Donald Trump's offensive against Baltimore and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) reached its fourth day this morning, with some new, strange tweets. For reasons that appear to make sense only to him, the president seems to think antics like these work in his favor.
But the Republican also chatted with reporters at the White House this morning, where Trump made a series of claims about phone calls he's received from Americans who are delighted with his latest rhetoric.
He started by insisting, "What I've done for African Americans, no president, I would say, has done." Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln was unavailable for comment. But Trump quickly added, according to CQ TranscriptsWire:
"Now, I'll say this. They are so happy, because I get the calls. They are so happy at what I've been able to do in Baltimore and other Democratic run corrupt cities. The money has been stolen. What they've done, it's been wasted and it's been stolen, billions and billions of dollars."And the African-American community is so thankful. They call me and they say, 'Finally, somebody is telling the truth.'"
At the same Q&A, Trump added, according to the transcript, "[T]he African-American people have been calling the White House. They have never been so happy."
He did not appear to be kidding. We're honestly supposed to believe that delighted African Americans, in large numbers, have reached the White House switchboard, at which point operators have directed their calls directly to the president, who basked in their praise.
This is, of course, the same president who recently denied the existence of "racial tension" in the United States, adding that he has "fantastic relationships with the African-American community" -- despite a 13% approval rating among black voters.
To be sure, I cannot definitively prove that "the African-American community" hasn't called Trump to thank him for how awesome his awesomeness is. Sure, the claim seems hopelessly bonkers, but I don't have access to the White House phone logs, and I cannot say with absolute certainty that the president was describing phone calls that occurred only in his mind.
But I feel pretty comfortable saying it's a safe bet that Trump was describing made-up conversations.
I'm willing to go out on this limb in part because the story the president described this morning is plainly ridiculous on its face, and in part because Trump has spent much of his political career describing conversations that did not occur in reality.
As regular readers know, it was earlier this year, for example, when Trump told reporters that “some” of his presidential predecessors had told him they wish they’d built a wall along the United States’ southern border. It was, of course, an impossible claim to take seriously, which was made worse when each of the living former presidents issued statements debunking Trump’s claim.
There was a moral to the story: when Trump describes made-up conversations – something he does with alarming frequency – he needs to avoid references to real people who can expose his nonsense.
It's exactly why the president tends to understand this fairly well, which is why he frequently quotes “anonymous validators”: mysterious unnamed people, whom the president swears exist, who we’re supposed to believe secretly tell Trump how right he is about the major issues of the day. It’s impossible to definitely prove that all of these people are fictional, which creates a rhetorical safe harbor for the Republican.
Today's nonsensical claims were a classic of the genre.