Wearing his makeup
Like the royal subjects in the Hans Christian Andersen story who were afraid to concede that the emperor had no clothes, senior officials of Donald Trump's administration are sent scrambling. stonewalling or obfuscating to avoid admitting when the president has no facts.
Such was the case when Trump tweeted Monday about criminals and "unknown Middle Easterners" who were "mixed in" the caravan of migrants who crossed into southern Mexico from Guatemala — apparently his interpretation of loose chatter he heard on "Fox & Friends," according to a timeline assembled by The New York Times.
Asked about Trump's description of caravan infiltrators, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection wrote back, "I can’t speak to the President’s tweet. You might ask the WH where they got the info."
The Department of Homeland Security offered data on criminals and suspected terrorists (none from the Middle East) apprehended at all points of entry, not specifically the Mexican border. A State Department spokeswoman wouldn't touch those Trump assertions.
Trump himself, speaking to reporters later Monday, said news organizations should "take your cameras and search" the caravan. "You're going to find everything," he said. But journalists with the caravan saw nothing of the sort. Later, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump "absolutely" has evidence of Middle Easterners in the caravan.
On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence stepped up. "It's inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent in a crowd of more than 7,000 people advancing toward our border," he said at a Washington event. He didn't explain why it was inconceivable or offer any evidence.
Finally, Trump, questioned again by reporters on Tuesday, acknowledged he wasn't trafficking in fact. "There’s no proof of anything. There’s no proof of anything, but there could very well be,” he said.
Caravan of Trump's dreams
Trump is having a hard time staying mad about the migrant caravan as he looks to play it up for advantage in the midterm elections.
“I think this could be a blessing in disguise because it shows how bad our laws are,” he said in a USA Today interview Monday. “The Democrats are responsible for that.” Trump has claimed, nonsensically, that migrants were being paid to come to the U.S. and vote for Democrats on Nov. 6. (The initial organizer of the march was a Honduran activist.)
Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, described the caravan as “a political gift.” He told The Washington Post: "I wish they were carrying heroin. I wish we had thought of it."
The Trump administration hasn't settled on what to do if and when the migrants reach the U.S. border, The Associated Press reports. They are still more than 1,000 miles away.
Janison: The lying game
Never apologizing is a core tenet of being Trump, so expect no contrition for his profusion of prevarication.
From Trump, writes Newsday's Dan Janison, tall tales seem to have their intended effect with an eye to the elections. Each seems aimed at obscuring a different truth.
Trump pans the plot
The State Department revoked the visas of some Saudi officials implicated in the murder of writer Jamal Khashoggi. Trump said he's still waiting for a full report, but offered his harshest comments to date.
“They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover-up was the worst in the history of cover-ups," said Trump.
Out of the running for worst cover-ups: the first story of Donald Trump Jr.'s June 2016 meeting with the Russians.
On the nationalist stage
Though Trump's policies and rhetoric have been described by both fans and foes as nationalistic, he has rarely embraced that label. But he's warming to it.
He told a Texas rally Monday night: "You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, OK? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word. Use that word.”
Questioned by reporters Tuesday, Trump denied he was sending a dog whistle to far-right white nationalists. “I've never even heard that. I cannot imagine that theory about being a nationalist," he said.
What else is happening:
- Trump will hold at least another 10 rallies before the midterm elections to defend Republican majorities in Congress, campaign officials said.
- Harley-Davidson's sales plunged by 13% in the last quarter after Trump backed a boycott against the company for moving some production overseas to avoid EU retaliatory tariffs.
- Trump said he will probably meet with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Paris next month as world leaders gather to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
- HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the U.S. is "beginning to turn the tide" on the opioid addiction epidemic, pointing to new federal data showing a slight dip in overdose deaths last year.
- The Trump administration has unveiled new rules that could allow states to offer less generous health insurance plans through their Obamacare markets that make some policies cheaper, but also undermine key protections.
- A senior Veterans Affairs official said he removed a portrait of the Ku Klux Klan’s first grand wizard from his office after offended employees began signing a petition to present to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, The Washington Post reported. David J. Thomas Sr. said he thought Nathan Bedford Forrest was just "a Southern general."