When Trump confronts scandal, projection remains his go-to move

Updated

Just over the last month or so, the corruption allegations against Donald Trump have piled up quickly. It seems like ages ago, but it was just last month when the president announced an effort to have the next G-7 summit held at one of his Florida properties, creating a dynamic in which several key world leaders would have no choice but to effectively put money in his pocket by way of one of his struggling businesses.

Soon after, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Ireland for meetings in Dublin, but at the president’s “suggestion,” he stayed three hours away at a Trump-owned property on the other side of the country. This, of course, was followed by reports about military personnel staying at Trump’s business in Scotland, while supporting a nearby airport on which the president’s business heavily relies.

And then, of course, the public learned about Trump’s alleged efforts to get Ukraine to help his re-election campaign by digging up dirt on one of his Democratic rivals – a story the president appears to have lied about, changed his story about, and taken steps to cover up.

It was against this backdrop that the Republican spoke to reporters yesterday, sitting alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda. Trump turned to a familiar tactic:

“[T]here was no pressure put on [Ukrainian officials] whatsoever. I put no pressure on them whatsoever. I could have. I think it would probably, possibly, have been okay if I did. But I didn’t. I didn’t put any pressure on them whatsoever. You know why? Because they want to do the right thing. And they know about corruption. And they probably know that Joe Biden and his son are corrupt. They probably know that.

“Joe Biden and his son are corrupt. All right? But the fake news doesn’t want to report it because they’re Democrats.”

In reality, there’s simply no evidence of the former vice president engaging in any corruption. Republicans are playing a little game, and expecting everyone to play along, but they’re pushing an unsubstantiated claim.

But when push comes to shove, the president can’t shake what I like to think of as his “no-puppeting” problem. Confronting allegations of corruption, Trump reflexively accuses his critics of corruption. The Republican has a playbook for defending himself, and projection is the first page.

A couple of months ago, for example, Trump faced condemnations after using racist rhetoric against four Democratic congresswomen of color. The president responded by accusing the congresswomen of being racists.

A couple of months before that, following a series of bizarre incidents, Trump was accused of mental decline. He responded by accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being in mental decline.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, it’s a tactic that’s come to define his entire approach to politics: like an intemperate child, Trump’s  I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I instincts are finely tuned after extensive practice.

When Democrats accused the president a variety of crimes, Trump insisted the “real crimes were committed” by Democrats. When Dems argued the president obstructed justice, Trump replied that it’s the Dems who have obstructed justice.

Confronted with allegations that his political operation colluded with Russian attackers, Trump said Democrats colluded with Russia. Told that the Kremlin supported his candidacy, Trump responded by saying Russia supported Democrats. Accused of being a manipulated pawn for Vladimir Putin, Trump accused Barack Obama of being Putin’s “patsy.”

And during the 2016 campaign: whenever Hillary Clinton would criticize Trump, it was a near certainty that Trump would then make the identical accusation against Clinton. After a while, as regular readers may recall, this got a little creepy.

Clinton accused Trump of being unstable and reckless, so Trump said Clinton is “unstable” and “reckless.” Clinton said Trump mistreated women, so Trump said Clinton mistreated women. Clinton accused Trump of bigotry, so Trump said Clinton’s a “bigot.” Clinton questioned Trump’s temperament, so Trump said Clinton had a bad “temperament.” Clinton said Trump makes a poor role model for children, so Trump said Clinton sets “a terrible example for my son and the children in this country.”

And, of course, Clinton accused Trump of being a “puppet” for his allies in Moscow during a 2016 debate. Trump, showing all of the sophistication of a slow toddler, responded, “No puppet. No puppet. You’re the puppet. No, you’re the puppet.”

With a track record like this one, is it really any wonder Trump is falsely accusing Biden of corruption?