a candidate even though he’s already announced his 2020 campaign. Some were less than convinced.

The site does contain a pleasant irony for those who remember that Trump has declared war on Amazon.

The Takeaway: There’s almost no way this will backfire. No, wait; I mean, “work.”