Trump finds a new way to falsely claim exoneration in Russia scandal

Image: US President Donald J. Trump hosts former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
epa06257124 US President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks to members of the news media while hosting former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (not pictured)...

If Donald Trump is an innocent in the Russia scandal as he claims, it's odd that he keeps lying about the ways in which he's been exonerated.

On Twitter this morning, for example, the president wrote that the judge in the Paul Manafort trial "stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia." Soon after, during a brief Q&A on the White House's South Lawn, Trump repeated the claim, insisting that the "judge said there was no collusion with Russia."

That's plainly false.

Before announcing Manafort's sentence Thursday, Judge T.S. Ellis reminded the court that the longtime political operative's crimes were not related to special counsel Robert Mueller's chief mandate -- Russian election interference and whether Trump campaign officials colluded with the Kremlin.

In Trump's mind, there's no difference between a judge saying, "This case is unrelated to Russian collusion," and, "This case proves there was no Russian collusion."

It's as if the president hears a sentence and then mentally edits it, adding and subtracting words, so that the comments reinforce what he wants to believe.

And while that's unsettling, what makes it significantly worse is that it keeps happening.

In March 2018, Trump claimed that the House Intelligence Committee had completely exonerated him in the Russia scandal. That wasn't true.

In June 2018, Trump said the Justice Department inspector general's office had "totally" exonerated him in the Russia scandal. That was both wrong and kind of bonkers.

In February 2019, Trump claimed that the Senate Intelligence Committee had also exonerated him in the Russia scandal. That also wasn't true.

Also in February 2019, after Michael Cohen's public congressional testimony, Trump said his former fixer agreed that there was no collusion. In reality, what Cohen testified was that he didn't have any direct evidence of cooperation between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign, though Cohen added that he believes Trump is "capable" of having committed the crime.

Now, in March 2019, he's convinced himself that Judge T.S. Ellis has exonerated him, too. That didn't happen in reality, and doesn't even make sense since Ellis never even considered evidence on the matter.

I can appreciate why the president is scared of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, but he may want to consider how much better off he'd appear if he stopped lying so frequently about an exoneration that hasn't happened.