A very casual relationship with the truth

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Chris Cillizza: Donald Trump’s Friday morning proves the massive danger of sitting down with Robert Mueller

President Donald Trump has a very casual relationship with the truth. To him, facts are fungible. They are things to stretch, pull and sometimes break — all in service of the story that he tells himself about his life.

In his first 466 days in office, Trump said more than 3,000 things that were either partially or entirely untrue, according to a count kept by the amazing Fact Checker blog at The Washington Post.

Trump’s penchant for prevarication is, at some level, an accepted piece of his presidency at this point. It’s a feature, not a glitch. For most people — both those who support Trump and who vehemently oppose him — his exaggerations, mistruths and, in many cases, outright lies are baked in.

If you like him, you don’t really care — seeing it as Trump being Trump, with little practical effect on your life or his presidency.

But there’s one place where Trump’s lack of candor and honesty is a major liability: in a legal deposition where lying carries criminal penalties.Which brings me to Friday morning — and Trump’s interview with Fox News’ Steve Doocy and subsequent 30-minute scrum with other reporters gathered on the North Lawn of the White House. And the ongoing debate over whether Trump will sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller to answer questions about the 2016 election, his firing of FBI Director James Comey and a bunch of other things.

Here’s the thing: If Friday is any indication of how Trump would speak in a deposition with Mueller, it would be hugely problematic for him, legally speaking.

MSNBC’s Katy Tur counted 19 lies or mistruths from Trump just on Friday morning.
In the words of Radiohead, the distortions, half-truths and flat-out lies were everywhere all of the time.
Here’s a sampler platter:

  • The Justice Department inspector general’s report on the 2016 election “totally exonerates” Trump in the Mueller investigation
  • The reason children are being separated from their parents at the southern border is because of a Democratic law
  • Former President Barack Obama “lost” Crimea
  • The nuclear threat from North Korea has ended

Those are some — but not all — of the biggies. There are more.

Any one of those statements would be very problematic if Trump tried to make them across the table from Mueller. And it’s worse than that for Trump: Remember that Mueller and his special counsel team have talked to dozens of people. All of whom have helped fill out a picture for the special counsel’s office. Which means Trump’s version of events, conversations and the like would be compared against all of the other versions Mueller has gathered.

There’s a big difference between preaching to the social media unquestioning faithful, and a high levela legal investigation.

53 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  June 16, 2018

    If Obama lost Crimea, he must be much older than he looks.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  June 16, 2018

      If that picture of Trump is 20 years old, he proves the truth of the saying about people getting the face they deserve. 20 years ago he looked like that, and now,…..oh dear.

    • Gezza

       /  June 16, 2018

      Only a narcissistic egomaniacal jingoist like Trump could think the US owned Crimea in the first place.

      • chrism56

         /  June 16, 2018

        Russia annexed Crimea from the Ukraine because Europe, following mainly the US line, did not want to confront Putin over this.
        https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-26411969
        Even the BBC 4 years ago thought this.
        So in the black/ white shorthand that marks so much of politics nowadays, Obama did lose Crimea. However, by doing so, he might have averted a bigger war.

        • Gezza

           /  June 16, 2018

          What was the result of the plebiscite?

          • chrism56

             /  June 16, 2018

            How many of the residents were allowed to vote, and how many actually did? Putin has form for stuffing ballot boxes as well?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  June 16, 2018

              It was a joke, Chrism. I was referring to the 1850s Crimean War.If Obama had lost that, he’d have to be about 200 years old.

            • Gezza

               /  June 16, 2018

              Some interesting reading here:
              https://www.quora.com/Why-did-Russia-annex-Crimea

            • chrism56

               /  June 16, 2018

              I know you were joking, Kitty. You could have made a comment about him wearing a balaclava as well. I was responding to Gezza who use sources even more dodgy than Wikipedia to support his case

            • Gezza

               /  June 16, 2018

              I’ve got no problem with Russia incorporating Crimea into Russia, chrism.
              If NATO & European countries are trying to ring fence Russia as they’ve historically done before I can perfectly well why they aren’t going to let them have the Crimea. It’s been Russian territory for a long time & Russian’s the main spoken language. Even if Putin’s regime stinks, it’s got bugger-all to do with the US.

            • Gezza

               /  June 16, 2018

              *perfectly well understand

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  June 16, 2018

            Damn, I didn’t think of the balaclava – or of him wearing a jersey with raglan sleeves 😀

            • chrism56

               /  June 16, 2018

              It wouldn’t be a jersey, it would be a cardigan.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  June 17, 2018

              What a mistake-a to make-a. I was forgetting that in Florence people wear cardigans.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  June 16, 2018

      Oh dear, why do I assume that everyone will have heard of the Crimean War ?

      • chrism56

         /  June 16, 2018

        I know what you are talking about – Charge of the Light Brigade, Florence Nightingale and siege of Sebastapol. It soured relationships between France/ UK and Russia even until the current day

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  June 16, 2018

          (blushes)

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  June 16, 2018

            Have you heard the recording of Tennyson reciting The Charge of the Light Brigade ?

            I had never heard it done like that; even though the recording is old and crackly, the rhythm is like horses hooves galloping inexorably. I finally heard it as it was meant to be heard.

            • chrism56

               /  June 16, 2018

              I used to be able to recite it “half a league, half a league…..” And yes, it needs the loud beat to give it rhythm.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  June 17, 2018

              I did, too, and can still do quite a bit. There was a man reciting it on the YouTube where the Tennyson recording was, and he did it in a conventional way that robbed it of something essential and made it ordinary.

  2. chrism56

     /  June 16, 2018

    Even Slate, that well known mouthpiece for Trump (sarc) says the election was rigged.
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/saletan/2014/03/17/crimea_referendum_2014_russia_s_margin_of_victory_shows_the_election_was.html
    Forbes points out that they had 123% voter turnout
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidadesnik/2014/03/18/how-russia-rigged-crimean-referendum/#6a805d6d41d7
    So Gezza, what was the integrity of the plebiscite?

  3. sorethumb

     /  June 16, 2018

    • Corky

       /  June 16, 2018

      There’s no fool like a liberal fool. Thank god these halfwits have crawled into a dark corner and died. Love Ann Coulter telling them Trump would be Prez and the incredulous looks she got.

      • Corky

         /  June 16, 2018

        On scale, I wonder who is more reviled…Trumpy or Garth McVicar?

    • David

       /  June 16, 2018

      A nice summary of why so many are desperate to find Russian collusion. It’s not because there is any evidence, it’s just to find a fig leaf for their laughable predictions.

      • Joe Bloggs

         /  June 17, 2018

        trump learned three months ago that Mueller had reason to believe manafort had reached out to Russia for help and wanted to know if manafort had shared details about that effort with trump (or if trump learned about it via some other means).

        But at least two months before he formally learned that, trump was telling his aides and friends that manafort had information that could incriminate him.

        Read into that whatever you want.

  4. sorethumb

     /  June 16, 2018

    Down with trump

    • chrism56

       /  June 16, 2018

      How erudite and witty, sorethumb. Trump might be an idiot, but your comments are even less intellectual than his.

  5. This column begins with a fake quote.

    • That would be ironic, wouldn’t it. Trump is the king of fake claims. Like today:

      https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/1998-trump-people-quote/

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  June 16, 2018

        Yes, the People article is actually a fake, much as I hate to admit it, according to Snopes. I saw it there when I was looking up something else, and wish that I hadn’t because now I feel obliged to refute it.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  June 16, 2018

          When you read it, it doesn’t ring true. It sounds written rather than spoken;it’s not convincing as anyone’s spoken words, quite apart from the content. The writer has overdone it as they usually do.

  6. David

     /  June 16, 2018

    Interesting to note that not a word mentioned about any danger of Trump revealing his supposed collusion with Russia, just the simple fact this entire thing is a setup for a purgury trap.

    • Gezza

       /  June 16, 2018

      *purgatory

      • Gezza

         /  June 16, 2018

        * or perjury

        • Gezza

           /  June 16, 2018

          * whatever
          If he tells the truth he should be ok unless the truth is more of a problem than lying.

          My guess is Trump will refuse to talk to Mueller.

          • David

             /  June 16, 2018

            “My guess is Trump will refuse to talk to Mueller.”

            Of course. Why would he? There is no upside to talking to the police.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  June 16, 2018

            Or a purge trap; a good dose of Andrews Liver Salts to clear the system.

  7. Trevors_Elbow

     /  June 17, 2018

    TDS is rampant on the Eastern and Western seaboards of the USA… with outbreaks in Universities across the country…… if you read Coming Apart you will see an overlap in Hilary support with the demographic split that the book discusses..

    Trump spoke directly to the people. They voted for him. Hilary spat directly at the people “DEPLORABLES!!” and the “the hardhat, gun rack, achin’ back
    Over taxed, flag-wavin’, fun-lovin’ crowd”** spat right back at her and voted Trump

    Frankly, Mueller needs to put up or shut up. He has been at it for a long time now. He has deployed all the normal facist tactics of singling out individuals, turning over their lifes and using what he finds as legal leverage via the threat of jail to extort ‘evidence’ and he has still failed to actual prove the hypothesis of Russian Collusion…

    [** the quote is taken from a Garth Brooks song called American Honky-Tonk Bar Association. If you want to start to understand American outside of the East and West coast uber liberal echo chambers, especially the south and great mid and south west regions of the US, you need to get your head around Country music. It talks directly to the concerns of working class strugglers, i.e. the people that Donald was talking to, and also to the archetypes those strugglers look up to. Yip it can be cheesy but there is a rich vein of demographic description in the genres songbook if you actually listen…]

  8. Alan Wilkinson

     /  June 17, 2018

    There are half truths on both sides with these kinds of quotes. Trump was wrong about 49 days. He was right about Manafort’s “crimes” predating the campaign and that he chaired the campaign for only a short time – three months.

    Of course Mueller’s legal eagles could trip Trump up on details and facts without any difficulty. Their problem is that Trump’s supporters wouldn’t care and would regard such charges as merely malicious and politically motivated. Which they are.

    • The courts won’t care what Trump’s supporters think.

      Where is the evidence that the Mueller inquiry is politically motivated or malicious? Mueller’s integrity is (or was) widely accepted.

      Manafort faces serious charges, and the reason for his bail being revoked appear to be due to attempts to influence witnesses. If so, very stupid, especially while on bail.

      49 days is very specific – and wrong by a big margin.

      Manafort joined Trump’s campaign as campaign manager (a high level job one would think) on 29 March 2016, leaving it on 19 August. That’s nearly five months – 143 days, nearly three times what Trump claimed.
      https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/timeline-paul-manaforts-role-trump-campaign/story?id=50808957

      And anyway, it doesn’t matter how long he held a position, it’s what he did in relation to the campaign that is under scrutiny.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  June 17, 2018

        My understanding is that the substantive charges against Manafort are an obscure historic law that has almost never been prosecuted. Presumably the only purpose for invoking this is the orchestrated malicious political attack on Trump. Or do you think it represents a sudden attack of legal conscientiousness?

        • “the orchestrated malicious political attack on Trump”

          It’s much wider than Trump.

          Orchestrated by who?

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  June 17, 2018

            Initially his political opponents, both Democrat and Republican, who hired Mueller. Now the Mueller team who have to find scalps to justify their salaries and assure their future employment credentials. Apparently they were sufficiently motivated to sacrifice seven figure salaries for this opportunity. Having it fizzle would be catastrophic for them.

      • Trevors_Elbow

         /  June 17, 2018

        So what has Manafort done that he has been charged with that relates to his time on the Trump campaign? Anything or is it all old historical stuff that is being used as leverage to turn him in to a ‘jailhouse informant’ type of source of material top attempt to get at Trump?

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  June 17, 2018

      Clearly details and facts don’t matter to Alan either – so bound up in identity politics that lies and conspiracies are more palatable than reality.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  June 17, 2018

        Sometimes they matter and other times they don’t.

        • Joe Bloggs

           /  June 17, 2018

          They matter in a court of law, which I suspect will be where trump’s propensity to lie like a flatfish will be his downfall.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  June 17, 2018

            You do actually have to have a case in order to get to a court of law. Even Mueller.

  9. Patzcuaro

     /  June 17, 2018

    If you say it loud enough and often enough it becomes the current reality.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  June 17, 2018

      It helps if you are standing on a big soap box with a lot of microphones in front of you.