“When Trump lies, he lies for a purpose. The content of his lies matters less than their function, which is to sell the idea that truth doesn’t matter – or doesn’t even exist at all. He lies to obscure reality so that he can redefine it. Trump’s lies *are* the story.”
— Tweet by Matt Schlapp (4/30/18)
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (5/5/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
There is a war, let’s call it ‘Russiagate’, and there are many battles underway. Without divining motivations, we have on one side Trump, cronies and Russpublicans. On the other side we have the Justice Department and the Democrats. Increasingly there is no middle ground.
A big skirmish over the last week was the New York Times report of a leak of 49 questions purportedly compiled by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in advance of a possible meeting with the president: Mueller Has Dozens of Inquiries For Trump In Broad Quest On Russia Ties And Obstruction.
We won’t spend a lot of time on this because the bigger news isn’t the questions, but how they came to be published. The news broke Monday evening and all news programming focused on the questions for the next few hours. Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday morning declaring the disclosure of the special counsel’s questions “disgraceful”. And immediately, erroneously, announced there were no questions of the “phony” crime of collusion.
At the time of the news report the New York Times would only say the questions did not come from Trump’s legal team: Were Trump’s Own Lawyers Behind The ‘disgraceful’ Leak Of Mueller’s Questions?
So who would do such a “disgraceful” thing as leak the questions?
There were many who leapt to support Trump in his time of wounding:
“Clearly” was the accusation of Trump’s lead propagandist Sean Hannity. And he was wrong once again.
Rachel Maddow reporting live on MSNBC read the questions out Monday night wondered out loud if because of some of the poorly worded questions if these were written by someone on Trump’s team. She was right. So was former Mueller assistant Michael Zeldin who opined the questions were “notes taken by the recipients of a conversation with Mueller’s office”:
“Because of the way these questions are written,” Zeldin explained his methodology. “Lawyers wouldn’t write questions this way, in my estimation. Some of the grammar is not even proper. So, I don’t see this as a list of written questions that Mueller’s office gave to the president. I think these are more notes that the White House has taken and then they have expanded upon the conversation to write out these as questions.”
Quite a kerfuffle, but how did all of this come about? The Washington Post provided some context: Mueller Raised Possibility Of Presidential Subpoena In Meeting With Trump’s Legal Team.
Trump’s legal team met with Mueller on March 5 about the parameters of a possible meeting between Trump and Mueller. There were two important take-aways from this meeting. The first is the answer to the origin of the 49 questions.
“In the wake of the testy March 5 meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked, according to three of the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly. The New York Times the existence of the list.”
That’s right, the 49 questions were Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow’s notes from the Mueller meeting. But to jump to the beginning of the article:
“In a tense meeting in early March with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, President Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“But Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.”
That’s right, Mueller said he could issue a subpoena to the president and force him to appear before a grand jury.
We’ll come back to this but let’s consider the lies made by the president about the source and meaning of his own lawyer’s questions.
We know that Trump lies at an incredible rate, the question is does it matter? Fact checkers have to work at a frantic pace to keep up: President Trump Has Made 3,001 False Or Misleading Claims So Far.
Trump not only lies a LOT, but he is lying more often:
“In the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.
“That’s an average of nearly 6.5 claims a day.
“When we first started , he averaged 4.9 claims a day. Slowly, the average number of claims has been creeping up.
“Indeed, since we last updated this tally two months ago, the president has averaged about 9 claims a day.”
More specifically, Esquire reports: Trump Celebrates 3,000 False Claims in Office With an Impressively False Claim.
The article’s subhead states the glaringly obvious: It sure seems like this president doesn’t have much regard for the truth!
Jack Holmes considers the WaPo article and applies it to the release of the 49 questions while repeating an observation that Trump’s single day record of lying is 53 times set on July 25, 2017.
“As soon as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s questions for President Trump were leaked to , it was time for President Business Deals to weigh in. (Pay no attention to the fact that it used to be a genuine scandal for a sitting president to weigh in on any ongoing Justice Department investigation—much less one into himself and his associates.) Given the chance to ruminate on the line of questioning, here’s what the leader of the free world came up with… (Trump tweet)
So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!”
Of course anyone that spent any amount of time reading past the headlines knew that many of the questions from Sekulow’s notes were about collusion. Which brings us to the second question about Trump’s lying, who cares?: Poll: 60% Of Americans Say Trump Is Usually Dishonest.
We’re past traditional stories and polls about Trump’s lying, here’s a insight based on how we are now used to Trump lying:
“Overall, 61 percent of respondents to the online poll believe that Trump tells the truth “only some of the time or less.””
Trump lies so often, we now wonder how often he actually tells the truth. But like most polls, the devil is in the detail:
“According to the NBC News/SurveyMoney poll, 94 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of independents believe that Trump tells the the truth only occasionally or even less frequently.
“Republicans, on the other hand, overwhelmingly view Trump as a consistent truth-teller. Seventy-six percent said that he tells the truth either all or most of the time, while 22 percent believe that he tells the truth only some of the time or less.
“Among that 22 percent, more than half approve of Trump’s job in the Oval Office, the poll found.”
Trump supporters overwhelmingly believe Trump tells the truth, but half of the supporters who believe he lies often approve of his job as president.
One of the battle fronts is a line of demarcation about Trump lies – his supporters repeatedly show they don’t care.
The New York Times was also criticized through this round of Trump lies and aspersions about the supposed Mueller team questions: Here’s How Trump Is Gaming The New York Times By Dribbling Leaks — Just Like The Russians Did.
Author and former New York Times reporter Amy Chozick shines a light on how the media is manipulated by Trump and during the election:
“In her new book, “Chasing Hillary,” New York Times reporter Amy Chozick admits that she and other mainstream media reporters were duped by foreign propaganda. In a chapter titled “,” Chozick confesses that she and her Times colleagues allowed the need for attention — and clicks — to guide their decision to forefront largely unimportant information obtained from email hacks of Hillary Clinton’s staff. …“[N]othing hurt worse than my own colleagues calling me a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence,” she wrote. “The worst part was they were right.”
So is this release by the New York Times a similar manipulation or did the paper learn their lesson?
“This week there’s reason to be worried that they didn’t — and not because of over the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, in an apparent effort to ingratiate herself with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (As bad as that was.) The real concern is that the Times is getting played by the Trump administration in almost the same way it got played by the Russians, which suggests the Gray Lady’s staffers are still allowing the desire for breaking news to trump their civic duty.”
We have reported on Trump’s use of aliases, specifically in the case of making sure he made the Forbes list, “Trump would pretend to be a third party named “John Barron”.
Is it possible John Barron struck again?
“Leaking a story and then acting like a victim of the leak seems like exactly the kind of plot Trump and his crew would hatch to advance their narratives. The thing to remember is that Trump has a long history of manipulating journalists, and of planting stories in the press while pretending they don’t come from him.”
Trump’s lies are directed at solidifying his base, to make sure that if there is impeachment, it is viewed through a political, not a legal, lens. Does this mean the battle is lost? Let’s check in with Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein: Robert Mueller And Co. Are Playing Hardball.
Former FBI Director James Comey was fired. Former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired. Mueller and Rosenstein are frequently targets of criticism or threats. Are they compromised, cowed?
“President Trump and his allies in the House have done just about anything they can to undermine Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and intimidate its leaders. They’ve questioned the Mueller team’s neutrality….
“Mueller, it seems, isn’t cowed. Neither, for that matter, is Rosenstein.”
Mueller has threatened to subpoena Trump to appear before a grand jury if he refuses to meet. This was the fuse that was lit that led to this week’s dust-up.
This subpoena threat also came a few weeks after Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen’s office, residence, hotel room and safety deposit box were raided.
Rosenstein had his own moment to make sure he was doing just fine. He offered, “I think they should understand by now that . We’re going to do what’s required by the rule of law, and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.”
That’s right, he said the DoJ was not going to be extorted. A short video is here.
There is another news link and video here from New York Magazine that is also worth a quick read because there is an acknowledgment that Russpublicans are drafting to remove Rosenstein should they decide that is necessary.
The conclusion offered by the WaPo authors is:
“The images Mueller and Rosenstein are projecting are pretty cocksure.”
Oh, the irony. Trump turns to Clinton attorney for salvation
Meanwhile, after denying he was making changes to his legal team, Trump (of course) made changes to his legal team. By looking at both teams, we can imagine possible courses of action: Trump Replaces Ty Cobb With Clinton Impeachment Lawyer.
This from a Commoner Call reader:
“President plans to replace White House lawyer Ty Cobb with Emmet T. Flood, a lawyer who represented former President during his late-1990s impeachment hearings.”
So while Trump reshuffles the deck to add aggression and impeachment experience, here’s an insight into Mueller’s team: Meet The Prosecutor Experts Say Could Be Robert Mueller’s Supreme Court Closer.
“Special counsel built a team of more than a dozen prosecutors to investigate Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, but experts say one member might best be considered “the closer”: . …
“Dreeben is one of the government’s most venerated and tested specialists. His career at the Office of the Solicitor General, the lawyers who represent the federal government before the high court, spans nearly three decades. He has argued more than 100 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, making him “only the second person to reach that rare milestone this century,” declared Chief during the court hearing that marked the occasion.”
If Trump won’t agree to meet, Mueller could subpoena him. Serving a sitting president with a subpoena could be challenged and potentially be heard by the Supreme Court – hence Dreeben as part of Mueller’s team.
If Trump appears before a grand jury, any betting lines would change dramatically in favor of impeachment based on his likelihood of perjuring himself. So Trump adds Flood.
Might remind you of chess? If so, here’s the appropriate closing…
Max Boot, an author and writer for Foreign Policy tweeted this:
Max BootVerified account @MaxBoot
Wow. Trump has gone from 4.9 lies a day to 9 lies a day. He’s getting more mendacious. Scarcely seemed possible. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/05/01/president-trump-has-made-3001-false-or-misleading-claims-so-far/ …
8:13 AM – 1 May 2018
But the real insight was added by author and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov:
“But this is always how it works. People adjust to a level of dishonesty as to a drug, and greater amounts of bigger, bolder promises & lies are needed to provoke the same reaction.”
Trump acts guilty. Trump must not feel confident with the facts because he is pounding the table and rallying his base. The limited history of impeachment in the U.S. says impeachment will largely be about the politics. More table pounding to follow.