Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler has refused to call Donald Trump's lies what they are, contemptible, purposeful, and told with intent to deceive. But this week's Cohen plea on the Stormy Daniels payoff finally gets Kessler to use the L word.
The first denial that Donald Trump knew about hush-money payments to silence women came four days before he was elected president, when his spokeswoman Hope Hicks said, without hedging, “we have no knowledge of any of this.”
The second came in January of this year, when his attorney Michael Cohen said the allegations were “outlandish.” By March, two of the president’s spokesmen — Raj Shah and Sarah Huckabee Sanders — said publicly that Trump denied all the allegations and any payments. Even Cohen’s attorney, David Schwartz, got in on the action, saying the president “was not aware of any of it.”
In April, Trump finally weighed in, answering a question about whether he knew about a payment to porn star Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, with a flat “no.”
It’s now clear that the president’s statement was a lie — and that the people speaking for him repeated it.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Donald Trump’s presidency has been his loose relationship with facts. As of the beginning of this month, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker had documented 4,229 false or misleading claims from the president — an average of nearly 7.6 a day.
Trump’s allies have defended the president by suggesting that facts are debatable. Early into his presidency, one aide famously said he was operating with “alternative facts.” On Sunday, Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani declared: “Truth isn’t truth.”
How to characterize Trump’s statements has become its own pitched political battle, with many of the president’s critics demanding that they be called “lies.” The Fact Checker has been hesitant to go that far, as it is difficult to document whether the president knows he is not telling the truth.
On Wednesday, Sanders said during a White House briefing that it was “a ridiculous accusation” to say the president has lied to the American people.
But this week’s guilty plea by Cohen, offers indisputable evidence that Trump and his allies have been deliberately dishonest at every turn in their statements regarding payments to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.
It's a start. Pretending that Trump says things and doesn't intend them as lies is such a ghastly failure of journalistic integrity and accountability that it has led directly to Trump knowing full well that he can lie with impunity.
Those days have apparently ended as Michael Cohen turned on Trump, and there's not like he had much choice.
Michael Cohen had many reasons to play ball last weekend when his legal team sat down to talk to federal prosecutors.
The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office had testimony from Mr. Cohen’s accountant and business partners, along with bank records, tax filings and loan applications that implicated not only Mr. Cohen in potential criminal activity, but also his wife, who filed taxes jointly with her husband. Prosecutors signaled Mr. Cohen would face nearly 20 criminal counts, potentially carrying a lengthy prison sentence and staggering financial penalties.
Adding to the pressure, David Pecker, the chairman of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, provided prosecutors with details about payments Mr. Cohen arranged with women who alleged sexual encounters with President Trump, including Mr. Trump’s knowledge of the deals.
This account of how Mr. Cohen went from a pugnacious defender of the president to turning on Mr. Trump is based on details provided by people close to Mr. Cohen and others briefed on the discussions with prosecutors.
For weeks, the president had been distancing himself from Mr. Cohen, including by stopping paying his longtime attorney’s legal fees, making clear amid the pressure that he was on his own.
Under oath on Tuesday, before a packed courtroom, Mr. Cohen created a spectacular moment without parallel in American history when he confessed to two crimes that he said he committed at the behest of the man who would become president.
Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes, including tax evasion and making false statements to a bank, capping a months-long investigation into his business dealings and work as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer. For the president, it opens up a perilous new legal front.
Cohen was going away for the rest of his life. He chose instead to implicate Donald Trump. And while I'm painfully aware that impeachment remains a fantasy that Democrats should best avoid, the rest of the GOP does not enjoy that kind of protection and is very vulnerable.
Regardless, the GOP in Congress continue to ignore the situation. They have to be voted out before anything will be done.