To begin with, a programming note: While you're reading this in its usual time slot, it was compiled before the July Fourth holiday, so—unfortunately—there's not a collection of tweets about President Trump's reportedly expensive Independence Day celebration. Apologies for that. Nonetheless, there's still a lot to catch up on. Last week was one that uncovered a secret Facebook group where immigration officials joke about migrant deaths, even as more and more people die in US custody and conditions at border facilities turn out to be worse than believed. It was also the week where the Trump administration let go of its quest to have a question about citizenship on the 2020 US census, and everyone continued to fall in love with the US women's soccer team. As to what else people were talking about, there's also all of this.
One Small Step for Man
What Happened: President Trump completed a genuine first by not only visiting the DMZ on the North Korean border, but stepping into North Korea itself.
What Really Happened: The week started with an unexpected moment of political history on the world stage, as President Trump—in Japan for meetings—made an extraordinary invitation via Twitter.
On Sunday morning, news started to circulate that the meeting might actually happen.
History was already being made simply by Trump's presence at the border, but then there was this stunning turn of events.
Was it all a publicity stunt? Was it a moment of diplomatic history? It remains unclear, but either way, it was certainly a very big story that had everyone talking. But the question was left hanging: What actually happened here..? Because the first takes were particularly grim.
Well, it's not as if the president has legitimized the North Korean leadership, undoing decades of international policy or anything… (I mean, OK, he did invite Kim Jong-un to the US.)
So what actually lay behind this historic moment? Did the president simply want a win in his column, and thought this was a way to get one? Was he lured in by the promise of a photo-ready historic moment? Or, perhaps, he simply saw a way to claim bragging rights that, as it turned out, weren't really a thing.
The confusion surrounding this moment really feels as if folks got a strange insight into how the diplomacy sausage is made, in a sense.
The Takeaway: Still, at least negotiations are going well.
The New White House Press Secretary Has Arrived
What Happened: This past week Stephanie Grisham stepped into her new position as the White House press secretary. According to some reports, she came out swinging, and not in the direction that many would have expected.
What Really Happened: For all the conversation about the photo op potential of the Trump/Kim Jong-un meeting and visit to North Korea, it should be noted that the international trip was the first outing for new White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. Her debut did not go unnoticed, for an entirely unlikely reason.
What press secretary for the President of the United States hasn't had their first big moment described as an "all out brawl," am I right? It's the traditional hazing for everyone in the job! As Grisham herself started to become the story, details continued to trickle in via Twitter.
It’s hard not to imagine how awkward this must have been for Grisham, who had somehow managed to overshadow her new boss on what was essentially her first day on the job (technically, her third, I believe), despite him actually doing something of significant historical importance. While people may never know how she felt about all of this, they do know how the press felt, because they talked about it.
Indeed, she earned op-eds filled with praise for her actions, as if she was somehow an avatar of a new age where the Trump administration wasn't going to attack the press itself at any potential provocation. It was, surreally, the ideal introduction for Grisham in her new position—even for those who'd rather the White House press secretary tame the news media, rather than defend them.
As should only be expected, the video of the event didn't live up to everyone's expectations, leading to the birth of Grisham Brawl Truthers.
The Takeaway: For anyone wondering how the president took the whole affair, the fact that it was almost immediately used as fodder by the official re-election campaign Twitter account might tell you everything you need to know.
The Origins of Homelessness, According to Trump
What Happened: President Trump shared some rather interesting ideas about the origins of America's homeless population.
What Really Happened: Last week, President Trump sat down for an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson during which the host compared the "clean" streets of Japanese cities with the "filth" found in American cities. During that exchange, Trump shared some rather surprising views on how long homelessness has been an issue in America.
Yes, he stated that it all started two years ago. The president’s comments did not go unnoticed, to say the least.
Indeed, Trump's take on homelessness soon became a story in its own right, and not in a good way.
The reality of the situation is entirely at odds with how the president described it, and CNN's fact-checker found no evidence to back up Trump's claims.
The Takeaway: The reality of the situation is entirely at odds with how the president described it, and CNN's fact-checker found no evidence to back up Trump's claims.
What Happened: It shouldn't be surprising that Vice President Mike Pence is in the White House, unless, of course, he was supposed to be somewhere else entirely.
What Really Happened: As if things weren't surreal enough, last week Mike Pence kind of … disappeared. On Tuesday, there was a very odd, very public case of confusion about the veep's whereabouts—or, to be more specific, the reasons why he wasn't where he was supposed to be.
It all started with what seemed to be a relatively straightforward emergency, if that doesn't sound like a contradiction in terms.
OK, so, so far so … nerve-wracking. But things got weird soon after, when Pence's press secretary decided to deny everything.
And I mean, deny everything.
Wait. So the flight didn't turn around in mid-flight? That was definitely the earlier version of events. Indeed, in one telling, Pence's plane was escorted by Air Force One on its return trip. Now the official line is that it never actually took off in the first place?
So, what actually happened? Despite the best attempts of Pence's staff, it's something where the mystery soon became the story. Well, we say "best attempts," but the explanations given were more like working through the process of elimination for all interested parties.
Apparently, the public find everything ou t… eventually.
Who doesn't love it when politics comes with built-in cliffhangers?
The Takeaway: What are the odds that this turns out to be significantly less terrifying than it currently feels?