On Friday, President Trump strolled out to the White House lawn to speak to reporters. What followed was a cavalcade of lies, mischaracterizations, and breathtakingly inappropriate statements. Here’s just a sampling:
On the release of an FBI Inspector General report on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server, he said, “I’ve been totally exonerated” and claimed that the report shows “I did nothing wrong, there was no collusion, no obstruction.” This proves, Trump said, “that the Mueller investigation has been totally discredited.” Trump also argued that the “top people at the FBI” (who he also called “scum”) were plotting against his election. The report did no such thing. In fact, the report had nothing to do with the Russia investigation.
When asked about Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager, who had his bail revoked Friday for tampering with witnesses, Trump described him as someone who “had nothing to do with” his campaign and worked for him for “a very short period of time.” In fact, Manafort worked for Trump for approximately five months and ran the Republican National Convention for Trump.
In regard to Mike Flynn, his former national security adviser, Trump said, “Maybe he didn’t lie.” Not only did Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI, but the president fired Flynn for the specific reason that Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials.
On North Korea, Trump said that he had “great chemistry” and a “really great relationship” with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is a serial human rights abuser. He also said that when Kim speaks, “his people “sit up at attention” and he’d like “my people” to do the same. He added later that the “nuclear problem” with North Korea is “solved.”
Trump bragged about the success of the summit with Kim, which he said has “solved” the “nuclear problem” with North Korea.
Of course, that’s not true at all. But Trump also said that the deal he signed with Kim would lead to repatriation of American war dead from the Korean War, which is something he claimed that the parents of Korean War veterans had begged him to do. The Korean War ended 64 years ago. Any parents of those killed in the war have long since passed.
When asked about the his administration’s recently enacted policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border, Trump said it was a law that had been forced upon him by Democrats. This is an egregious, bald-faced lie — even for Trump. There is no such law, and a month ago Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, gave a public speech in which he boasted about the new separation policy. Trump’s own chief of staff, John Kelly, has publicly stated that the policy was necessary to deter immigrants from entering the country illegally.
Trump complained that Russia was expelled from the G-8 because President Obama “didn’t like” Vladimir Putin. He also accused his predecessor of having “lost Crimea” and said that he “gave away” the region to Russia. Unmentioned by the president was that Russia invaded and annexed Crimea.
Finally, Trump told a female reporter who was persistently asking him questions to be “quiet” and called her “obnoxious.”
Here’s the thing: This impromptu Trump presser, first with “Fox and Friends” host Steve Doocy, and then with a gaggle of actual reporters, was both unprecedented and not at all unusual. Granted, it’s rare for a president simply to wander out on the White House lawn to talk to reporters. What’s not rare is Trump repeatedly and brazenly lying. It’s even less rare that Trump praised and defended an authoritarian ruler, mindlessly attacked the FBI, denied he had much to do with his former campaign manager, or acted rudely toward a woman.
What’s so striking about Trump’s performance is that in the context of the last three years of American politics, it’s not striking at all. These kinds of presidential performances, which once upon a time would have been stunning and exceptional, are now just routine parts of the news cycle.
It’s simply become impossible for those of us to cover this White House to capture the daily onslaught of outrage and scandal. Consider, for example, that 24 hours ago the New York attorney general’s office, after a two-year investigation, sued the Trump Foundation and the Trump family for a multitude of campaign finance violations, self-dealing, and unlawful coordination with a presidential campaign and even went so far as to send referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission.
But it does say everything about the truly insane political moment that we are living in that this lawsuit — which suggests the president of the United States broke the law — is at best a one-day story.
I’m not writing this to once again bemoan the extent to which we’ve all become inured to the lying, law-breaking, corruption, inhumanity, incompetence, and daily gaslighting of this administration. That train has clearly left the station. There’s no way not to be inured to this unending avalanche of bad behavior.
Rather, I’ll ask the questions that I’ve been asking some variation of for the past three years: When is enough for the Republican Party? When will Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the congressional leadership finally do something to stop the lying narcissistic madman running this country? Will there ever come a point when they have the courage to say this must end? And if they don’t — and let’s be honest, the chances that they will are somewhere between zero and none — can America emerge unscathed from two-and-a-half more years of this madness? I like to be optimistic, but days like today — that will likely be forgotten within the next 48-72 hours — make me seriously wonder and worry about what the future might hold.Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.