With the taped conversation between Michael Cohen and then candidate Donald Trump, it confirms that Trump lied to the American people about his awareness of the settlement. But, that is not abnormal. In a recent PBS Newshour/ NPR/ Marist poll, 58% of Americans believe the President tells the truth sometimes or hardly ever, with 3% saying he never tells the truth. 36% of folks think he tells the truth almost always or most of the time.
Before the summer, The Washington Post counted 3,200 lies communicated by Trump as President and in a recent speech in Montana, measured 76% of the comments were false, misleading or unsupported. This percent is similar to the 69% untruthful rate that Politifacts has measured during his Presidency as of earlier this year. Using the latter percent, it means for every three comments, two of them are untruthful. These numbers do not surprise me at all. But, we should not rely only on statistics.
Earlier this week, PBS Newshour had a panel discussion on President Trump and his relationship with the truth. Judy Woodruff interviewed Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington who served in the last three Republican administrations, Lara Brown, the director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University and author of several books on presidents, including “Jockeying For the American Presidency,” and Domenico Montanaro, the lead political editor for NPR.
Wehner started out echoing what some have said publicly that Trump is a “pathological liar.” He also uttered the comment in the title above that Trump has set out to “annihilate the truth.” Brown concurred and noted the sheer “volume of lies” makes it hard to categorize. She noted that he “exhausts” Americans with the continual stream of lies. Montanaro echoed their comments, but also pointed out if two numbers from the PBS Newshour/ NPR/ Marist survey are added together, 61% of Americans believe the President tells the truth either sometime, hardly ever or never.
It should be noted that 56% of Americans believes he lies more than other Presidents, with only 32% saying the opposite. Wehner and Brown noted that all Presidents tell lies (LBJ in the Pentagon Papers, Clinton about sexual relations, Reagan about the Iran-Contra affair and Nixon about Watergate, e.g.), but the number and volume dwarf that of his predecessors. Montanaro noted that we expect truth from our President and it is unnerving when we don’t get it. Brown’s comment about the lies being exhausting is true in our house. The man wears my wife and me out. We should not be expecting our President to be untruthful.
Each cited examples of lies, but Wehner said one that is not that big of an issue is an exemplar that set the stage for this President. It related to the size of his inaugural crowd. With visual evidence to contradict him, Trump lied and then made his spokesperson repeat the lie. He said it showed out of the gate, the President was ready to lie even when the facts demonstrated otherwise. That is also in keeping with Brown’s comments that he lies big and small and a comment I have cited from Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked with Trump for years. Wells said “Trump lies every day even about things of no consequence.”
Nothing in this post is news to readers. What is newsworthy is to hear someone use the term “annihilate the truth.” That is an astounding revelation and one I truly do not find fault with. As I shared with a Senator on his website earlier in the week, one way to tell the President may be guilty of more than obstruction of justice is the number of times he has changed his story just since Helsinki. We must let Robert Mueller get at the truth. We certainly are not hearing it from this President, at least not very often.