WASHINGTON ― For Donald Trump, the past week has marked a fresh low in a campaign that has already sunk modern American politics to new levels.
But unlike the GOP presidential nominee’s previous nadirs ― such as his call for a blanket travel ban on Muslims, or his false claim that the father of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy ― this week has actually hurt Trump’s campaign. A lot. Polls taken late this week show Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton leading Trump by double digits nationwide. The businessman is even behind in deep red states like Georgia. So what happened?
The short answer is that Trump waged war against everyone from the family of a fallen soldier, to his party’s top officials, to a baby who cried at one of his rallies. He’s given voters, GOP lawmakers and potential donors a laundry list of reasons to steer clear of his campaign. Here’s how Trump’s terrible week went down.
Saturday, July 30: Trump attacked Khizr and Ghazala Khan, a Gold Star military family whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004. The couple appeared on stage together at the Democratic National Convention, where Khzir Khan criticized Trump, saying the GOP nominee “smears the character of Muslims.”
Trump responded by insulting the Khans and ignoring their sacrifice. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say, she probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me,” Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Saturday. “Mr. Khan, who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, and say many other inaccurate things.”
In the same ABC interview, Trump complained about the presidential debate schedule. “It’s against two NFL games. I got a letter from the NFL saying ‘This is ridiculous,’” he whined. Within hours, a spokesman for the NFL said the former reality TV personality was lying.
Asked about changes to the GOP party platform that seemed to benefit Russia, Trump told ABC that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not sending forces into Ukraine. “Just so you understand, he’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right,” he said.
Informed that Russia had annexed part of Ukraine in 2014, Trump flubbed, “OK, well, he’s there in a certain way, but I’m not there yet.”
Early Monday, August 1: Trump renewed his attacks on the Khans.
Monday afternoon: Trump attacked the fire marshal overseeing a rally in Columbus, Ohio, saying the first responder “ought to be ashamed of himself,” because “they turned away thousands of people.” It was the second time in a week he’d attacked firefighters. Trump had speculated in Colorado Springs on July 29 that the fire marshal in charge was probably a Democrat, and he called the enforcement of fire code occupancy limits “a disgraceful situation.”
Monday 7:25 p.m.: Trump praised Paul Nehlen, the Wisconsin primary challenger vying to unseat Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Monday 8:35 p.m.: USA Today contributor Kristen Powers reported how the GOP nominee said that if his daughter Ivanka Trump were ever sexually harassed at work, he’d expect her to quit her job. “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case,” he said.
Early Tuesday: Trump’s son, Eric Trump, doubled down on the idea that women who are victims of sexual harassment have done something to deserve it. “Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman” Eric Trump told CBS This Morning. His sister “wouldn’t allow herself” to be subjected to sexual harassment.
Tuesday, late morning: Donald Trump told a supporter at a rally in Ashburn, Virginia, to remove her crying baby. He’d said moments before to the same woman, “Don’t worry about that baby, I love babies. I hear that baby crying, I like it.”
“Actually, I was only kidding,” Trump said seconds later. “You can get the baby out of here.” When it seemed like the woman had left, an incredulous sounding Trump told the crowd, “I think she really believed me! That I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking!”
At the same rally, Trump told the crowd he received a Purple Heart from a veteran earlier that day.
“I always wanted to get the Purple Heart,” Trump said. “This was much easier.”
Trump made the statement less than a day after The New York Times published a story detailing the five draft deferments Trump received during the Vietnam War, including a medical deferment for bone spurs in his heels.
Tuesday around lunchtime: In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post, Trump went out of his way to say he could not endorse three leading Republicans: Ryan, Arizona Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. (R-N.H.)
The three snubs all appeared to be vindictive attempts by Trump to exact revenge on fellow Republicans he felt had been critical of him. Both Ryan and McCain have formally endorsed Trump already, but they also denounced his attacks on a federal judge and on the Khan family, respectively.
Tuesday evening: For the second time in two days, Trump peddled the notion that the November elections would be “rigged” against him. He said on Fox News that court rulings striking down voter identity laws were discriminatory and would likely lead to fraud on Election Day. “People are going to walk in there, they’re going to vote 10 times, maybe. Who knows? They’re going to vote 10 times,” Trump said.
Wednesday midday: During a rally in Daytona Beach, Florida, Trump vividly described watching a video of currency being unloaded from an airplane that he said was shot in Iran. “I’ll never forget the scene this morning,” Trump said. “Iran ― I don’t think you’ve heard this anywhere but here ― Iran provided all of that footage, the tape, of taking that money off that airplane.”
The only problem was that what he actually saw was a publicly available video that was months old ― and shot in Geneva, Switzerland. It did not show the exchange of cash, it was not “top secret,” as Trump claimed, it was not “a military tape” and it was not “provided by Iran.”
Early Thursday: Trump’s campaign admitted that all the candidate had ever seen was the old footage from Switzerland, not military video from Iran. But that didn’t keep Trump from repeating the lie again.
Thursday afternoon: The real estate businessman insisted to a crowd in Portland, Maine, he’d seen a secretive Iranian video. “It was interesting because a tape was made,” he said. “Right? You saw that? With the airplane coming in? Nice plane. And the airplane coming and the money coming off, I guess, right? That was given to us, has to be, by the Iranians.”
Thursday evening: The damage Trump had been doing to his campaign all week finally began to show up in polls, where the Republican nominee trailed Clinton by 9 to 15 points nationally. Even more worrying for Republicans, however, were the double digit leads that Clinton was achieving in battleground states.
Friday morning: Trump acknowledged in a Twitter post that he had not, in fact, seen any video from Iran.
As if to underscore how irresponsible Trump’s comments on Iran had been, former CIA acting director Mike Morell penned a scathing condemnation of Trump, published in The New York Times on Friday morning.
He suggested in the article that the GOP nominee was being manipulated by Putin, himself a former Russian intelligence officer. “In the intelligence business, we’d say that Mr. Trump was an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” Morell wrote.
Friday afternoon: As Trump’s party, and his potential donors panicked all week, the presidential candidate repeatedly said how united the GOP was behind him, a point he reiterated at two rallies on Friday with his vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Friday evening: The only sign that Trump had any intention of shifting the momentum of his disastrous campaign came late on Friday in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he read formal endorsements of Ryan, McCain and Ayotte from a sheet of paper.
While this may have been enough to satisfy Republican party leaders desperate to find some redeeming quality in Trump’s campaign, a few minutes of politeness isn’t likely to repair the damage from his hellish week.
Only 12 more weeks to go...