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President Donald Trump has had a pretty rough 72 hours, all things considered.
Since Friday: The president went back on the rally circuit to a colossally underwhelming crowd in Tulsa; said he told administration officials to stop testing in order to make it look like infection rates were going down; defended Confederate statues and blamed the coronavirus on China again; took a few Ls against John Bolton over Bolton’s new tell-all book; fired a U.S. Attorney who’s well-known for investigating his associates; and now is typing all-caps screeds on Twitter about “election rigging.” Got all that?
It all started for Trump late Friday night, when the Justice Department announced that Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was stepping down from his office, and then Berman responded with his own statement saying that, no, he wasn't going to do that.
Berman has been heavily involved in the prosecution of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani's associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, not to mention an ongoing investigation into Giuliani himself, and Trump attempted to distance himself from the decision.
"Attorney General [William] Barr is working on that. That's his department, not my department," Trump said as he was leaving the White House for the rally in Tulsa.
But then, in Barr’s letter to Berman informing him he was fired, the attorney general gave Trump the credit for ultimately canning Berman. "Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so,” Barr said.
Over the weekend, we also began to learn more details from former national security adviser John Bolton’s tell-all book about working in the Trump administration. Bolton writes that Trump asked China for help in the 2020 election, told Chinese President Xi Jinping that putting Uighur Muslims in concentration camps was “exactly the right thing to do,” and once asked former Chief of Staff John Kelly if Finland was part of Russia.
A federal judge ruled Saturday that the book could move forward with publication after the administration sued to block it. But, Bolton may face some legal trouble over including potentially classified information in the book, and could be forced to hand over any earnings from it, which reportedly came with a multimillion-dollar advance.
By far the biggest disappointment for Trump, however, was the Tulsa rally. The campaign had boasted about receiving over a million signups, and said it expected tens of thousands to attend.
To start, six Trump campaign staffers working on the rally tested positive for coronavirus. Then, the rally itself was massively underattended; just 6,200 people packed into the BOK Center, less than one-third of its capacity of more than 19,000.
Trump was reportedly “furious” at the “underwhelming” Tulsa crowd, according to NBC News. The campaign has scrambled to try to find someone to scapegoat: campaign manager Brad Parscale has blamed the media, and campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh faulted nonexistent protesters stopping people from entering the rally. (TikTok users claimed credit for the bad rally numbers too.)
Then there was his divisive rally speech. Over the course of a meandering, half-hearted speech in which he defended Confederate statues as “our heritage” and called the coronavirus the “Kung flu,” Trump also dropped a whopper on the subject of coronavirus testing that he won’t be living down anytime soon.
Describing the correlation between increased testing and an increased number of cases as “a double-edged sword,” Trump said, “Here’s the bad part… when you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people; you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.”
The White House has claimed that Trump was just kidding, but prominent Democrats jumped on the comment.
“The President’s efforts to slow down desperately needed testing to hide the true extent of the virus mean more Americans will lose their lives,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “The President is ethically unfit and intellectually unprepared to lead.”
In case you thought Trump might take some of this to heart and stay quiet for a while, well, that didn’t happen. On Monday morning, the president — who is badly trailing Joe Biden, according to recent polling — fell back on his disproven claim that mail voting will cause massive election fraud.
And then, another tweet about the “incompetent liar” and “wacko” Bolton:
At this rate, we’re headed for a full-on meltdown by Wednesday.
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center, Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)