Over the holiday weekend, Donald Trump asked why neither the FBI nor the Justice Department contacted him during the 2016 campaign to alert him to the “Russia problem.” Quoting Rush Limbaugh, the president raised the identical point again this morning.
What Trump doesn’t seem to remember is that federal law enforcement officials did warn him during the campaign. In fact, the FBI urged the Republican and his team to report any suspicious overtures from foreigners – a request Trump World ignored for reasons it’s never explained.
As it turns out, this isn’t the only thing the president is having trouble remembering. Trump also argued via Twitter this morning:
“Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!”
I’m interested in Trump’s dishonesty as a central element of his presidency, but in a case like this, I’m even more interested in why he’s peddling a claim that’s so obviously absurd.
As regular readers know, the first line from the White House was that the president ousted Comey based on the recommendations of the Justice Department, where Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo criticizing the FBI director’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
Trump soon after rejected his own team’s version of events, freely admitting during an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt that he was motivated by concerns about the Russia scandal when he decided to oust Comey from his FBI post.
“[W]hen I decided to just do it [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,” Trump said in May 2017.
About the same time as the interview, Sarah Huckabee Sanders also told reporters that by firing Comey, the White House had “taken steps” to end the investigation into the Russia scandal.
Soon after, the president told Russian visitors during an Oval Office meeting that the Comey firing relieved “pressure” he was feeling from the scandal.
Or put another way, news organizations “keep pushing” this version of events because Trump admitted it’s true.
So why is it, exactly, that the president is denying reality? Is it part of a legal strategy to avoid obstruction-of-justice charges? Does he genuinely not remember his own public comments?
Does Trump assume Americans are easily fooled? Does he not realize that we can easily look this stuff up?