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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

Donald Trump's end-of-term disgrace stems as always from big lies

President Donald Trump on Monday, with about a

President Donald Trump on Monday, with about a week to go in his term. Credit: AFP via Getty Images / Brendan Smialowski

The time nears for all of us to sum up the Donald Trump presidency. Dishonesty emerges as a key theme. In his four erratic years at the center of attention, Trump mastered the practice of telling the very opposite of the truth, sometimes with disastrous results.

He is impeached now for a second time. The House had several reasons to vote at this late date even if it has no governing impact near the end of his term. For one, Democrats in charge wanted to get everyone on the record on an unpopular and irascible president with a cult-like following. For one more week, it is still about him.

Once again, we hear from the Trump camp the not-quite-adult version of, "I know you are but what am I." Reviled for inspiring a violent attack on the Capitol, its leader tries to turn it around by accusing partisan foes of divisiveness with their impeachment.

This was reflected during the impeachment debate Wednesday in statements by longtime loyalists. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) contended on the House floor that this "snap impeachment" will "further fan the flames of partisan division."

Trump created the moment with massive, repeated and emphatic lies, by which he fired up the rally crowd that marched over to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some rioted, causing several deaths.

He wailed: "Our election was so corrupt that in the history of this country, we've never seen anything like it. You could go all the way back. You know, America is blessed with elections. All over the world they talk about our elections. You know what the world says about us now? They said we don't have free and fair elections."

Consider the context. If you believed Trump, and chose to accept that the election was "stolen," it would seem an act of "patriotism" to use force on the peoples' behalf. Without that false premise, it was just a mob revolt for a would-be monarch attempting to cancel the election of Joe Biden.

Trump has acted this way all along. He claimed like a monarch that it was either him or the deluge. In August 2018, he told evangelical leaders that the congressional elections were a "referendum" on freedom of speech and religion, and that these were threatened by "violent people" on the left.

"It's not a question of like or dislike," Trump told them. "It's a question that they will overturn everything that we've done and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently ..."

Trump's projections and deflections achieve an uncanny symmetry with his own behavior. He spent record time for a president on the golf course and watching television. In rambling, disjointed and inaccurate speeches, and on Twitter, he coddled extremists in his right-wing base.

For that reason, apparently, he warned that Biden as president would be low-energy and bumbling and pander to leftist extremists.

"I know you are but what am I."

With his own adult children living off the Trump name and involved in his businesses, Trump tried to make an issue of Biden’s dysfunctional son Hunter, who lives off the Biden name.

"I know you are but what am I."

Under scrutiny at the start of his term for privately aligning his interests with criminal Russian politicos in the 2016 campaign, Trump falsely accused investigators of privately aligning their interests with corrupt American pols.

In the lies that first got him impeached, Trump nattered to the president of Ukraine about a far-fetched conspiracy story involving a computer server that didn't exist. His clear goal: a phony witch hunt — of the very kind he said was directed at him.

Based on stories already published and investigations underway, the day may come when prosecutors accuse Trump post-presidency of financial fraud and manipulation.

No doubt he would accuse prosecutors of fraud and manipulation. By now it is plain: The projected lie will always be his chosen method: "I know you are, but what am I?" He likes to call this "counterpunching."

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