It’s been such a busy seven days that there’s been no time to talk about the fact that a federal grand jury is reportedly investigating a major Trump fundraiser, or that an appeals court has thrown out a lawsuit about whether or not President Trump is personally profiting from government visitors staying at his hotels. (Admit it; you never even knew that last one happened.) Last week also featured Speaker of the House Paul Ryan admitting he was appalled by Trump, leading to Trump going on a Twitter tirade about him. Actually, the president was more active than usual on Twitter last week, perhaps in preparation for his so-called social media summit at the White House, which didn’t include any representatives from any of the social media companies theoretically under discussion. (They’ll be invited later, it seems.) With all this going on, it’s no surprise that Twitter crashed for an hour—amusingly, during Trump’s social media summit. Consider it a silent protest, perhaps. Xbox Live also crashed last week. Maybe the entire internet is collapsing! While we still have the web, let’s celebrate it together by remembering what else people were talking about last week.
The Jeffrey Epstein Arrest
What Happened: Businessman Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on sex-trafficking charges. If that wasn’t enough of a story, it turned out that that he was a man friendly with not only the current president, but a past president as well.
What Really Happened: News broke early last week that financier Jeffrey Epstein had been arrested on sex-trafficking charges. This was a big deal for a number of reasons beyond just the charges involved; most notably, the fact that Epstein had faced these kinds of allegations before, but also because Epstein is famously friends with Donald Trump (although the president is now distancing himself from Epstein) and Bill Clinton. He was, in other words, well-connected.
It took until Monday for details about his arrest to come out, but they were as bad as most expected. US Attorney Geoffrey Berman detailed the charges against Epstein in a press conference on Monday, making it clear just what was going on.
As details emerged about what lay ahead for Epstein—who pled not guilty to the charges—it became increasingly clear that federal prosecutors were taking this very seriously. Because justice moves agonizingly slowly, little has happened beyond Epstein’s arrest and arraignment. But it did emerge by Thursday that Epstein’s lawyers really want him out of jail if possible, despite what prosecutors would prefer; we’ll find out this week if he gets bail or not. Some, however, feel as if they already know.
The Takeaway: How often do bail agreements include deregistering a personal jet? We’re guessing not many.
So Long, Alex Acosta
What Happened: As the news followed up on the Epstein story, questions started being asked about the Florida prosecutor who’d cut him a plea deal a decade ago. Those questions included, “Why is he the current US Secretary of Labor?”
What Really Happened: So, remember how we said above that Jeffrey Epstein had faced misconduct allegations before? Well, the fact of the matter is, he’d been accused of sex trafficking in Florida, only to eventually get a light 18-month sentence after pleading guilty to prostitution charges in 2008.
The Florida prosecutor behind the deal was Alex Acosta, the man who currently serves as President Trump’s Labor Secretary. The issue actually came up during Acosta’s 2017 Senate hearing to confirm his appointment, but following Epstein’s arrest, people had a lot of questions about what happened back then.
Acosta broke his silence on the issue via Twitter.
This was, shall we say, a selective reading of events, as others pointed out.
Many politicians joined in a growing call for Acosta to resign. (There were even dueling hashtags on Twitter about the subject, with both #AcostaMustResign and #AcostaResignNow trending during the week.)
Democrat politicians called for his resignation, at least; Republicans were much more reticent to do so.
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell refused to even address the issue when asked.
And how does the president feel about the matter? It turned out, he had a lot of empathy for the situation.
Acosta was forced to give a press conference midweek about the issue in which he attempted to defend his actions.
Was the press conference enough to save Acosta’s job? It appeared so, until a surprise Friday morning announcement.
Use Your Inside Voice
What Happened: There are things that ambassadors can say about political leaders privately, and there are things they can say about them publicly. When someone leaks the former to turn it into the latter, things get complicated.
What Really Happened: What an international ambassador says privately to their bosses about the location where they’re currently working is, of course, profoundly important; think of it as a kind of embedded reporting that cuts to the heart of international relations and doesn’t have to deal with the public politeness of ensuring that there are no hurt feelings. It’s the kind of thing that would be very embarrassing for all involved if such communiques were ever leaked and released to the public, and surely you can see where we’re going with this.
Well, that was pretty embarrassing. Of course, after being publicly called inept, the president responded on Twitter.
Many were wondering the same thing, especially when Trump returned with even blunter criticism a day later.
For those curious, yes, Trump just thanked himself in the third person, calling himself “Mr. President.” Even as other ambassadors were privately admitting that they have said similar things about the president, the tension between ambassador Kim Darroch and Trump grew to such a point where only one outcome was likely. And so, Darroch resigned from his position midweek.
Curiously enough, however, it wasn’t Trump that pushed him out, according to some. Instead, it was the response to the whole situation from Boris Johnson, the man likely to be Britain’s next prime minister.
For everyone who thought that Darroch’s resignation would be the end of the matter, that’s not true for the United Kingdom, where Johnson’s comments have turned into a controversy in their own right. Who knew calling President Trump inept could have such an effect?
The Takeaway: Amidst all of the fallout, there’s one basic fact that some people refuse to let be forgotten. Namely, no matter what you might think of the president’s aptitude or lack thereof, ambassador Darroch was just doing his job in explaining what he thought of him.
The Zombie Issue
What Happened: The issue of whether or not a citizenship question would be added to the next US census appeared to be a zombie issue last week, returning when least expected all the way up until a surprise ending.
What Really Happened: Some might have thought that the issue of whether or not a citizenship question could be added to next year’s US census had been resolved weeks ago when the Supreme Court blocked it from being added. And it definitely should’ve been settled when the Trump administration dropped the matter the following week. But then, a day after dropping it, the administration changed its mind and said that the issue was still an ongoing concern. Last week, everything came to a head once again on the subject, because of course it did.
The week started with attorney general and man with poor reading comprehension William Barr weighing in on the topic and suggesting that the president was going to do something pretty big.
Remember, this is a matter that was settled at the Supreme Court level, making Barr’s somewhat vague comments all the more noteworthy, if not necessarily any more easily explained.
Soon after Barr’s comments, the Department of Justice appeared to be preparing a new line of attack, or at least, gathering a new team to continue the fight.
But there was a snag: The judge refused to allow the existing lawyers to leave the case that easily. He wanted to know why they wanted to go—and he wanted their reasons to be on the record.
This wasn’t something the president was happy with.
But the president didn’t seem to fully understand what Judge Furman was saying, either.
As the week progressed, the issue refused to go away, with Trump floating the idea of adding the question via an executive order—not that that idea would work, mind you—and Kellyanne Conway lying about the citizenship question having been on the census in the past. By Thursday morning, the president was teasing a press conference on the issue that was many assumed would be the announcement of an executive order relating to the census. It wasn’t.
Well, at least no DOJ lawyers have to explain to a judge why they want off the case now.
The Takeaway: Well, at least no DOJ lawyers have to explain to a judge why they want off the case now. Right?
A Victory Lap for the US Women’s Soccer Team
What Happened: All hail the returning world champions, the US women’s soccer team.
What Really Happened: Look, it’s been a hell of a week. Can we finish with something good for once? Can we have nice things?
Apparently, perhaps we can have nice things after all! Yes, the US women’s soccer team won the World Cup, and got to celebrate in the stadium to chants of “equal pay!”—a reference to the ongoing lawsuit demanding the players be compensated fairly.
Then, when the team returned to America, their arrival was an undisputed victory lap in all manner of ways, a sign of both their superstar status and team co-captain Megan Rapinoe’s new position as queen of everybody’s heart.
Well, not everybody…
Confoundingly, but also charmingly, those negative responses were welcomed by some on Twitter.
Let’s just chalk that up to people being gracious winners, shall we?
The Takeaway: Of course, there are some questions left to be answered after the week’s celebrations…
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