Why Trump's demonstrable lies about health care reform matter

The question is less about whether Trump is lying about protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, and more about why he's so committed to this lie.
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By Steve Benen

Donald Trump caused a bit of a stir yesterday, falsely claiming on Twitter, "I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare." He added, "I will always protect your Pre-Existing Conditions, the Dems will not!"

As we discussed soon after, it was as brazen a lie as Trump has ever told. In reality, Trump didn't "save" protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions -- protections created by Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act -- the Republican fought to take those protections away through a series of far-right repeal-and-replace proposals he couldn't get through a Congress led by his own party.

Trump, of course, is also helping champion an ongoing federal lawsuit that would strip protections from Americans with pre-existing conditions.

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When the president's lie generated some public discussion, he did what he usually does after getting caught trying to deceive the public: Trump published another tweet repeating the lie.

"I stand stronger than anyone in protecting your Healthcare with Pre-Existing Conditions. I am honored to have terminated the very unfair, costly and unpopular individual mandate for you!"

On the latter sentence, the individual mandate wasn't "very unfair" -- it enjoyed bipartisan support as recently as 2009 -- and it wasn't especially "costly." In fact, more than a few health care policy experts have argued that the policy would've been even more effective if the penalty cost more, not less.

But it's the repetition of the lie about protections for those with pre-existing conditions that stands out. In this case, it's worth appreciating not just the extent to which Trump is lying, but also why he's so committed to this specific lie.

NBC News' Benjy Sarlin did a nice job yesterday explaining a realistic scenario that may very well unfold in the coming months. The scenario involves Trump and his team urging the courts to end protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, falsely telling voters that Trump actually wants to save those protections, winning re-election in part thanks to his transparent lie, and then waiting for Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices to eliminate those protections in the Republican's second term.

Could that happen? Of course it could.

And that, in a nutshell, helps capture the rationale behind the deception. Trump knows his health care agenda is wildly unpopular, just as he knows there's broad, bipartisan support for some of the core benefits in "Obamacare." The president doesn't want to give up his crusade against the popular reform law, and he doesn't want to lose.

The result is a dynamic in which Trump feels he has no choice but to play Americans for fools, hoping they won't know the difference.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog