President Donald Trump has lying on his mind today.
"'Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time,'" Trump tweeted on Monday morning. "You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself."
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He followed that gem up with this: "Bob Mueller (who is a much different man than people think) and his out of control band of Angry Democrats, don't want the truth, they only want lies. The truth is very bad for their mission!"
"He makes up stories." "They only want lies."
It's fascinating that one of Trump's preferred lines of attack against his enemies also happens to be his greatest weakness/flaw: Telling the truth (or not). By now, everyone knows -- or should -- that Trump said more than 5,000 things in his first 601 days in office that were either totally false or misleading, according to a count maintained by The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog.
What's less known but of critical import is how many people who are (or have been) very close to Trump are now proven-beyond-any-doubt liars. Sharon LaFraniere of The New York Times (you might have heard of it) made that point in a hugely important piece over the weekend. Here's the key bit:
"If the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has proved anything in his 18-month-long investigation — besides how intensely Russia meddled in an American presidential election — it is that Mr. Trump surrounded himself throughout 2016 and early 2017 with people to whom lying seemed to be second nature.
"They lied to federal authorities even when they had lawyers advising them, even when the risk of getting caught was high and even when the consequences for them were dire."
LaFraniere goes on to note that:
- Michael Flynn, Trump's one-time national security adviser, admitted to lying about his ties to Russia.
- Rick Gates, Trump's deputy campaign chair, admitted to lying about his financial dealings in Ukraine.
- Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, admitted to lying about his financial dealings in Ukraine -- and reportedly broke his plea deal by back-channeling information about the Mueller investigation to Trump's attorneys.
- Cohen, Trump's one-time personal lawyer/fixer, admitted to lying to Congress about his conversations about a Trump Tower Moscow project
And that is only the list of people around Trump who have lied with criminal penalties. As LaFraniere notes, Sean Spicer, Trump's first press secretary, made himself irrelevant in the eyes of the press corps on his first official day on the job when he insisted that Trump's inauguration crowd was the largest in history. And Spicer's replacement in the job -- Sarah Sanders -- has fared little better. That's to say nothing of White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, who famously/infamously created the phrase "alternative facts" in the early days of the Trump administration.
The common thread here, the hub at the center of the wheel, is, of course, Trump.
From The New York Times: "'Mr. Trump looks for people who share his disregard for the truth and are willing to parrot him, 'even if it's a lie, even if they know it's a lie, and even if he said the opposite the day before,' said Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer. They must be 'loyal to what he is saying right now,' she said, or he sees them as 'a traitor.'"
The way to rise in Trump's world is to tell the boss what he wants to hear. And what Trump wants to hear is that he is doing the exact right thing at all times -- and that those who argue any differently are losers and haters out to make him fail because they are jealous of his success.
That's a very dangerous proposition when the boss is Trump, because he spends most of his time telling himself a story of his life. In that story, he is always the hero, the genius, the best, the winner. Whether the story Trump tells himself comports with established facts is of little concern to the President. So if the way you ascend the ladder in Trumpworld is to tell him whatever he wants to hear -- truth be damned -- you have a whole lot of people enabling the most powerful person in the country to live in a fantasy world of his own creation.
Which brings us back to Trump's down-is-up view of the Mueller investigation. Trump has convinced himself that the probe is illegal on its face because it was triggered by the purposeful leak of classified information by former FBI Director James Comey. That's not true on two counts: 1) We know the FBI investigation was triggered by former Trump foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos when he bragged to an Australian diplomat that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton and 2) Comey has testified under oath that the memo he asked a friend to leak on his interactions with Trump was purposely written without any classified material in it.
Then there's Trump's characterization of the Mueller investigation as nothing more than witch hunt conducted by Democratic partisans out to get him. The "witch hunt" idea is belied by, well, a lot of facts, including: 1) 192 criminal charges have been brought as a result of the probe 2) 36 individuals and entities have been charged 3) seven people have pleaded guilty 4) one person -- Manafort -- has been convicted by a jury of his peers and 5) three people have been sentenced to or have served jail time due to wrongdoing uncovered by the Mueller investigation.
Trump's insistence that Mueller is some sort of rogue prosecutor with an ax to grind is, again, not backed up by facts. Mueller served as the FBI director for a decade -- nominated first by President George W. Bush and then by President Barack Obama. He was named special counsel in this investigation by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee. And, did I mention that Mueller himself has been a lifelong registered Republican? As for Trump's attacks on the "13 Angry Democrats" on the Mueller team, it's not clear where he's getting his numbers; nine of the 17 members of Mueller's team have donated to Democrats in the past, according to The Washington Post.
Those are all facts. They are the truth. That the President of the United States finds a way to disagree speaks to the level of staff-enabled fantasy in which he lives.