There is always something else going on, but back on Friday, while everyone was occupied with the rumors turning into suspicions turning into the fact that Robert Mueller was going to turn in his report on possible presidential misconduct, the president of the United States attempted, via Twitter, to void the sanctions that his own administration had placed, the day before, on two Chinese companies for dealing with North Korea. A while later, after that tweet caused some commotion, administration sources told the press that when the president had tweeted “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!” he had not been talking about withdrawing those additional sanctions, but simply declining to pursue some unspecified future sanctions.
Bloomberg went to the trouble of trying to sort out the apparent contradictions. The explanation, it reported yesterday, was that the administration had been lying to cover up for the president:
President Donald Trump last week intended to reverse sanctions imposed on two Chinese shipping companies accused of violating North Korea trade prohibitions — until officials in his administration persuaded him to back off and then devised a misleading explanation of his vague tweet announcing the move….
…[T]he administration sought to explain away the move with a statement–initially requesting no attribution to anyone–that said the penalties against the Chinese companies hadn’t been reversed but the U.S. wouldn’t pursue additional sanctions against North Korea.
There were no additional North Korea sanctions in the works at the time, according to two people familiar with the matter.
What does it mean for a thing to happen, when the executive branch has given up on executing anything and is just doing a nonstop, irritable improv performance?
North Korea is an insecure adversary with nuclear weapons. The president, in what was presumably a moment of personal stress, publicly and erratically reversed, and then even more erratically de-reversed, part of the administration’s hostile posture toward North Korea. And the rest of the administration decided to deal with it by pretending none of it had ever happened. In some sense, maybe it hadn’t happened? What does it mean for a thing to happen, when the executive branch has given up on executing anything and is just doing a nonstop, irritable improv performance?
Meanwhile, in the time between the president’s tweet and Bloomberg’s reporting about it, the Mueller report had been handed off to the Department of Justice, and the attorney general had stonewalled about releasing it and put out a letter saying there would be no prosecution of the president for obstruction of justice, and everyone in the mainstream of politics and political media more or less agreed that this meant there was no real reason anymore to talk about whether or not the president should continue in office.