US President Donald J. Trump after a group photo on the second day of the G7 Summit at the Hotel San Domenico in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, 27 May 2017.
Angelo Carconi

Trump sets up a contest of credibility he simply cannot win

Updated

The list of Donald Trump falsehoods exposed by former FBI Director James Comey over the last two days isn’t short.

Trump was asked on Fox News last month whether he ever asked Comey for his loyalty. Trump responded, “No, I didn’t.” Trump was asked at a White House press conference last month, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?” Trump replied, “No. No. Next question.”

Trump was asked by NBC News’ Lester Holt about the private dinner he had with Comey, and the president said Comey “asked for the dinner.” Trump said Comey had called him on the phone in the weeks that followed to tell the president he wasn’t under investigation. Trump said Comey was fired in part because FBI personnel had “lost confidence” in the bureau’s director.

Each of these claims now appears to be a brazen lie the president told the American public.

But wait, Republicans will argue, we don’t know for sure that Trump was lying. What we have here is a “he said, he said” dispute. For all we know, the GOP argument goes, perhaps Comey’s claims are untrue and the president has been completely honest.

And while that may make the White House and its allies feel better, this posture isn’t quite right.

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On the surface, much of the controversy involves private conversations between two people, each of whom have presented contradictory versions of events to the public. But just below the surface, as Rachel explained on the show last night, there are some layers to the contest of credibility between Trump and Comey.

On the one hand, we see the former FBI director, who’s now testified under oath under threat of perjury. He has detailed memos, written contemporaneously, that bolster his assertions. He also shared the details of his interactions with the president – also contemporaneously – with the deputy director of the FBI, his chief of staff, the FBI’s general counsel, the FBI deputy director’s chief counsel, and on several occasions, the FBI’s associate deputy director and the head of the FBI’s national security branch.

On the other hand, we see Donald J. Trump, who, if we’re being very charitable, can be described as having earned a reputation for fighting a losing battle against the truth. If we’re less charitable, we might note that Trump is one of the most shamelessly dishonest people in American public life. Either way, he’s offered literally nothing but his own word to back up his claims.

The president and his outside counsel would apparently have us believe that the former FBI director perjured himself yesterday, committing a felony with false testimony. It’s Comey’s word against Trump’s, and the expectation is that everyone – lawmakers, voters, journalists, et al – should believe the latter over the former, despite the president’s total lack of trustworthiness on any subject.

With calls for the president to give sworn testimony on his version of events now inevitable, Trump’s effectively created a contest of credibility he is certain to lose.

Postscript: White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assured reporters yesterday, “I can definitively say the president is not a liar.” Has Trump World really been reduced to lying about lying?

Donald Trump, James Comey, Mendacity and Scandals

Trump sets up a contest of credibility he simply cannot win

Updated