Ron Elving

President Trump's first State of the Union address was billed as a bid for unity, a call for all to rise above party and faction in pursuit of national ideas and ideals.

In fact, scattered throughout the 80-minute speech were several moments that might qualify as outreach. But if you blinked, you might have missed them.

Recent FBI investigations relevant to the 2016 presidential election have become the latest battleground in our deeply divided and partisan politics.

Some Republicans, disappointed by the lack of charges over Hillary Clinton's emails and distressed by the continuing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, suddenly perceive corruption in the FBI. Democrats counter that the casting of doubt on the nation's top national law enforcement agency is an unprecedented outrage.

Ask Republicans about Democrats, or vice versa, and sooner or later you will hear: "They're out of touch with the American people."

That statement was part of the soundtrack on Capitol Hill over the first weekend of the partial government shutdown, repeated so often that one ceases to hear it.

It's an all-purpose way of condemning the hated "other" party. And it conveys the assumption that whoever is speaking is not out of touch with the American people.

Capitol Hill Republicans are nervous about November. The margins of their majority are dwindling in both chambers. It's looking like a good year to run as a Democrat, and President Trump isn't helping with his weak polls and potent controversies.

This past week brought a series of stunning reports about President Trump and his White House, reports some Americans found hard to believe. But one quote attributed to the president should have surprised no one: the one in The New York Times where the president asked, "Where's my Roy Cohn?"

A Senate election in Alabama. A Republican tax bill moving through Congress. Violent protests in the Middle East following U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

What could these widely disparate matters have in common, besides heavy news coverage? It turns out that they all have enabled President Trump to send a message to one distinct and crucial category of his supporters.

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The news did not improve this week for Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat who is facing sexual assault allegations. While new accusers came forward, several of Moore's previous, prominent supporters took a step back.

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The word debase - debase has been trending on Merriam-Webster's website.

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President Trump continues to learn things about his job and the rest of us continue to learn things about Donald Trump.

Last week, faced with one natural disaster festering in Texas and another impending in Florida, Trump used a storm relief bill to save Congress from a fiscal disaster of its own making.

Moreover, he did it by shunning his own party's leaders in the House and Senate and cutting a deal instead with the leaders of the opposition.

Some years back a hit song filled the summertime airwaves with its chorus of "See You In September."

It was meant to be a lover's promise of joyful reunion at summer's end.

But to use those words in Washington, D.C., right now sounds more like a warning ... or even a threat.

If you picked up a print copy of The New York Times on Friday, you may have noticed something unusual about it — something missing. There were no front-page headlines about President Trump, no pictures of him — not even a little "key" to a story on an inside page.

The name Trump did appear in one story, a profile of John W. Nicholson Jr., the Army general commanding U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The president was necessarily mentioned in that story, but the story was not about the president.

Five years ago, before he was a candidate for president, Donald Trump was pretty sure he knew what to do about Afghanistan. It was a losing proposition, "a complete waste" in terms of "blood and treasure."

"Why are we continuing to train these Afghanis who then shoot our soldiers in the back?" he asked on Twitter in 2012. "Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home!"

More recently, candidate Trump was less certain about exactly when the U.S. should exit the struggle that he had railed against continuing.

President Trump is only the latest man in the White House to see his plans, his governing coalition and his popular standing all at risk because of a racially charged issue.

You could almost hear the intake of breath from Republicans and all sorts of establishmentarians this week. The reason: their hope that Donald Trump can transition from rabble rousing billionaire to purposeful president with the installation of retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as his chief of staff.

Such a shift has long been known as The Pivot — expected and predicted over and over again since Trump announced his candidacy two years ago.

The week had almost ended when the Twitter item came across. Minutes before quitting time, less than an hour after the markets closed: Gen. John Kelly named White House chief of staff.

The secretary of homeland security was replacing Reince Priebus at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

After about six months and a week, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee had been removed as the No. 1 aide to President Trump.

Updated at 1:55 p.m. ET

In an emotional return to the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon, Sen. John McCain admonished the leaders of his party for how they managed the health care bill and called instead for "regular order."

President Trump has summoned all Senate Republicans to the White House on Wednesday for a debrief on the state of health care legislation effort in their chamber. Based on the week so far, the meeting may be more like a post mortem.

Now that Donald Trump Jr.'s emails have produced the kind of solid evidence the Russia connection story had been lacking, what had been mostly speculative reporting has instead become the first draft of history.

Expect that history to be much debated. All accounts of political skulduggery with foreign actors tend to be "tangled and murky," as one foreign policy historian has written.

President Trump plans a European trip next week for a gathering of representatives of the world's largest economies — including those of allies such as Britain, Japan and Germany, and rivals such as China and Russia.

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Updated at 11:05 a.m. ET

Ordinary people often get into legal trouble in response to desperate circumstances. Politicians, however, seem to make the worst trouble for themselves when they are riding high and carrying all before them.

Thus the most famous political scandals of U.S. history have happened not when presidents or members of Congress had their backs to the wall but when their sails were filled with a favorable wind.

Until now, all the controversy over President Trump, his associates and their various connections with various Russians has been billows of smoke without a visible fire.

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