Donald Trump – Master Of Bait And Switch And Evaporating Claims

image titled "Trump's Affirmation Landfill" depicting a garbage truck with a "Trump" logo, offloading trash.

by Richard Cameron


 

If you look closely, or even not so closely at the outcomes of virtually every assertion that Trump and his administration have made in the last 28 months and even reaching back before his inauguration – a distinct pattern emerges. The pattern? Trump makes claims about his presidency that receive a lot of traction in the right wing media, but that inevitably, whether it is a day later, a week later or even a few months, are found to have been fictitious.

It started with Trump’s promises to see to it that Hillary Clinton would be prosecuted for alleged crimes committed while she was Secretary of State under former President Obama.

photo of Trump rally attendees holding up signs calling for 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton to be locked up. Signs tout the phrase, "LOCK HER UP!"

“Lock Her Up!!” was the most popular mantra during Trump’s rallies.

But no sooner had Trump learned that he actually won the election, (though not by the popular vote), he pulled the rug out from under the notion he fostered of pursuing charges against Ms. Clinton.

Trump said of Ms. Clinton in his victory speech on election night, “Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country. I mean that very sincerely.” 

How exactly that statement was rationalized by Trump’s voters, is almost beyond explanation. Trump has since, found it expedient, in terms of changing the subject, to revert back to chiding the Justice Department and the FBI for not “looking into Hillary’s emails”

Then there was another dubious boast that Trump’s voters took at face value. “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.”

photo of Mexican congressman and aides sitting atop vertical steel slat fencing at the U.S. Mexican border, structurally identical to the "wall" Donald Trump is now down selling his supporters.
Photo of Mexican congressman and aides sitting atop vertical steel slat fencing at the U.S. Mexican border, structurally identical to the “wall” Donald Trump is now down selling his supporters.

It wasn’t long before those who were paying attention realized that no “wall” great or otherwise was being built  or being funded by Mexico. In fact, early on in Trump’s term, he told then President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto to please not talk about Mexico’s intentions of not paying for a wall because it would be embarrassing to him politically.

While Trump was continuing to perpetuate the nonsense that Mexico would pay for the wall, he was simultaneously telling Peña Nieto that:

“Because you and I are both at a point now where we are both saying we are not to pay for the wall. From a political standpoint, that is what we will say. We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that. I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is okay. But you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I am just going to say that we are working it out. Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about. But in terms of dollars – or pesos – it is the least important thing.”

And it is clear that no “wall” will ever be constructed. Some additional fencing perhaps, but no “great wall” or even not so great one, despite Trump’s best efforts to redefine the English language.

We then heard from Trump – through his then mouthpiece Sean Spicer, that the crowd attending his inaugural was, “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” Not long after the photographic images the White House used to support that claim were found to have been doctored, the boast was exposed to be an outright lie.  It was at this time that the infamous expression “alternate facts”, was coined, as far as we know, by Trump’s media surrogate Kellyanne Conway.

America was told by Trump that in his appointments of cabinet officials and aides, he would “surround myself only with the best and most serious people. We want top-of-the-line professionals.” That was a part of Trump’s sales pitch about “shaking things up in Washington”.

What actually happened in the past 28 months has been voluntary and forced departures from this administration at a rate and magnitude unparalleled in modern history. 57% of Trump’s “A Team” staffers have left the White House in just its first year and a half, according to statistics maintained by Brookings Institute’s Kathryn Dunn Tenpas.

It started with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who subsequently was convicted of giving false testimony to the FBI. Then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – out in 6 months. His replacement General John Kelly left under a storm of controversy in January of this year.

Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson resigned under pressure at the end of March 2018, although the White House denied he was fired. Related to that incident was the firing of Steve Goldstein, Under Secretary of State (Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs), who contradicted the White House’s story about the circumstances of Tillerson’s firing. Only 3 Secretaries of State in the post-war era have had shorter tenures.

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster was dismissed by Trump principally because he contradicted Trump about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, McMaster calling the evidence “incontrovertible”. McMaster also annoyed Trump by presenting intelligence briefings that greatly exceeded Trump’s nearly infantile attention span.

But Trump has ground through so many of his hires, along with the officials who were caught red handed with their hands in the cookie jar, looting the Treasury and bartering political influence – Tom Price (Department of Health and Human Services), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Scott Pruitt at the EPA.

General James Mattis left the office of Defense Secretary in protest against Trump’s impulsive decisions and imperatives. He was the first Sec Def to leave his post because of lack of confidence in a chief executive. Bloomberg sums up the disaster in the aggregate, by noting that Trump:

“has surrounded himself with family members, appointees and advisers who’ve been accused of conflicts of interest , misuse of public funds , influence peddling , self-enrichment ,working for foreign governments , failure to disclose information and violating ethics rules . Some are under investigation or facing lawsuits , others have resigned and five have either been convicted or pleaded guilty , including three for lying to government officials.”

Some of the most explosive firings have been within the past 6 months including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump bitterly turned against for having properly recused himself from oversight of the Mueller probe and Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who found some of Trump’s orders too radioactive for even her sensibilities.

White House Counsel, Don McGahn reportedly, according to the Mueller Report, incurred Trump’s wrath by not carrying out Trump’s directives including actions that could have involved him as a principal agent in obstruction of justice.

We were told that the GOP tax cut that Trump added the bully pulpit of his office to get to his desk to sign, was going to give working and middle class folks and the economy a massive boost.  It didn’t happen, but the stock market has gone up. Why? Because corporations and wealthy investors used the tax windfall to execute billions in stock buybacks thus inflating the markets through financialization, not genuine productive growth in the mainstream economic sectors. Another hot promise turned cold.

The $900 Billion Projected Deficit Increase, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), includes the effect of the 2017 GOP tax cut signed by Donald Trump. Significantly, the impact exceeds 25% of the increase of estimated deficit spending. Trump’s vaunted tax cut is not paying for itself.


pie chart from Congressional Budget Office (CBO), illustrating that 46% of the deficit and national debt increase of $900 billion, is accountable to the impact to the budget of the 2017 GOP Tax Reform Bill signed by President Donald Trump

But Trump was going to save the coal industry and the jobs related to it, in the dying gasps of fossil fuel obsolescence. A lot of folks voted for him on that premise. But the hard reality is that coal fired power generating plants are being closed by the week and utilities are substituting into the national grid – renewable sources like solar and wind.

Similarly, Trump made all manner of splashy announcements about corporations domestic and foreign, investing in major manufacturing start ups and expansions. In a matter of months, one after another, opted to cancel or significantly downsize the plans for various bottom line reasons, but all Trump’s followers remember were the tweets in which he prematurely crowed about his “deal making”.

When GM, for example, contradicted Trump’s rosy jobs narrative by mothballing their Lordstown, Ohio plant and pink slipping 5,400 employees, Trump castigated them via Twitter. GM then responded by putting a smiley face on Trump’s angry rant, by publicly announcing plans to invest $300 million dollars in plant upgrades at its Orion assembly plant at Lake Orion, Michigan. Trump could scarcely proclaim victory on a mere 400 resulting jobs against GM’s overall plans to layoff 15,000 workers at 5 other plants nationwide. Not winning.

Trump’s threats to “shut down the Southern border” excited his most ardent supporters to no end. But when it was made clear to Trump that such a move would have actual catastrophic economic consequences, Trump cooked up a false story about Mexico stepping up compliance with his call to stem the flow of asylum seekers. Too late – Trump’s base already internalized the patently absurd cover up narrative.

image of Trump giving military salute to top ranking North Korean military official

We were led to believe that Trump was going to coax North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to mothball his nuclear weapons and missile development programs due to Trump’s charm initiative and his obnoxious fawning over the manipulative mass murderer. Trump got chumped, but he persists in perpetuating the silly charade, even amidst a resumption of all manner of provocative activities that clearly signal that Kim has no intention of denuclearizing, much less ramping down tensions on the peninsula.

Most recent was the declaration of exoneration from Trump in scores of tweets directly following the issuance of Attorney General William Barr’s letter to Congress in which he overlays his own interpretation of the Mueller Investigation report.

As typical, once the facts find their way out into the hard light of scrutiny, we learn that exoneration of Trump is the furthest thing from the truth. Trump is in considerably more trouble now that Congress has the redacted version of Mueller’s report and soon will obtain the unredacted version despite any and all attempts by Trump to prevent its release.

Despite the impression some people have now, Trump has actually advocated that presidents and candidates allow the public to view their tax filings. Back in 2012, Trump told Fox News that GOP nominee Mitt Romney should release his tax returns and be snappy about it. He said that releasing the returns is a “great thing” because it lets a person prove “you’ve been successful, and that you’ve made a lot of money. I actually think it’s a positive.”

In 2014, Trump told Ireland’s TV3 that, “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely. And I would love to do that.”

In 2015 Trump, in an interview with right wing radio personality Hugh Hewitt, said, “I would certainly show tax returns if it was necessary.”

So for 4 years and even on various occasions in previous years, Trump led the public to believe that he had every intention of coming clean with his tax returns. But once the general election campaign kicked into gear, Trump dug in his heels and began dissembling. The excuse? Trump told reporters he couldn’t submit them because he was under a “routine audit”. Of course that was fact checked with the IRS and the result was that IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told a House Appropriations Subcommittee that there is “no rule that would prohibit the release of a tax return because it’s under audit.”

It’s worth bearing in mind that Trump – at the time he told Hewitt that he would release his tax returns, he (Trump) was well aware that he was under audit and had been for several years – so the vow to surrender the tax filings was an outright lie and it remains so to this very moment.

The number of these incidents in which the outcome stands in direct opposition to Trump’s boasts, professions, pronouncements and predictions are voluminous and the breadth of all of them are beyond the scope of this article – but we will enumerate one more. That is Trump’s false contention that the Mueller report vindicated him.

Trump and his media surrogates and political operatives had several weeks (beginning March 24th) to publicly parade the notion, (based on Attorney General William Barr’s contrived 4 page “summary” of the Mueller report), that Trump and his campaign were found neither to have “colluded” with the Russians to subvert the outcome of the presidential election, nor to have obstructed justice. During that window, Trump tweeted and blustered bombastically that the report was “COMPLETE EXONERATION!”.

one of several tweets from Donald Trump asserting that the Mueller Report exonerates him and that there was "NO COLLUSION!"

Amusingly, after the Mueller report itself saw the light of day, Trump reversed course and angrily tweeted that Mueller’s findings were “Complete Bullshit!”. At that point, Trump enthusiasts only recall that Trump (according to Trump), was “exonerated”. Everything beyond that is merely white noise to them, no matter how detailed or compelling the case is.

This is only all the more clear now that over 400 legal scholars, the majority, former Federal Prosecutors, have co-signed a public letter attesting that they have actually read the Mueller Report and find in it, numerous conspicuous instances of attempts (successful and otherwise), to obstruct justice by Donald Trump, that in their expert opinions, rise to the level of indictable crimes. In the following weeks since May 6th, several hundreds more have added their signatures, upping the total to nearly 1,000.

And now, Special Counsel Robert Mueller himself has made a public statement flatly contradicting Trump’s “exoneration” narrative, telling the American people and Congress, in summary that,

As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime. The introduction to volume two of our report explains that decision.

cover page image of author Stephanie Sarkis' book on the subject of the psychological tactic of "Gaslighting"

Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, has written extensively about the psychological phenomenon of “Gaslighting” and has written in Forbes magazine of Donald Trump’s predisposition to employ this as a persistent strategy – not only to keep his political base in a prolonged (perhaps permanent) state of delusion, but to aggressively engage his critics.

Dr. Sarkis summarizes Gaslighting as a technique of manipulating others to gain control and notes that its practitioners are:

“those with personality disorders including Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder.”

In the case of Donald Trump, it is clear that he has established such a degree of control with his followers that they fully invest in his claims at the time he issues them and no matter what later events and discoveries of fact contradict him – they are immune to such developments.

To these individuals, what Trump says at any given moment is the definition of truth to the exclusion of all else. Such a mental state eclipses Cognitive Dissonance, which is the discomfort of confronting a fact that challenges one’s closely held belief.

The mind control that Trump has actualized, strips away all senses of such internal conflict. 

Hearing that Trump has lied or misrepresented material facts, produces a response with these individuals of dismissing the reports as “an attack from the biased media”.

The devices that Trump uses most consistently to keep these individuals captive, are his Twitter account and Fox News.  It would be inaccurate to describe such people as “victims” in the sense that we ordinarily understand it. Trump voters are willful participants in their own deception and go to great lengths to insulate themselves from the reality of Trump’s behavior and true intentions.

The remainder of Trump’s term as president is predictable as to its broad contours. Trump will continue to put forward representations on various matters, the facts and data will reveal them to have been complete fiction and Trump’s base will cling to Trump’s treachery and duplicity.

Wash, rinse and repeat.

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