After a day of silence during James Comey’s devastating three-hour testimony to Congress Thursday, Pr*sident Donald Trump said in a press conference in the Rose Garden Friday that he would “100 percent” testify that Comey had lied under oath. Tara Palmeri, Nolan D. McCaskill and Kyle Cheney reported:
Trump denied that he pressured Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The president, however, stopped short of saying Comey lied when the question was posed directly. “Well, I didn’t say that. I mean, I will tell you I didn’t say that,” he said of the Flynn claim. “And there’d be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody that I’ve read today, but I did not say that.”
In response to a question about whether he would repeat that claim under oath, Trump indicated he would “100 percent” testify — quickly adding that he “would be glad to tell” special counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director overseeing the bureau’s probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign, “what I just told you.”
Now, of course, Donald Trump isn’t the first occupant of the Oval Office to tell lies. But it can be said with little fear of contradiction that he is the most prolific liar of the 44 men who have been elected to serve as president of the United States. Indeed, he has probably in the first five months of the Trump Era told more lies than all the other 43 combined. His lying is not a rare last resort, or like, say, Dwight Eisenhower’s 1960 claim the U.S. wasn’t flying spy planes over the Soviet Union, done (however foolishly) to protect our national security.
For The Donald, lying is nearly as frequent as exhaling. Lies of braggadocio and self-promotion make up the bulk of them, the kind of fabrications my colleagues and I at the Los Angeles Times used to label “salesman lies.” But now that he is supposedly the nation’s top public servant, Trump’s concoctions have taken on an importance far beyond little-boy exaggerations of net worth. Dumb lies, gratuitous lies, delusional lies, petty lies, nonsensical lies, easily debunked lies. A surreal, never-ending flow to compete with Niagara Falls. However, now these are no longer inconsequential but rather a direct threat to our democracy and security.
Are we supposed to believe his sworn testimony will be any different? His history shows otherwise, as Kurt Eichenwald noted 10 months ago in Newsweek:
What is most disturbing in Trump’s sworn statements is the amount of nonsense he spouts as he mangles the English language into meanings no rational person could accept. An unsuccessful “development by Donald Trump” is not a “development by Donald Trump.” A successful project built by another developer who paid to have Trump’s name on the building is a “Donald Trump development.” A payment of $400,000 equals a payment of $1 million. An ownership stake of 30 percent is actually a 50 percent stake. In a single sentence, he says he knows some people’s names but not their identities, as if talking about Batman and Superman. He studied résumés, but he only glanced at them. The list goes on, with one point in common: Every one of his answers, while under oath, depends not on the truth but on whether it makes him look good. [...]
Trump often doesn’t even try to make sense when explaining away a lie. In 2011, he was deposed about a failed Florida condo project. The building’s developer had paid a licensing fee to slap the Trump name on it, but—other than allowing his name to be used in marketing to deceive potential buyers—Trump had nothing to do with the project, which closed after taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in nonrefundable deposits. During Trump’s testimony under oath, the plaintiff’s lawyer confronted him with marketing material in which he had boasted that the building would be a “signature development by Donald J. Trump.” Despite the indisputable meaning of those words, Trump disputed them: When the advertising says the building is a development by Donald Trump, “in some cases they’re developed by me and in some cases they’re not.” He never explained how “developed by Trump” can mean “not developed by Trump” but pointed out that the lengthy legal documents signed by those unfortunate buyers disclosed in the fine print that he was not the builder.
Given that there seem to be more lies in Trump’s vault than there is cash, why would anyone not paid off or more gullible than a first-time car buyer expect the truth when and if the man testifies under oath to Congress or to special counsel Robert Mueller III?
Nobody has to view James Comey as a national hero for his testimony and his leaking of his own memos to a reporter as a means of getting a special counsel appointed. But stacking Donald Trump’s credibility against Comey’s about what went down between the two of them when they met alone in the White House? No contest. Swearing Trump in won’t make him one iota more truthful than he ever is.
So why even bother? Because combining good sleuthing with getting someone under oath to repeat old lies or tell new ones can be the quickest way to get to the truth. Under the circumstances, we should be eager for Trump to be sworn in. If the dangers weren’t so grave and the outcome so uncertain, we could be looking forward to consuming big batches of popcorn.