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By falsely claiming 'exoneration,' Trump takes gaslighting to a new level

Trump believes the Justice Department has fully "exonerated" him in the Russia scandal. Even by 2018 standards, this is madness.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Justice Department inspector general's office didn't do Donald Trump any favors in its new report. Following an extensive examination of federal law enforcement's behavior during the 2016 presidential election, the IG effectively shredded every bogus narrative the president has peddled for months.

Trump argued that the FBI was biased against his candidacy, and the IG found the opposite. Trump claimed the Justice Department went easy on Hillary Clinton, and the IG found the opposite. Trump insisted Clinton should've been indicted, and the IG found the opposite. Trump whined incessantly for months about the system being "rigged" against him, and the IG found the opposite.

Common sense suggests the president should focus his attention elsewhere, and not bring attention to the report that discredited his talking points, but Trump had a different idea: he'd play make believe and pretend that the document answered questions the IG never even asked.

On Fox News this morning, the president claimed that the inspector general's report found that federal law enforcement official "were plotting against my election." That's not even close to what the report said. But soon after, in an informal Q&A with reporters, Trump went further:

"I think that the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And if you read the report, you'll see that."

This is gibberish. The report doesn't have anything to do with the Trump campaign's alleged cooperation with the Russians who attacked our election. The Justice Department IG made no effort to examine this in any way.

Frustrated reporters eventually pressed the president on his brazen lying:

Q: Thank you, sir. On the IG report, you've said twice now that it exonerated you and it proved there's no collusion. The IG report --TRUMP: Look, if you read the IG report, I've been totally exonerated. As far as I'm concerned --Q: It had nothing to do with collusion. It had nothing to do with that.TRUMP: Take a look at it.

We did take a look at it. The idea that it "exonerates" Trump is simply madness.

What's less clear is why the president is peddling this lie. Does he genuinely believe these ridiculously and demonstrably false assertions? Does he assume that much of the public will believe lies just so long as he repeats them?

Or is all of this the result of a deliberate strategy? Lauren Duca explained very well in December that to “gas light” is to “psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity.”

The more Trump peddles fairy tales, the more his presidency resembles an exasperating exercise in gaslighting.