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‘So did the world explode?’: An oral history of another insane week in the Trump era. Featured

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An occasional feature.

The week of April 8 began with the accelerated birth of Seth Meyers’s second child in the lobby of his New York apartment building, and the news kept arriving like that: suddenly and unexpectedly. The following days were the equivalent of the country rushing to a cab for the hospital only to discover that the baby is already in our pants.

The office of President Trump’s personal attorney was raided by the FBI. Mark Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill sitting on what appeared to be a booster seat. Republican House Speaker Paul D. Ryan announced he would not seek reelection. In Philadelphia, Bill Cosby, formerly one of America’s biggest stars, was again on trial for sexual assault, which should’ve been a huge story except that everything these days is huge.

Behold: What it was like to be alive in a typically atypical week in 2018, as told by journalists, paparazzi, doctors, a doorman, political operatives, members of Congress, potheads and two football players from the University of Alabama.

MONDAY

The day starts with President Trump announcing that he may bomb Syria.

President Trump, to White House reporters: We’re going to make a decision on all of that, in particular Syria, we’ll be making that decision very quickly, probably by the end of today.

But the news is quickly overshadowed when the FBI raids Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s Manhattan office and hotel. Paparazzi, already at the hotel to stake out the newly arrested mixed martial artist Conor McGregor, were apparently too distracted to notice the stream of federal agents.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.): Did that happen over the weekend?

Brad Woodhouse, Democratic operative: Was it late last week?

Neera Tanden, president and CEO, Center for American Progress: The raid was Monday, right? It was just Monday?

It was Monday.

Rick Wilson, Republican strategist: The weeks are always full of one chaotic s---show after another. It’s not that you become accustomed to it, it’s that you get political PTSD from it.

Matt Apuzzo, reporter for the New York Times: We got a tip from an extremely credible source with specific information about the raids — time, date and location. The FBI raid on a luxury hotel on a weekday morning? This is not going to escape notice.

Tanden: I’d just come out of a two-hour meeting and I said to a co-worker, facetiously, “So did the world explode?” Because in this era, four different scandals could come in two hours. My co-worker said, “If you think the FBI barreling through the door to Trump’s lawyer’s office with a search warrant fits that category, then yes.”

Apuzzo: You feel like the story is like [“Saturday Night Live’s”] Stephon: “It has everything. This is New York’s hottest story. It has Playboy models. Rockefeller Center. The FBI. An adult-film star.”

Monday evening, the Cohen raid is the main story on nearly every news network. On Fox, Tucker Carlson is met with derision for concluding his show with a segment on “sex-crazed pandas.”

Tucker Carlson, Fox News host: I didn’t do a segment on pandas. I did like 27 seconds on pandas, on the end of the show devoted almost entirely to, Why is the ruling class supporting a pointless war on Syria? And instead I got like 50 stories on how I’m doing segments on pandas. I’m not ashamed of doing a panda kicker. Look, I’ve done camel kickers. I’ve done raccoon kickers. I hope to do a Maine coon cat kicker.

TUESDAY

The afternoon starts with the White House press secretary briefly addressing the president’s threat to bomb Syria.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in the daily press briefing: I’m not going to get ahead of anything the president may or may not do in response to what’s taken place in Syria.

But the news is overshadowed by Senate testimony of Mark Zuckerberg regarding Cambridge Analytica’s data mining of 87 million users. As journalists await the Facebook CEO’s arrival, a photographer notices Zuckerberg’s chair is equipped with an additional extra-thick cushion.

Amanda Whiting, reporter for Washingtonian magazine: It was my photographer who first spotted it. She told me, so I knew to look for it.

Heather Timmons, reporter for Quartz: It was black and leather-looking, and it matched with the chair. It didn’t look like it came from Silicon Valley. It looked like it came from the bowels of the Senate. The guy next to me whispers, “It’s a booster seat.”

Pictures of the booster seat go viral on Twitter.

Whiting: The drama of the next hour was, will he sit in it, or will he not? Why did they put it there? Is it, “You better get comfortable, Mr. Zuckerberg, you’re going to be here for a while”? Or is it, “Senators are big and powerful, Mr. Zuckerberg — a man of your small stature needs a bigger seat”?

Timmons: The whole Senate hearing room setup is designed to make you feel small. If I was [6-foot-8] James Comey, I would have wanted a booster seat.

Joel Press, physiatrist in chief, New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery: Look, seating is a big part of what we do for people’s back pain. How you sit is important to your back. I don’t know anything about what Zuckerberg was doing or not doing, but before you make fun of the cushion — it could have been for all different reasons.

Whiting: When Zuckerberg came in, everyone in front of me stood up because they want to take a photo with their phones. I had to wait until they were finished before I could see he was, in fact, gloriously sitting on the cushion.

Khanna: The biggest takeaway [from the hearing] was that there’s a big knowledge gap in Congress. After senators would ask a first question, and when Mr. Zuckerberg would answer, they were unable to push further in exploring the issue. It seemed like their knowledge on this stuff was an inch deep.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), to Zuckerberg at the hearing: “How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?”

Mark Zuckerberg: “Senator, we run ads.”

Meanwhile, in New York, reporters are camped out in front of Michael Cohen’s hotel, the Loews Regency, hoping for a glimpse of the attorney.

Jefferson Siegel, photographer for the New York Daily News: We were surprised to see Corey Lewandoski walk into the hotel restaurant. We don’t know if he was there to meet with Michael Cohen, or if it was just a power breakfast. The hotel had a main entrance on Park Avenue and a smaller one on 61st. Lewandowski walked out of the main one, and a few minutes later, a producer from CNN shows me a cellphone video: Cohen had left out the other. He’d gone out, as we say in photography, “wide open.” He wasn’t trying to hide.

A consensus forms among Twitter pundits that in a movie version of the events, Cohen should be played by Henry “the Fonz” Winkler, who portrayed a memorably hapless lawyer on “Arrested Development.”

Henry Winkler: I have not seen a script. I have not been approached. BUT. Just in case I am studying subsection B, footnotes.

Meanwhile, after unleashing a Twitter tirade referring to the Cohen matter as a “Witch Hunt,” Trump welcomes the 2017 national champion University of Alabama football team to the White House.

Bradley Bozeman, offensive lineman: We went to the Roosevelt Room, and then into the Oval Office. Just thinking of all the history: There was Ronald Reagan’s rug, and President Bush’s drapes — wait, maybe it was the other way around.

Damian Harris, running back: We were lined up to take our picture, and President Trump came with Coach Saban.

Bozeman: He was just a regular guy. A regular guy who was president of the United States.

Harris: He was definitely taller than I expected.

Bozeman: He asked about my fiancee — he said, “She’s still with you, right?” And everyone laughed.

Harris: But I think it helped that he was standing next to Coach Saban. Because next to Coach Saban, he looked taller.

WEDNESDAY

The day starts with President Trump again announcing — this time on Twitter at 5:57 a.m. — that he may bomb Syria soon.

Trump, via Twitter: Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!”

But that news is quickly overshadowed by the announcement that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) will not seek reelection.

Wilson: I know a lot of people in Paul’s orbit. There was a sense for the last few weeks about how unhappy he was. Early that morning, one of his advisers texted me and said, “Stand by.” I was like, “Uh-oh.”

Ryan, in his public statement: What I realize is if I am here for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad. I just can’t let that happen.

Rep. Dennis A. Ross (R-Fla.): On Sunday I’d made the decision that I wouldn’t seek reelection. My wife and I had been working hard on keeping that from leaking out. So on Wednesday, I had my chief of staff sitting with me, and we were going over how we were going to let the staff know. Suddenly, I hear from one of my staffers in the other room: ‘Hey, Paul Ryan is retiring!’ I turn to my chief like: Are you kidding me?

Khanna: My brother texted me, “You’re probably not going to be on the fifth floor of the Canon office building much longer. There are a lot of retirements. You’ll probably have better office space soon.”

Ross: Can’t I have one day? Can’t I have one hour? But, really, it puts things in perspective — you’re no bigger than the next issue.

As the current speaker is announcing his retirement, the former speaker, John A. Boehner, is announcing that he will be joining the board of a cannabis lobbying group.

Boehner, via Twitter: My thinking on cannabis has evolved. I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.

Dan Danko, senior editor of High Times magazine: We’ll take Mr. Boehner’s word that his motives are sincere unless they prove otherwise, and welcome him to the majority of citizens on the right side of history.

Yvette Shearer, publicist for Cheech Marin, responding to an interview request: So sorry but Cheech’s schedule is pretty packed.

THURSDAY

The day starts with President Trump again announcing — this time on Twitter at 5:15 a.m. — that he may not bomb Syria after all.

Trump, via Twitter: Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!

Tanden: All the early morning tweets about bombing Syria — we had a meeting with our national security team. It hadn’t been planned, but I thought we should talk about, like, what we should do if we’re having a war.

But that news is soon overshadowed by a story reporting that the National Enquirer paid a doorman at Trump Tower to keep silent about an alleged love child. (There is no evidence of such a child.)

Dino Saudin, doorman, in a statement: I can confirm that while working at Trump World Tower I was instructed not to criticize President Trump’s former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump which produced a child.

But that news was soon overshadowed by leaked copies of former FBI director James B. Comey’s new memoir, in which he details the president’s reaction to the dossier describing the infamous alleged Russian pee tape:

Matthew Nussbaum, reporter for Politico, one of several journalists who got the book early: I made a pot of coffee, six cups worth of Folgers, and sat up on my kitchen counter with a mug in hand . . . and read the whole thing by 4 a.m. It read like a thriller, a page-turner.

Comey, in “A Higher Loyalty”: He strongly denied the allegations, asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. [He said,] “I’m a germaphobe. There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me. No way.”

FRIDAY

The day starts with President Trump ignoring Syria to instead tweet about Comey.

Trump, via Twitter: He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI.

But the news is quickly overshadowed by the president’s pardoning of “Scooter” Libby, former vice president Richard B. Cheney’s erstwhile chief of staff, convicted in 2007 of perjury and obstruction of justice related to the leaking of a CIA agent’s identity.

Trump, via a statement: I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.

Joe Wilson, the former ambassador whose wife was the exposed CIA agent, via a statement: As to Trump, he is a vile and despicable individual. He represents the repudiation of everything that my generation has worked to secure for our nation.

But that news is quickly overshadowed when Trump announces late Friday that the United States has launched missile strikes against Syria.

Trump, via Twitter on Saturday morning: A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!

Thus did the nation head into another weekend, steeling ourselves to do it all over again on Monday.

Rick Wilson: Tomorrow, Donald Trump could be running around naked on the White House lawn.

Interviews were condensed and edited for clarity. Dan Zak and Paul Farhi contributed to this report.

Read more https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/so-did-the-world-explode-an-oral-history-of-another-insane-week-in-the-trump-era/2018/04/15/137ac01c-3da0-11e8-974f-aacd97698cef_story.html

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