Donald Trump's highly abnormal presidency: the week of Nov. 13

It’s lucky President Donald Trump is a (self-proclaimed) billionaire, because his lawyer said Friday that the president is now paying his own legal bills instead of having the Republican National Committee pick up the tab, as he did until September...

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Donald Trump made it clear at the beginning of his campaign that he wasn’t going to follow the normal rules or tone of politics. We’re keeping track of all the ways his presidency veers from the norm in terms of policy and rhetoric.

Day 302 Nov. 17

Trump is graciously picking up his own legal bills now that the RNC won’t pay them 

It’s lucky President Donald Trump is a (self-proclaimed) billionaire, because his lawyer said Friday that the president is now paying his own legal bills instead of having the Republican National Committee pick up the tab, as he did until September.

Trump is currently employing multiple lawyers to help him fend off special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election or obstructed justice when he fired former FBI Director James Comey. But those lawyers don’t come cheap: The RNC spent more than $230,000 in August on Trump’s legal fees, CNN reported in September.


September was the last month that RNC agreed to pony up the cash for Trump’s lawyers, the RNC told Reuters. But it’s still unclear whether Trump’s reelection campaign has continued to pay for Donald Trump Jr.’s legal defense — according to Reuters, the campaign has spent more than $300,000 defending him so far.

While it’s legal for candidates to use private campaign funds to defend themselves in court, Trump is the first modern president to do so in a criminal investigation, election law experts told Reuters.

It also remains to be seen how Trump’s staffers will be able to pay what’s sure to be a mountain of pricy legal bills. In September, the Office of Government Ethics was forced to deny reports that it would let lobbyists foot the bill for staffers’ legal fees.

— Carter Sherman

Trump slams Franken, stays silent on Moore’s alleged child abuse

It took less than a day for alleged sexual assaulter Donald Trump to attack Al Franken for sexual misconduct following Thursday’s claims the Democratic senator groped a woman as she slept and “forcibly” kissed her.

Yet for more than a week Trump has remained silent about Republican Senate candidate and alleged child molester Roy Moore.

Franken apologized immediately to news anchor Leeann Tweeden after she revealed the senator’s inappropriate behavior during a 2006 tour of the Middle East to entertain U.S. troops and called for an investigation into his own behavior.


Moore, meanwhile, has dismissed the accusations against him as a political witch hunt.

Trump’s late-Thursday tweets attacking the Democrat are his first public comments on the sexual misconduct allegations sweeping the U.S. in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein controversy.

He followed this with a post referencing a joke Franken wrote while a cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” in which he would give the CBS News reporter Lesley Stahl pills, and “take her to the closet and rape her.”

The White House, likely wary of opening Trump up to questions of historic sexual misconduct, has repeatedly sidestepped the Moore allegations, claiming Thursday “the people of Alabama should make the decision” regarding his candidacy.

Trump’s Twitter finger had other ideas, with the posts opening the door to further questions about the president’s own past conduct, including the infamous “Access Hollywood tape released a month before the election, in which he boasted he would see women and “grab ’em by the pussy.”

Trump has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault or sexual harassment since the 1980s, including three allegations of rape or attempted rape — one of which involved a 13-year-old girl.

David Gilbert

Day 301 Nov. 16

Jared Kushner forgot to turn over emails with subjects like “Russian backdoor overture”

Jared Kushner, like many members of Team Trump, appears to have a truly terrible memory.

In a letter to Kushner’s lawyer Thursday, the ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee pointed out that Kushner had somehow forgotten to provide federal investigators looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election with several crucial documents. Namely, copies of an email he’d forwarded mentioning a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,” another email he’d forwarded about WikiLeaks, and emails he’d been copied to from Sergei Millian, a Russian-born businessman.


Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley and ranking member and California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein were not convinced.

“If, as you suggest, Mr. Kushner was unaware of, for example, any attempts at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the pair wrote in the letter, “then presumably there would bе few communications conceming many of the persons identified in our … request, and the coпesponding burden of searching would bе small.”

But Kushner, it turns out, has a habit of forgetting to mention things to the federal government, even when specifically asked — like that time he forgot to mention on his security form that he’d met with the Russian ambassador, or the time he forgot that he’d set up a private email server.

Grassley and Feinstein want Kushner to hand over the documents, which now include his security form, to them by Nov. 27.

Carter Sherman

Trump lifts trophy ban so rich people can slaughter elephants

With elephant populations in sharp decline, Donald Trump moved to extinct the species this week, reversing an Obama-era ban on the import of elephant heads by U.S. trophy hunters.

The decision to kill the 2014 law was reportedly announced at the African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Tanzania, according to Safari Club International, a group that attempted to block the ban.

The new rules will allow hunters to import the heads of elephants killed in Zambia and Zimbabwe —  despite elephants being listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.


The White House is taking advantage of a loophole that permits trophies to be imported if seen as beneficial to animal conservation.

“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” a spokesperson for the US Fish and Wildlife Service told Buzzfeed.

Zimbabwe’s elephant population has declined six percent since 2001, with increased incidents of poaching in areas where trophy hunting is permitted.

“It’s a venal and nefarious, pay-to-slay arrangement that Zimbabwe has set up with the trophy hunting industry,” Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said.

In Zambia, the elephant population has dropped from 200,000 elephants in 1972 to little over 21,000 in 2016, according to the Great Elephant Census.

Government officials in Zimbabwe, where U.S. dentist Walter Palmer shot Cecil the lion in 2015, have been accused of poaching of elephants and the illegal export of ivory tusks.

Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, both enjoy big game hunting; pictures of a hunt in Zimbabwe in 2012 show them posing with a dead elephant, a kudu, a civet cat and a waterbuck.

— David Gilbert

Day 300 Nov. 15

Trump wants a big thank-you for freeing Americans detained in China

Trump’s back from his 12-day Asia trip, and while he hasn’t elaborated on any of the trade deals he hinted at or given a statement on Roy Moore, he did find the time to speculate if three black Americans would show him the gratitude he feels he deserves.


The three college athletes returned to the U.S. on Tuesday after they were detained in China last week on suspicion of shoplifting. President Trump said he intervened with Chinese President Xi Jinping on their behalf.

— Josh Marcus

Trump tweets heartfelt sympathies for wrong mass shooting

Donald Trump offered sincere words of comfort to the victims of the wrong mass shooting Tuesday, posting a tweet to the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas, noting the FBI and law enforcement had “arrived.”

Two dozen people were indeed killed in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the worst mass shooting in the state’s history… more than a week ago.

Tuesday’s mass shooting happened in northern California, where a gunman shot and killed four people, injuring at least one child at an elementary school.

Despite the obvious gaffe, the tweet has yet to be deleted.

Twitter reacted by accusing the president of “copy and pasting” his condolences, with one user noting the similarity between Trump’s latest tweet and the one posted in the aftermath of the Texas killings:

In Trump’s defense, there have been 390 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, so perhaps a mix-up was inevitable.

Day 298 Nov. 13

Trump Jr. leaks WikiLeaks leaks

Once again, Donald Trump Jr. has decided to be totally transparent with the American public about his relationships with shadowy organizations, hours after news outlets already reported on them.

On Monday evening, Trump Jr. released what he said is the “entire chain of messages” he shared with WikiLeaks over Twitter, following a report from the Atlantic that he secretly corresponded with the organization during the 2016 election.


“Here is the entire chain of messages with @wikileaks (with my whopping 3 responses) which one of the congressional committees has chosen to selectively leak,” he tweeted. “How ironic!”

Trump Jr.’s release backs up the Atlantic report, which noted he only replied to WikiLeaks’ DMs three times. Trump Jr., however, did not mention the fact that he once tweeted out a link that WikiLeaks had provided him. He also forgot to mention that time his father, President Donald Trump, tweeted out an endorsement of WikiLeaks just minutes after the organization had messaged Trump Jr.

The latest move mirrors his decision to release a copy of his emails arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer, soon after the New York Times revealed the meeting’s existence.

— Carter Sherman 

Trump can’t stop nominating white men to be federal judges

President Donald Trump has nominated more white men to serve as judges in U.S. federal courts than any president since George H.W. Bush, an Associated Press analysis found Monday.

Out of the 58 people Trump nominated to serve as lifetime judges on appellate courts, district courts, and the Supreme Court by the end of October, just five of them were women. And only one was black, one was Latino, and three were Asian-American, the AP found. That leaves Trump’s nominees 74 percent white men.

READ: Hear Trump’s judge pick admit he discriminates against gay people

Of course, Trump is only 10 months into his tenure in the Oval Office — it’s possible that he might start nominating more women or more people of color to the bench. President Barack Obama, for instance, ended up appointing 329 people to the bench in his two terms (and only 37 percent of his picks were white men). But the fact that Trump has also made nominating judges a priority for his administration makes that possibility unlikely: He’s nominated more than double the number of people to the bench that Obama had by his first 10 months in the Oval Office.

“The president has delivered on his promise to nominate the best, most-qualified judges,” White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley told the AP.

The American Bar Association, however, might disagree. Last week, Brett Talley, a 36-year-old a lawyer who has never tried a case, became Trump’s fourth judicial nominee to be rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. The industry group has only found that two other judicial nominees to be unqualified for the gig since 1989.

— Carter Sherman