President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order establishing regulatory reform officers and task forces in US agencies in Washington, DC on February 24, 2017.
Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

Trump finds more ‘anonymous validators’ to tell him how right he is

In the UK for a NATO summit, Donald Trump spoke with reporters this morning, where he was proud to point to unnamed scholars who – wouldn’t you know it – recently told the president how right he is about impeachment.

“All you have to do is read the transcripts, you’ll see there was absolutely nothing done wrong. I had legal scholars looking at the transcripts the other day and they said, ‘These are absolutely perfect, Trump is right when he uses the word.’ … Those calls that we made – two of them – were absolutely perfect calls.”

At this point, we could once again explain that the transcripts aren’t transcripts. And that the call summary of Trump’s July 25 phone meeting was quite incriminating. And that the president’s Ukraine scandal is far broader than a couple of conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And that it’s weird Trump doesn’t seem to understand the nature of the controversy threatening his presidency.

But in this case, what I found especially entertaining was Trump pointing to alleged conversations he had “the other day” with “legal scholars” who not only told him how impressed they were with the transcripts that aren’t transcripts, but who also endorsed the president’s use of the word “perfect.”

And who, pray tell, are these scholars? Well, Trump didn’t say. They are, to borrow a phrase, his latest “anonymous validators.”

It was a Bloomberg News report that coined the phrase in this 2018 report, which continues to resonate.

One of the biggest supporters of President Donald Trump’s trade policies, according to the president, is the unnamed chief executive officer of a mystery company.

“I was with one of the greatest companies in the world. The chief executive officer. Very short while ago. And it really affects him,” Trump said at a July 31 campaign rally in Tampa, referring to his controversial use of tariffs. “He said ‘You know what, this does affect our company. But, Mr. President, keep going. You’re doing the right thing.”’

Trump didn’t identify his supporter, and the White House won’t say who it is. Trade groups representing the largest U.S. businesses and CEOs have almost universally opposed Trump’s disruptive approach to trade. But the person fits a model: an anonymous figure – important and powerful – who invariably supports the president’s position, according to Trump himself.

To be sure, the president has an unsettling habit of describing conversations that only occurred in his mind and presenting them to the public as if they were real. But the “anonymous validators” represent a subset of the larger phenomenon.

In July 2019, for example, Trump launched a controversial offensive against Baltimore, which he defended by saying he’d heard from “the African-American community,” which he claimed called him to praise his rhetoric.

Six months earlier, the president said he’d had secret conversations with unnamed Democrats who told him how right he was about shutting down the government.

Late last year, Trump also pointed to other unidentified Democrats who’ve also allegedly told him – in secret, of course – that they don’t believe in the legitimacy of the Russia scandal, and they agree it was “very unfair” what former Attorney General Jeff Sessions did to the president.

And now there are anonymous legal scholars who, at Trump’s direction, reviewed call summaries and concluded that the president’s talking points about impeachment are correct.

I’m sure there are some who’ll believe that these conversations actually occurred. I’m less sure why they’ll accept Trump’s obvious ridiculous claims at face value.