Saturday, November 23, 2019

How Dangerous To National Security Are Trump's Daily Flood Of Lies?


Sometimes I check Google for my least favorite Members of Congress to see what they've been up to. That's how I learned, for example, that New Jersey Blue Dog Jefferson Van Drew went on Fox News a few days ago to say Trump's impeachment is "like something you would see in Europe or third-world nations" and to read Republican Party talking points. (Now Trump tweets nice things about him now and I have a feeling in my gut that he'll soon be switching parties like so many Blue Dogs have in the past.)

But most of the villains are just playing low and trying to not draw any attention to themselves. Many are just there to collect their corporate bribes, vote for their paymasters and hope their constituents never figure out what's up. So they kick back under the back benches and never say "Boo!" Look at these half dozen Google searches, all for Democrats who have earned "F" scores from ProgressivePunch:

Trump, on the other hand, has the opposite kind of narrative. A malignant narcissist, he is a firm believer that the only bad news is no news. He's out hogging the cameras constantly. And what he does most of the time is gaslight and lie. Have you forgotten what gaslighting is?

Yesterday, Trump decided the Fox & Friends audience needed a little gaslighting so he called in and stayed on their air for 53 minutes, riffing and gaslighting. He pretty much ignored the show's imbecile hosts. Daniel Dale counted 18 lies
A factory in Texas

Trump said, "I just got back from Austin, Texas, where I was with Tim Cook. He's going to be building a $1 billion facility to make whatever he makes. You know, that's Apple. And he's gonna build this incredible facility. We toured another facility where they make the Mac Pro, which is phenomenal, which was opening-- the reason we, you know-- it opened that day."

Facts First: The plant Trump visited did not open that day. The Flex Ltd. facility has been making Apple's Mac Pro computers since 2013.

Apple did break ground that day on a $1 billion campus in Austin, about a mile from the plant Trump toured with Cook, but no manufacturing is expected to be done at the campus. You can read a full fact check here.

The Ukraine scandal and impeachment


Trump said that Democrats gave a computer server that was hacked in 2016 to "a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian."

Facts First: The cybersecurity company that investigated the hack, CrowdStrike, is a publicly traded American company co-founded by Dmitri Alperovitch, an American citizen who was born in Russia, not Ukraine. Regardless, such firms do not typically take possession of physical servers to conduct their analysis.

Asked if he is sure the Democrats gave the server to Ukraine, Trump did not cite any specific evidence. He said, "That's what the word is."

The accuracy of the whistleblower

Trump said that the whistleblower complaint about his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "bore no relationship to my call."

Facts First: The whistleblower's account of the call has largely been proven accurate.

In fact, the rough transcript released by Trump himself showed that the whistleblower's three primary allegations about the call were correct or very close to correct.

You can read a full fact check here.

The identity of the whistleblower

Trump said "a lot of people think" that the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, is "essentially the whistleblower."

Facts First: This is simple nonsense. Schiff is not the whistleblower, "essentially" or otherwise.

The whistleblower is someone who works in the intelligence community. The whistleblower sought guidance from Schiff's committee before filing their complaint, but there is no evidence Schiff dictated the content of the complaint, much less that Schiff can himself be considered the whistleblower.

The timing of Schiff's comments

Trump said that Schiff made up what Trump said on the call with Zelensky, but then, when Trump released his rough transcript of the call, everybody was "embarrassed."

Facts First: Trump can reasonably criticize Schiff for Schiff's comments at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in September; as we've written before, Schiff's mix of near-quotes from Trump, his own analysis, and supposed "parody" was at the very least confusing. But Schiff spoke the day after Trump released the rough transcript, not before.

Before he started claiming that Schiff did not expect a transcript to be released, Trump had complained that Schiff did not read the transcript available to him.

European aid to Ukraine

Trump said of aid to Ukraine, "Why isn't Germany putting up money? Why isn't France putting up money? Why isn't all of the European nations, why aren't they putting up?"

Facts First: European countries have provided hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of assistance to Ukraine since Russia's invasion in 2014. (Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade told Trump in this interview that Europe has indeed provided aid.)

Zelensky acknowledged European "help" during his meeting with Trump at the United Nations in September, though he said the world's efforts had been inadequate so far: "And, I'm sorry, but we don't need help; we need support. Real support. And we thank-- thank everybody, thank all of the European countries; they each help us. But we also want to have more-- more."

You can read a full fact check here.

Obama's aid to Ukraine

Trump said President Barack Obama sent only "pillows and sheets" in aid to Ukraine, adding, "He wouldn't send anything else."

Facts First: Obama did refuse to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, but he didn't send mere pillows and sheets; he sent counter-mortar radars, drones, armored Humvees and night vision devices, among other things.

You can read a full fact check here.

Hunter Biden's career

Trump said that Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden managed to get business opportunities during Joe Biden's vice-presidency even though Hunter Biden "never made 10 cents in his life."

Facts First: This is an exaggeration. While it's certainly fair for Trump to raise questions about how qualified Hunter Biden was for the positions he secured while Joe Biden was vice-president, Hunter Biden did have prior professional experience.

Hunter Biden has acknowledged that he probably would not have gotten a seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, if his dad were not Joe Biden. However, it's not true that he had never made "10 cents." Hunter Biden, a lawyer, had worked prior to Joe Biden's vice-presidency as a bank executive, at the Department of Commerce and as a lobbyist. He had also served on the board of Amtrak.

Prosecutor Viktor Shokin

Trump said that the Ukrainian prosecutor Joe Biden had pushed to oust, Viktor Shokin, was "prosecuting" the company where Hunter Biden sat on the board, Burisma.

Facts First: Shokin was not prosecuting Burisma.

While there had been an investigation of the company, Shokin's former deputy, Vitaliy Kasko, has said that it was dormant at the time of Joe Biden's intervention. (The former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, George Kent, testified in Trump's impeachment inquiry that Shokin was corrupt; the US and its allies had made a coordinated effort to oust him.)

Zelensky and Marie Yovanovitch

Trump said of former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch: "By the way, when I was talking to President Zelensky, it's right on the phone, you can read it. He didn't like her. He brought up her name and he didn't like her at all."

Facts First: The rough transcript of the July phone call shows that Trump, not Zelensky, was the one who brought up Yovanovitch: "The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that," Trump said. Zelensky responded, "It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%."

Zelensky did criticize Yovanovitch, saying, "Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough." But he had been prompted by Trump, not disparaging her on his own.

Marie Yovanovitch and Trump's photo

Trump claimed about Yovanovitch: "This ambassador that everybody says is so wonderful, she wouldn't hang my picture in the embassy... She's in charge of the embassy. She wouldn't hang it. It took like a year and a half, or two years, for her to get the picture up."

Facts First: There is no evidence that Yovanovitch refused to hang Trump's photo. It took the Trump administration more than nine months after his inauguration to distribute an official photo of Trump to government buildings such as embassies, CNBC reported in 2017. More than seven months into the term, the White House told The Washington Post that Trump had not yet sat for the photo.

A State Department official who has recently served in Kiev said Yovanovitch never sought to prevent Trump's photo from being put up at the embassy. The official said the photo did not arrive until late 2017.

Yovanovitch's legal team did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment, but NBC received this response from a person "connected to her legal team": "The Embassy in Kyiv hung the official photographs of the president, vice president, and secretary of state as soon as they arrived from Washington, D.C."


The treatment of veterans

Trump said, "The vets: for years you would turn on your television, every night you'd see a story about the vets and how badly they're being treated, it's a horror show. You don't hear that anymore."

Facts First: We can't speak for what Trump himself has seen on television, but it's just not true that the rest of us no longer hear about veterans being treated badly at VA facilities.

Merely since August, there have been news stories about "11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center," "how Veterans Affairs failed to stop a pathologist who misdiagnosed 3,000 cases" and wasn't fired until 2018, how "a Veterans Affairs medical center in West Virginia is being investigated over allegations that one of its physicians sexually assaulted more than a dozen patients," and how a veteran at a VA facility in Georgia was allegedly bitten by ants "100 times before his death."

Veterans Choice

Trump claimed to have been the one who passed the Veterans Choice health care program.

Facts First: The Choice bill, a bipartisan initiative led by senators Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain, was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2014. In 2018, Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which expanded and changed the program.

The U.S. presence in Syria

Trump said: "I'm pulling back. I just pulled out of Syria, except I kept the oil, if it was okay with you."

Facts First: Trump did not "pull out" of Syria. While he did withdraw US troops from the northeastern region, in advance of a Turkish offensive in that region, he has kept hundreds of troops in the country-- as Kilmeade noted to Trump, responding, "You have 600 guys there, right?"

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said two weeks ago that there would be "probably in the 500-ish frame. Maybe 600" soldiers left in northeast Syria (he said the number would definitely be less than 1,000), in addition to the separate force of more than 100 soldiers stationed in southern Syria near Jordan.

Military leaders have said that the US will not keep any revenue from the Syrian oil fields they are securing, but Trump has continued to suggest that the US is seizing the oil for itself.


China's economic performance

Trump said China is having its worst economic year in "57 years."

Facts First: China's second-quarter GDP growth of 6.2% and third-quarter GDP growth of 6% were its worst since 1992, 27 years ago. Trump has repeatedly made clear that he knows that 27 years is the reported figure, but he has added additional years for no apparent reason.

Who is paying for Trump's tariffs on China Trump blamed "the media" for trying to convince people that Americans are paying for Trump's tariffs on China.

Facts First: A bevy of economic studies have found that Americans are bearing the overwhelming majority of the tariff costs, and Americans make the actual tariff payments.

The history of tariffs on China

Trump said the U.S. has never previously taken in "10 cents" from tariffs on China.

Facts First: Again, these tariffs are paid by Americans. Aside from the question of who is paying, it's not true that the Treasury has never received "10 cents" from tariffs on China. The US has had tariffs on China for more than two centuries; reported that the US generated, from such tariffs, an "average of $12.3 billion in custom duties a year from 2007 to 2016, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission DataWeb."

Trump's claim also ignores China's hundreds of billions of dollars in purchases of US goods-- more than $300 billion during Trump's presidency alone. The US had generated over $37 billion from Trump's new tariffs on China as of November 20, according to official data published by Customs and Border Protection.

The trade deficit with China

Trump said the U.S. has for years had a "$500 billion" trade deficit with China.

Facts First: Through 2018, there had never been a $500 billion trade deficit with China. The deficit was $381 billion last year when counting goods and services, $420 billion when counting goods alone.
Politico's Michael Calderone looked into Jake Tapper's CNN special, All The President’s Lies-- scheduled for tomorrow night at 9 PM-- exploring the effects on foreign policy, business and the national culture of the president’s compulsive lying. Tapper said he "isn’t afraid to ascribe motive when the president repeats a false claim 'over and over and over' despite evidence to the contrary. It’s not an honest mistake; it’s a lie. And yet, nearly 30% of Americans refuse to accept the fact that Trump is a compulsive liar, incapable of being truthful.
Take the whistleblower complaint that kick-started the Ukraine scandal. Trump has repeatedly said it’s inaccurate, which Tapper considers a “lie” given that an investigation and testimony have largely corroborated the whistleblower’s claims.

“He’s repeated that so many times that there’s obvious malice of forethought,” Tapper said of the president. “He’s obviously saying this in order to undermine a fact, in order to try to gaslight the country.”

Trump’s dishonesty in the White House has been thoroughly documented. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler and his team have tallied more than 13,000 false or misleading claims since taking office, while CNN’s Daniel Dale this week highlighted 45 false claims specifically about impeachment and Ukraine. The New York Times counted more than 1,700 conspiracy theories on Trump's Twitter feed.

But Tapper said he’s trying to go beyond the sheer volume of erroneous and misleading claims... and address the impact on business, science, international relations and the national psyche. For instance, how might a false claim about trade talks with China affect global markets-- and more broadly America’s credibility on the world stage?

“God forbid there should be some major international crisis where the United States president needs the people of this nation and the world to believe what he says about something,” said Tapper, asking, “What would the result be?”

...“Facts are facts. The earth is not flat,” Tapper added. And the news media, he said, is supposed “to provide accurate information” and “sort through the spin-- what really happened, and what is the truth, regardless of who’s asserting it.”

And yet facts may not always be enough to convince the public what really happened.

Nearly half of Americans recently polled believe “it’s difficult to know whether the information they encounter is true,” the Times noted this week. One can find dramatically different framing of events on television in prime time and on social media.

The president’s desire for Ukraine to launch investigations stemmed largely from conspiracy theories, like the debunked claim that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election, which Trump again pushed Friday in an interview on Fox & Friends. Also, there’s also no evidence former Vice President Joe Biden urged the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect his son Hunter’s business interests.

Tapper said some of Trump’s defenders are claiming he “never requested a foreign government to look into the Bidens.”

“That’s just a lie. That’s just false,” said Tapper, citing the rough transcript of Trump’s infamous July 25 call with Ukraine’s president. (Tapper tweeted Friday it is “not in dispute” that Trump sought the investigations from Ukraine into the Bidens and the 2016 election).

“There is an attempt among some individuals to create an alternate reality where the president did not say what he clearly said,” Tapper said. “And we just have to state what the facts are.”

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At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By "national security", I assume the OP refers to international relations. The real national security being endangered by Trump lies is domestic.

At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:11 is on this. while OUR international relations (with nations we don't currently occupy) is largely transactional, the esteem with which our allies (and others) have held for us has plummeted. And among those with whom we have transactional relations, the trust they have should have been destroyed.

But maybe the entire rest of the world will now realize that if americans elect a lying moron, we must be lying morons. And they would be correct.

Like trump, americans are only kind when they expect MORE of something in return for that kindness.


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