Eight days that shook Trump's Washington

It was supposed to be a quiet week.

The White House had just earned its first legislative victory when the House voted to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and President Trump was gearing up for his first trip abroad since winning the White House.

Instead, the last eight days have been marked by rolling crises that have left Trump’s staff on edge, emboldened Democrats' talk of impeachment, put the media in a frenzy and sent Republicans running scared.

Here’s a timeline of the eight days that shook Trump’s Washington:

Tuesday, May 9

The news hit the wire at about 5:40 p.m.

Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey, whose agency was investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

Only four days earlier, Comey had detailed before a Senate panel the tortured decisionmaking process that eventually led him to reveal that the FBI had renewed an investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDem campaign arm slams Heller, Flake on healthcare votes Co-founder of firm tied to Trump dossier agrees to speak to Senate panel Trump won’t say if he’ll fire Sessions MORE’s private email server just days before the election.

The Trump administration hung Comey’s firing on the strength of a six-page letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that detailed how Comey had mishandled that investigation.

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Democrats called the Rosenstein letter the height of hypocrisy, given Trump’s campaign trail praise for Comey’s revelations, and immediately accused Trump of seeking to bury the Russia investigation. Some called Comey’s firing a “constitutional crisis” and mused about impeachment. Several Republicans joined the call for an independent special counsel to investigate the Russia issue.

Trump’s team of surrogates was reportedly kept in the dark about the Comey firing until the last minute. The Rosenstein letter was followed by what looked like a hastily thrown together document with links to negative stories about Comey.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer conducted a widely mocked off-camera briefing with reporters that sparked a dispute over how close Spicer had stood to some White House bushes. Trump’s surrogates fanned out on cable news shows to argue that Comey had lost the confidence of the FBI, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the public at large.

Wednesday, May 10

Frustrated by the media’s coverage of the Comey affair, Trump took to Twitter to fight back against his critics.

Trump attacked “Cryin’ Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerOPINION | Dems' ‘new’ agenda? A recycled copy of Trump’s playbook Trump: Why aren't 'beleaguered AG,' investigators looking at Hillary Clinton? Trump: Washington ‘actually much worse than anyone ever thought’ MORE" as a hypocrite and went after Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDem bill would ban controversial pesticide Trump attack puts Sessions in bind Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes MORE over a 2010 controversy in which the Connecticut Democrat admitted to exaggerating his military service.

Trump attacked the “fake news” media and went hard after Comey, retweeting a Drudge Report article on “10 scandals” that occurred on his watch.

Trump’s day was broken up by an Oval Office meeting with two Russian diplomats that was controversial at the time for its optics, but would explode just days later.

In addition to meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Trump also hosted Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a central figure in the Russia election controversy.

The White House seemed intent on downplaying Kislyak’s presence. He wasn’t mentioned in the White House write-up of the meeting and wasn’t in the administration’s official pictures from the event.

U.S. press was barred from the meeting, but a photographer from the Russian news agency Tass was allowed inside to document the proceedings.

Thursday, May 11

Trump ignited a new controversy in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.

Trump contradicted his own spokespeople in the interview after they had labored to make the case that Trump had only decided to fire Comey under the advice of his Justice Department.

In the Holt interview, Trump said he had always intended to fire Comey and would have done it regardless of the Rosenstein letter. He called the former FBI director a “showboat” and a “grandstander.”

Trump also signaled that the Russia investigation played a part in his decision, giving Democrats ammunition to argue that the president was obstructing justice.

Meanwhile, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe contradicted Trump in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying that contrary to the administration’s claims, Comey had not lost the confidence of the FBI rank and file.

Friday, May 12

Worried about leaks from a reeling FBI, Trump threatened Comey over Twitter by suggesting he might have “tapes” of a conversation in which Trump claims Comey assured him he wasn’t under investigation.

 

 

Trump representatives have since refused to say whether the White House has a recording system. Spicer won’t say whether the tapes exist or if the administration would comply with congressional requests to produce them if they do, saying instead that “the tweet speaks for itself.”

Democrats vowed to block Trump’s nominee for FBI director until he turns the recordings over or says that none exist.

Saturday May 13 and Sunday May 14

Trump addressed a friendly crowd at conservative Liberty University and hit a few balls on the golf course while in Virginia.

He also sat for an interview with Fox News Channel’s Jeanine Pirro, where he doubled-down on his threat to end press briefings.

It was a relatively quiet weekend. Other than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s appearance on Meet the Press, Trump officials were absent from the Sunday shows.

But behind the scenes, Trump’s staff was busy dishing to the press.

The White House was besieged by leaks from within the administration that painted the president as paranoid, isolated and fuming with anger at Comey, the media and his own staff.

Scores of reports emerged that a West Wing shake-up was imminent. Embarrassing details about an administration in crisis bounced around Washington.

Monday, May 15

With the Comey explosion starting to ebb, the White House was focused on beating back palace intrigue stories about a rumored West Wing shake-up.

That changed in the early evening, when the administration was rocked by another crisis: The Washington Post reported that Trump had revealed classified information about an ally's intelligence assets to the Russian diplomats at the previous week’s Oval Office meeting.

McMaster walked to the White House driveway to deliver a brief statement denying the report with a carefully parsed statement before heading back inside. The administration offered no further response as the controversy escalated through the night.

Tuesday, May 16

Trump once again contradicted his own officials, seemingly confirming the Washington Post report in an early-morning tweet by arguing that as president, he has “absolute right” to reveal any information he deems relevant.

The White House tapped McMaster as the face of the controversy. He took over briefing responsibilities from Spicer and made news by saying the president didn’t know where the intelligence he’d divulged came from.

The New York Times later reported the intelligence came from Israel, the top U.S. ally in the Middle East and a key partner in the war against terror.

The leaks continued. Everyone in Trump’s White House appeared to be on thin ice while the president’s frustrated allies began calling for an overhaul in staff and how the administration deals with the press.

Late Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Trump at one point asked Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, under fire for failing to disclose payments from Russian government entities and for misleading senior White House officials, including Vice President Pence, about the contents of his conversations with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.

The paper cited internal memos Comey created after private meetings with Trump. The story provided new fodder for Trump's critics to claim the president is seeking to obstruct the Russia investigation.

The White House denied the report and noted that McCabe said in testimony last week that Trump had not interfered in any investigations.