Newsletter: ‘I don’t do cover-ups’ is Trump’s ‘I am not a crook’

President Trump speaks in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday.
President Trump speaks in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 25, 2019. Every time I write this newsletter, I wonder what fun awaits us next week, so with that said: Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

So much of the energy spent reacting to this administration isn’t on deep examinations of important policy issues, but on trying to make sense of President Trump’s bizarre behavior. Case in point: You might have heard that the White House this week unveiled its long-awaited immigration reform plan — the issue that arguably made Trump president — but it’s much more likely you’ve read about the aborted Oval Office infrastructure meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) followed by Trump’s meltdown in the White House Rose Garden.

You can blame people like me for this focus (after all, you’re reading a newsletter about it), but past presidents have offered up failed immigration reform plans, and in much better faith than Trump. In contrast, how many of them can say they’ve truly had a Nixonian “I am not a crook” moment? We got that this week with the assurance, “I don’t do cover-ups,” an utterance destined to compete with “covfefe” in defining Trump’s presidency.

As for the substance of Trump’s remark, deputy editorial page editor Jon Healey (facetiously) declares, “Good, that’s settled”:

“Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that had just said that I was doing a cover-up,” Trump said at a hastily assembled news conference. “I don’t do cover-ups.”

Good, that’s settled. Oh, wait...

Trump claims that he was fully transparent with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation (although he declined to be interviewed by Mueller), and that Democrats are seeking to redo the probe because it didn’t produce the results they wanted. Yet he’s obviously not being transparent now, and Mueller left some issues unresolved, particularly whether Trump obstructed justice. ...

The president sounded some discouraging notes on that front at Wednesday’s news conference.

“I’ve said from the beginning, right from the beginning, that you probably can’t go down two tracks,” Trump said, according to a White House transcript. “You can go down the investigation track, and you can go down the investment track or the track of ‘Let’s get things done for the American people.’”

In other words, Trump can’t compartmentalize. “I walked into the room and I told Sen. [Charles] Schumer [D-N.Y.] and Speaker Pelosi, ‘I want to do infrastructure, I want to do it more than you want to do it,” Trump said. “But you know what? You can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with.”

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I’m all for Republicans running against Trump in 2020, even if they have no chance, but this idea might actually work: Justin Amash, Michigan Libertarian, for president. Yes, he’s currently a Republican member of the House, but he’s drawing near-universal condemnation from his own party for saying Trump committed impeachable offenses. Plus, as Reason magazine editor Matt Welch explains, Amash is hardly an immigration hard-liner, and he was opposed to the president’s travel ban. He’s also from Michigan, and running as a Libertarian could peel off enough votes to defeat Trump. L.A. Times

Israel isn’t a racist state, and the demographic breakdown of its Jewish population proves it, says Hen Mazzig in an op-ed article pushing back against the idea that the country is a haven for European Jews. Mazzig writes: “I am Mizrahi, as are the majority of Jews in Israel today. We are of Middle Eastern and North African descent. Only about 30% of Israeli Jews are Ashkenazi, or the descendants of European Jews. I am baffled as to why mainstream media and politicians around the world ignore or misrepresent these facts and the Mizrahi story. Perhaps it’s because our history shatters a stereotype about the identity of my country and my people. L.A. Times

If Israel wants to be truly democratic, it’s time to try the one-state solution. George Bisharat, a UC Hastings law professor, declares the long-favored two-state solution all but dead, thanks to the presence of Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and efforts by the Israeli government to undermine the peace process. His proposal: Recognize the fact that Israelis and Palestinians will always live side-by-side, and give them both equal rights. L.A. Times

Wealthy liberals are ruining California’s cities. Senate Bill 50 went down without a vote because of maneuvering by a Democratic state senator from a wealthy suburb. Urban restrictionism — a.k.a. NIMBYism — is a shameful reality in Los Angeles and San Francisco, driving up housing prices to a crisis point. “Then there is the refusal on the part of wealthy progressives to live by the values they profess to support at the national level,” writes Farhad Manjoo. “Creating dense, economically and socially diverse urban environments ought to be a paramount goal of progressivism.” New York Times

We need to hear more from women who’ve had abortions, so I immediately yield the floor to novelist Alena Graedon: “When I learned I was pregnant, I was shocked, devastated and elated, all at once. My first thought was to terminate the pregnancy. We’d been dating for only three months. But days later I changed my mind. I was 36. I didn’t know how many more chances I’d get to have a baby. My boyfriend didn’t feel the same way. Crying, he said it would ruin his life. His reaction was understandable and also wrenching. I decided to abort. It was the hardest, most anguishing decision I’d ever made.” L.A. Times