Beginning with warnings of Russian blackmail and ending with confounding presidential statements, this week revealed a White House in deeper trouble than buoyant financial markets have recognized.
The strongest evidence came not from attacks by opponents but rather the words and actions of President Donald Trump and his aides. Taken together, they pose the greatest threat to fulfillment of a presidential term since Bill Clinton faced the Monica Lewinsky scandal two decades ago.
Trump's troubles span every element of executive leadership:
Other interviews this week demonstrated related problems for a president whose inexperience in government makes him unusually dependent on advisers.
To The Economist, Trump asserted that his personal pressure caused China to stop manipulating its currency to the disadvantage of American competitors. "As soon as the president got elected, they went the other way," added his Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who sat in on the conversation.
Those assertions are false. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama pressed China on currency values for years; by 2015, the International Monetary Fund declared the yuan no longer undervalued. If Mnuchin in fact knew that — as any U.S. Treasury secretary would be expected to — then the exchange suggested he felt the need to humor the president rather than address him honestly.
To Time magazine, Trump blasted digital technology employed on new Navy aircraft carriers and said he had directed that, instead, "you're going to goddamned steam" power to launch jets. The comments blindsided and befuddled defense officials, one of whom told The Washington Post that Trump was misinformed even though there were "elements of reality in what he said."
On Twitter, Trump's comments turned even stranger.
Responding to reports of how he had belied his own subordinates' words, the president on Friday morning undercut their credibility even further. "It is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!" he wrote. He mused about canceling all future briefings.
Answering accounts from Comey allies that the FBI director resisted his request to pledge loyalty, Trump threatened a personal war. "James Comey better hope there are no 'tapes' of our conversations," the president wrote.
Such statements shatter historic norms of presidential propriety and decorum — as did Trump's discredited claim that Obama had spied on him. After Trump made that accusation on March 4, Comey described him to associates as "crazy" and "outside the realm of normal," The New York Times reported this week.
The Dow Jones industrial average stood at 21,006 when Trump issued that allegation. By midafternoon, it was at 20,888.
That's a decline of just half a percentage point. If turmoil in the White House matters for American economic performance, investors who have settled into the Trump roller coaster should brace for a rough ride.
Watch: Majority of Americans think Comey firing 'inappropriate'