Charles M. Blow: Trump feasts on the false and fake

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Donald Trumps part in drafting a controversial statement - which had previously been denied. Picture: Getty Images
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Donald Trumps part in drafting a controversial statement - which had previously been denied. Picture: Getty Images
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It’s not spin or hyperbole, but bare-faced lies that are the root of all that’s wrong with this presidency says Charles M. Blow

Donald Trump continues his savage assault on truth, honesty and candour.

In two weeks time, one of Trump’s lawyers has been proven a liar for repeatedly claiming that Trump had not been involved at all in the drafting of the misleading statement that his son Donald Jr issued about his now-infamous meeting with Russians in Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.

As The Washington Post reported on Monday: “Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had ‘primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children’ when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to The New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasised that the subject of the meeting was ‘not a campaign issue at the time’.

Then on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that the elder Trump had played a role, saying: “The president weighed in, as any father would, based on the limited information that he had.”

In short, this whole line of defence that White House had maintained for weeks was a complete fairy tale, another blatant lie from the perpetual fountain of lies.

During a 25 July interview with the Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker, Trump said of his debased speech at the Boy Scouts’ Jamboree: “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them.” The only problem is that, as Politico reported this week: “The Boy Scouts of America, however, apologised to its members after the speech and then said on Wednesday that the organisation was not aware of any calls between its leaders and Trump.”

On Monday, Trump said: “As you know, the border was a tremendous problem and they’re close to 80 per cent stoppage. Even the president of Mexico called me - they said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”

The problem: As ABC News reports, “The Mexican government says President Enrique Peña Nieto did not call US President Donald Trump to compliment his immigration policies, as Trump had claimed” and “An American official confirmed that no telephone conversation recently occurred between Trump and Peña Nieto.”

But perhaps most disturbing and despicable is an allegation in a lawsuit filed by Rod Wheeler, a private detective who was hired by the family of Seth Rich, an aide for the Democratic National Committee who was fatally shot last summer in Washington, to investigate his death.

The claim is that the White House and a wealthy friend of Trump used Fox News to manufacture and promote a fake news story - using this dead man’s body, and ignoring his family’s agony - to “shift the blame from Russia and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russia in an attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election.” Wheeler is also a Fox News contributor.

Fox published the article but was forced to retract it. According to The New York Times, “The retracted article, citing law enforcement sources, said Rich had shared thousands of DNC emails with WikiLeaks - a theory that would undercut the assertions that Russia had interfered in the election on behalf of Trump.”

If this is true, it is the lowest of the low. It would implicate the White House in a most callous lie and it would further make laughable the “News” in “Fox News.”

All politicians try to manage news coverage and messages. They all try to put the most positive spin on things. They all are prone to hyperbole.

But this is another thing altogether. It is separate, distinct and unique. We have never seen an occupant of the Oval Office who is actually allergic to the truth. We have never had an enemy of honesty.

I keep coming back to the lying because I believe everything else flows from it.

If Trump had been upfront and candid about his and his cohorts’ dealings with Russia, had not lied about President Barack Obama supposedly wiretapping phones in Trump Tower, had released his tax returns and not tried to make James Comey commit to some sort of oath of allegiance, maybe we wouldn’t need a special counsel to investigate his campaign’s Russia connections.

If Trump hadn’t lied about three million people voting illegally, we wouldn’t be diverting resources to a ridiculous voter integrity commission. Maybe we could focus on the real problems: voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering. As Nate Cohn pointed out Wednesday on the Upshot: “Heading into the 2018 midterms, data and conventional wisdom agree: Gerrymandering is a big reason the GOP has a real chance to retain control of the House, even if the Democrats score a clear win” in the overall popular vote.

If Trump had been honest in his fake outreach to black voters during the campaign - “What the hell do you have to lose?” - the attack on civil rights by this Justice Department would make sense. The reversal on private prisons, the review of consent decrees, the return to the failed drug policies of the 1990s would make sense. If Trump had been honest, the absolutely outrageous news reported by The New York Times this week would make sense:

“The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.”

The lies are the root of all this evil. It not only impedes normal functioning and normal processes, it has destroyed a common basis on which to operate. The presidency is being used as tool of degradation rather than uplift.

©2017 New York Times New Service