This is the week that will likely be remembered for the official turning of Michael Cohen away from President Donald Trump. Twice this week, Cohen (or his legal team) took actions that either embarrassed Trump or put him in potential legal jeopardy: 1) releasing an audio tape of the two men talking about a potential payoff to a former Playboy model and 2) suggesting that Trump knew in advance of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his top campaign officials and a group of Russians.
That is a very big deal, considering how close for how long Cohen was to Trump. The question going forward is whether Cohen can deliver the goods on Trump or whether this is all one big bluff to secure a presidential pardon or a better deal from special counsel Robert Mueller.
None of it is good for Trump and his administration -- not least because the Cohen-Trump story sucks all the oxygen out of the room, making it hard for stories that are far better for the White House to poke through.
One such story came Friday with the news that economic growth in the second quarter of 2018 hit 4.1%, the highest its been since 2014. Trump quickly moved to seize on the news as the latest piece of evidence that his economic policies -- up to and including his tariffs on foreign goods -- are working better than anyone thought possible.
"We've accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions," Trump crowed Friday morning.
And it wasn't just Trump singing Trump's praises. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whom no one would mistake for a Trump supporter, tweeted his own praise of the President. "Today's news confirms that 4% growth isn't just aspirational, it's achievable through policies that unleash the power of the market," wrote Jeb(!). "Credit to @POTUS's economic policies. To sustain this growth, we must pursue a free trade agenda and move to a merit-based immigration system."
Recent polling suggests people are not only noticing the improved economic indicators but are giving Trump credit for it, too. Fully 50% of people in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll said they approved of the job Trump was doing with the economy, while only 34% disapproved. That's a long way from Trump's far more mediocre ratings on his handling of border security and immigration (41% approve/51% disapprove) or the relationship between Russia and the United States (26% approve/51% disapprove).
Congressional Republicans could barely contain their excitement with the new numbers -- and Trump's on-message address touting them. The problem, of course, is that the positive economic numbers were quickly moved to the backburner as the he said/he said battle between Cohen and Trump played out. Which is a common problem for Trump: Self-inflicted wounds not only cut deep but make it harder for him to focus on narratives that are far better for him and his party.
Below, the week that was in 26 headlines.
- Feds have 12 Michael Cohen audio recordings
- Trump tweets explosive threat to Iran
- Avenatti pitched Michael Cohen on working together against Trump
- Trump, citing politics, looking to revoke security clearances
- Senate confirms Robert Wilkie to serve as VA secretary
- CNN obtains secret Trump-Cohen tape
- Trump says he's 'very concerned' about 2018 Russian interference
- Trump administration plans to help farmers hurt by global trade-
- Stormy Daniels' lawyer wanted to discuss settlement with Cohen
- White House stops announcing calls with foreign leaders
- Trump blasts Cohen over tape disclosure
- Judge allows case over illegal foreign gifts to proceed against President and Trump Organization
- Putin gave Trump a soccer ball that may have a transmitter chip
- White House bans network pool reporter from Rose Garden event
- Trump and top European leader agree to work toward zero tariffs
- White House says next Trump-Putin meeting delayed
- Cohen claims Trump knew in advance of 2016 Trump Tower meeting
- Sessions defends Rosenstein after impeachment threat
- White House fixes Trump-Putin transcript error-
- NYT: Mueller looking through Trump's tweets
- WSJ: Top Trump official subpoenaed to testify in Cohen probe
- Judge allows lawsuit that may block Census citizenship question
- One in three separated children not reunited by deadline
- US economy grows at fastest pace since 2014
- Trump disputes Cohen claim he knew of Trump Tower meeting
- Putin: 'Ready' to go to Washington, invites Trump to Moscow