Trump defends three of his biggest lies in new interview

“I have articles saying it happened.”

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Wednesday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Wednesday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

In a new Time magazine cover interview, President Trump defends three of the most notorious lies he’s told since beginning his presidential campaign in June 2015.

Trump repeated his false claims that American Muslims celebrated on 9/11, that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election, and that President Obama wiretapped him last fall.

The interview, which was conducted on Wednesday by Time Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer, focuses on how Trump “has handled truth and falsehood in his career.” But the vast majority of the piece consists of Trump trying to defend blatant falsehoods by offering new ones.

Throughout the interview, Trump’s defense when confronted with one of his lies is to shift blame to the media.

At one point, Scherer tries to ask Trump about “the claim that Muslims celebrated on 9–11 in New Jersey,” which Trump falsely claimed a number of times in late 2015.

“Well if you look at the reporter, he wrote the story in the Washington Post,” Trump replies. But Trump originally justified his false claim about Muslims celebrating by saying “I saw it,” and there’s no record of any such story appearing in the Post. The publication, in fact, gave Trump “Four Pinocchios” for the claim, writing, “Despite Trump’s efforts to throw up a lot of smoke, such as snippets from news clips, he continues to fail to demonstrate that his claim that he saw thousands and thousands’ of Muslims cheering on TV has any basis in reality.”

That wasn’t the old wild claim that Trump attempted to justify by referencing a media report — even a supermarket tabloid is enough.

Scherer explained to the president that “one of my ideas here is that throughout the campaign and now as president, you have used disputed statements, this is one of them that is disputed, the claim that three million undocumented people voted in the election…”

“Well I think I will be proved right about that too,” Trump interjected. Later, he clarified that “if you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong, in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally. And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people. In fact I’m forming a committee on it.”

There is no indication that more than a handful of illegal votes were cast during the election, however. Similar to the wiretapping accusation, Trump’s hope seems to be that evidence will somehow be concocted to retroactively justify his wild claim.

The Time interview took place right around the time that House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) held a news conference to announce he’s found new “evidence” that might justifying Trump’s wiretapping accusation. Nunes said he has records indicating that “on numerous occasions the intelligence community incidentally collected information about US citizens involved in the Trump transition.”

Trump seized upon that development during his interview with Scherer.

“House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes told reporters, wow,” Trump said, reading a Politico report about Nunes’ news conference. “Nunes said, so that means I’m right.”

But even if Nunes does have the records he claims to have, they wouldn’t justify Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped him.

Unable to accept that there’s no evidence for his claim, Trump has tried to stretch the definition of “wiretap” to include any surveillance whatsoever. He’s also tried to conflate “President Obama” with the entire intelligence apparatus.

“I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right,” Trump said. He’s also apparently able to predict the future. With regard to his recent invention of a terror attack in Sweden, Trump said, “I predicted a lot of things, Michael. Some things that came to you a little bit later… Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems.”

Though there was rioting in Sweden the day after Trump told a rally audience, “Look at what happened last night in Sweden,” nobody died.

Asked about a Wall Street Journal editorial that concludes by citing Trump’s 39 percent approval rating and notes, “No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President,” Trump calls the Wall Street Journal “fake media.”

According to a fact-check by Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star, “Trump made 14 false claims in his Time interview on the subject of whether he makes false claims.” And he wasn’t even asked about the big lie that kickstarted his political career.

Trump seems to believe that truth and falsity don’t matter as long as he can attract a crowd.

“The country believes me. Hey. I went to Kentucky two nights ago, we had 25,000 people in a massive basketball arena,” Trump said. But even that statement contained a lie — the capacity of the arena in Kentucky where Trump held his rally is 18,000.