At the White House press briefing today, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked a very good question: “Why is [Donald Trump] picking a fight with the mayor of London right after his city was hit with a terrorist attack?” As TPM’s report makes clear, the president’s spokesperson didn’t have much of an answer.
“I don’t see that the president is picking a fight with the mayor of London at all,” Sanders replied to [ABC News’ Jonathan Karl]. “I think, again, the president’s point is something he said, frankly, back – it’s been almost two years now, a year and a half ago, when the president talked about how we have to be more committed to national security.”
The reporter noted in response that the president, by taking London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s words out of context, “directly misrepresented” what was said. Sanders replied, “I don’t think that’s actually true.”
It is actually true.
The facts are unambiguous. Early yesterday morning, while much of the Western world was still coming to grips with what transpired the night before in London, Donald Trump thought it’d be a good idea to declare via Twitter, “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed’!”
Even for Trump, this was cheap and lazy. London’s Sadiq Khan told locals there’s “no reason to be alarmed” by an increased police presence in the wake of Saturday night’s attack, not by the brutal murders themselves.
Instead of walking back his false and unnecessary criticism, Trump saw the media coverage of his mistake, and doubled down today. Returning to Twitter, the American president said the mayor offered a “pathetic excuse” for his comments. Trump added that news organizations are “working hard to sell it.”
Just so we’re clear, “it” in that sentence refers to “factual information, supported by context and evidence.”
What we have here, in other words, is an intemperate president responding to a terrorist attack with misleading whining, directed at the mayor of the city where the attack took place. Nevertheless, the president’s spokesperson said today Trump wasn’t “picking a fight” with London’s mayor, raising questions as to how Sarah Huckabee Sanders might define the words “pick” and “fight.”
Making matters just a little worse, Dan Scavino Jr., a Trump aide and the White House director of social media, had a tweet of his own yesterday morning, suggesting the president’s criticism was payback for Sadiq Khan’s criticism of Trump 13 months ago.
I realize diplomacy with the United States’ closest allies isn’t much of a priority for Trump World, but if the White House could at least try to avoid lying about these developments, it’d be less exasperating.
Postscript: The U.S. Embassy in London also published a tweet yesterday, commending the city’s mayor “as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack.” The tweet was signed by Lewis Lukens, the acting U.S. ambassador and a longtime diplomat, whom I assume will now be considered a political enemy by the White House.