Trump Scores Points Abroad, but Mounting Scandals Haunt His Presidency Back Home

Between the Russia investigation and controversial bills, President Trump is likely not looking forward to his return

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Tuesday, Bethlehem, May 23, 2017.
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump landed in Rome on Tuesday night after spending four days in the Middle East, which he seemed to greatly enjoy. From the sword dance in Saudi Arabia to the "selfie incident" in Ben Gurion airport, Trump was treated in the first two stops of his international trip as a star. 

However, as his trip enters its final European leg, Trump is once again haunted by numerous scandals and political controversies back home in Washington. For those who have been following the Israel visit in recent days and so were not paying close attention to the rest of the news, here is a quick summary of what will be waiting for Trump once he crosses the ocean back to America. 

Read more: Trump's Israel love offensive might carry a hefty price tag ■ The miracle didn’t happen: Trump never said 'Palestinian state' ■ Trump rounds off his Israel trip with an empty Zionist speech ■ He came! He spoke! He conquered!

The biggest headache for the President remains the Russia scandal and related investigation. Although it feels much longer, it was only two weeks ago that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the man who was in charge of investigating the ties between Trump's election campaign and the Russian government. 

Comey was due to testify this week before the House of Representatives' Oversight Committee, but asked to delay his open testimony so that he could brief the new special counsel in charge of the investigation, former FBI Director Robert Mueller. A new date for Comey's open testimony hasn't yet been set, but it could come as early as next week. Whenever it takes place, it will likely attract wall-to-wall coverage and create more than one major embarrassment for the administration. 

Meanwhile, Trump will also be keeping a close eye on his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who decided, while Trump was in Israel, to plead the Fifth Amendment in response to a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

As Trump himself has said in the past, pleading the fifth could be interpreted as "having something to hide." Flynn is trying to avoid self-incrimination. His legal defense has already hinted that he would be willing to examine an immunity deal, something that could spell trouble for the President, depending on what Flynn will say in exchange for that immunity. 

Trump's 27 hours in Israel seemed to have put behind him the other Russia-related scandal that was recently in the news - that of his "leak" of classified intelligence, apparently from Israeli sources, to the Russian Foreign Minister. But while the public love-fest he had in Jerusalem will certainly help the Israeli political leadership, and most of the public, happy to put the incident to rest, Israel's security and intelligence agencies probably won't forget it anytime soon, and it remains to be seen how it will affect Israeli-American intelligence cooperation. 

On the subject of intelligence, Trump is also likely to face questions about a report published in the New York Times this week which claimed that he and senior officials in his administration had asked the heads of U.S. intelligence agencies to publicly refute the Russia allegations that have been haunting him since he took office. That report, together with a further report which says that a very senior member of his staff is now a "person of interest" in the Russia investigation, is certainly not going to make life easier for the President. 

On the political front, Trump is gearing up for two main battles on the hill - the first over his health care bill, and the second over his budget cuts proposal. The health care bill passed the House of Representatives, but according to numerous public polls it is deeply unpopular and Republican Senators have made it clear that they plan to aggressively re-write it before bringing it for a vote in the Senate, a process that could take many months. 

As for the budget cuts, they created a political storm in Washington on Tuesday when it turned out that the administration is planning massive cuts to Medicaid and to disability benefits. These cuts are supposed to fund Trump's planned military build-up, and are likely to become the main line of attack against Trump and the Republican Party by Democrats ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections.