In Trump's tale-wind
Does Donald Trump lie or knowingly mislead? Anthony Scaramucci, the short-tenured White House communications director, danced around that question while on NBC's "Today" show to promote his new pro-Trump book.
The president "has a reality distortion field around himself, where he curves facts towards himself," Scaramucci said. ". . . My grandfather had a great line — Why would you let the truth get in the way of a really good story, OK, and the president is like that."
The truth is looking like roadkill at every mile marker in the run-up to the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
The actual facts about a caravan of thousands of migrants on a slow trek through Mexico toward the U.S. border look concerning enough for those who agree with Trump about illegal immigration. But why stop there?
A Trump tweet Monday morning warned darkly that "unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in." Reporters with the caravan see no such thing, and internal U.S. government documents say no such thing, according to NBC News, but stoking suspicions about Muslims and terrorists was part of Trump's 2016 playbook.
"That’s long been a canard and a fear tactic,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said on CNN. For more on Trump, the migrants and his threat to cut off aid to three Central American countries, see Candice Ferrette's story for Newsday.
Questioned by White House reporters as he was leaving for Texas to campaign for Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump also stood by his made-up claim at a weekend rally that Californians are "rioting" against sanctuary cities. "It is rioting in some cases," Trump said. The exact question was: "Where?" He didn't answer. (Click here for video.)
Check in the mail?
In a Nevada rally Saturday, Trump said Republicans in Congress were getting ready "a very major tax cut for middle-income people" before the election. The response from Capitol Hill: Huh?
On Monday, in a slight nod to reality — Congress is away until after the midterms — Trump said, "We won't have time to do the vote. We'll do the vote after the election."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that the administration and GOP leaders were working on a plan for a middle-class tax cut that would be released, but not passed, by the midterms. Passing one later would be no cinch either, according to Business Insider.
A conservative lobbyist with close ties to GOP leaders in Congress told Politico: “Nobody is taking it seriously, but we’d rather have him talking about tax cuts than some of the crazy stuff he usually talks about.”
Takes your breath away
Trump tweeted a chart on air pollution, based on stats from the World Health Organization, with a heading: “America: the Cleanest Air in the World — BY FAR!”
The numbers cover one pollutant category — fine particulate matter — and show the U.S. ranks seventh-best, not first. Still, not bad. But not good enough for Trump. The slogan isn't "America Seventh."
Also, while Trump blows smoke, EPA data show soot and smog increased in 2017, according to The Associated Press.
A desert snow job
Trump faces a taller task in maintaining political support for arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the murder by the oil kingdom's agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. So he's telling taller tales about the stakes.
Back in March, according to the Toronto Star's expert fact-checker, Daniel Dale, Trump said the Saudi weapons purchases would produce "over 40,000" jobs in the United States. On Oct. 13, the president said the deal created 450,000 jobs. On Wednesday, he bumped up the number to 500,000. By Friday, it was 600,000. It grew to "over a million" by Friday night.
Trump has been buying into the international right-wing demonization of liberal billionaire George Soros. When Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) was yelled at by anti-Brett Kavanaugh demonstrators in a Capitol elevator, Trump tweeted without a shred of evidence that they were "paid professionals" who were "paid for by Soros and others." In the same spirit of malice, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) accused Soros of funding a so-called migrant caravan.
On Monday in Westchester an explosive device was discovered in a mailbox at Soros' home. “An employee of the residence opened the package, revealing what appeared to be an explosive device,” police said in a statement. “The employee placed the package in a wooded area and called the Bedford police.” The bomb was safely detonated. No arrests have been made.
Though the bitterest of enemies during the 2016 GOP primaries, Cruz has been a loyal enough soldier for the president to get a Trump rebranding. "He's not lying Ted anymore. He's beautiful Ted. I call him Texas Ted," Trump told reporters before heading to Houston to back Cruz's re-election.
But Trump showed no remorse about one of the most outlandish claims he hurled then — implying that Cruz's father was somehow connected to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
"I don’t regret anything, honestly. It all worked out very nicely," Trump said.
And now, a search for truth
Trump let some skepticism show over Saudi Arabia's explanations about the Khashoggi killing. "I am not satisfied with what I heard," Trump told reporters at the White House.
But in an Air Force One interview with USA Today, Trump sounded still willing to accept a story that it was a "plot gone awry — not a premeditated murder ordered by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman or King Salman. If their involvement was proved, “I would be very upset about it. We’ll have to see.”
Early Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, repeatedly praised by Trump as doing a great job, punched another hole in the kingdom's defensive accounts. The murder was plotted for days, Erdogan said.
"To blame such an incident on a handful of security and intelligence members would not satisfy us or the international community," Erdogan said in a speech to ruling party lawmakers in parliament.
What else is happening:
- Interviewed at a CNN forum, Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said the White House is still "in the fact-finding phase” on Khashoggi. When asked about critics who theorize the crown prince felt emboldened to order Khashoggi’s death because of his relationship with Kushner, he replied, “I don’t respond to the critics.”
- David Kilmnick, chief executive of Long Island's LGBT Network, said a Trump administration proposal to roll back protections for transgender people is a dangerous move that may lead to increased violence against them, Newsday's Bart Jones reports.
- Former president Barack Obama, addressing a rally for Democrats in Nevada, said Republicans in Washington had promised to "fight for the little guy," but instead helped corporations and sowed divisions in America. He didn't mention Trump by name.
- House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi hinted that if her party takes back the chamber, it could use its power to subpoena Trump administration officials as a bargaining chip "on other subjects."
- Republicans entered the final month of the midterm campaign with more money in the bank than the Democrats — $337 million to $285 million as of Sept. 30 — according to The New York Times.
- Secret Service agents had to intervene during a heated White House argument in February when chief of staff John Kelly grabbed former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski by the collar and tried to push him against a wall, The New York Times reported.
- Eric Trump is due in central New York Tuesday for a re-election rally in support of Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney.
- Scaramucci performed an interpretive dance for a New York Post video to tell the story of his 10 or 11 days working for Trump's White House. The book he is promoting is called "Trump, the Blue-Collar President."