As president, Donald Trump has uttered more than 4,000 falsehoods or misleading statements. And the spokespeople and advisers tasked with squaring Trump’s version of reality with actual reality must often contort themselves accordingly.
.. On Sunday, they tried a couple of new tacks: asserting that “facts develop” and saying that the president “misspoke” — while saying something he has said dozens of times.
.. George Stephanopoulos challenged the president’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow on two past, disproven assurances that Trump hadn’t authored the initial, misleading statement about it. (That statement said the meeting was “primarily” about the adoption of Russian children.)
.. Facts might have “developed” from Sekulow’s perspective, but the actual events never changed. Either Trump didn’t tell him the truth about his role in drafting that statement, or Sekulow and Sanders offered assurances that were basically made-up. That “bad information” came from somewhere — either Trump or thin air.
.. John Bolton offered another extremely hard-to-stomach explanation for Trump’s soft stance toward Vladimir Putin on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, saying Trump merely “misspoke”:
.. why not stand there right alongside Putin, with the whole world watching and say, we are not going to stand for any more meddling?
BOLTON: Well, as the president said, he misspoke.
.. Trump has also said that he misspoke at the news conference with Putin — but not at this juncture. He said that when he said “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia, he meant to say wouldn’t instead.
As the video clip Wallace played shows, that was hardly the only moment in the joint news conference with Putin in which Trump played down the idea that Russia interfered. Bolton was responding not to Trump saying “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia but to his insistence that “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” Trump has never said he misspoke about that.
.. And that really gives lie to this whole thing. Trump has downplayed Putin’s interference so many times over the past 18 months that he would have had to be misspeaking almost constantly. It’s clear what he truly believes or at least wants to convey — even if aides can occasionally reel him back in slightly.
.. each and every one of them also has the side effect of undermining the credibility of the spokespeople who, in neither of these cases, must truly believe the things they are saying.
Flying home Monday after the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump and his senior aides recognized that he had made a mistake that risked lasting damage and needed to be fixed quickly, people familiar with the matter said.
Playing on a loop on television was footage of the president standing next to Mr. Putin, casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and aligning himself with Moscow’s denial of any meddling.
.. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Mr. Trump wasn’t addressing the Russia question when he said “no.” Rather, he was saying “no” to answering further questions, Ms. Sanders said. But Mr. Trump did continue to answer questions... John Bolton, his national security adviser, wrote up a list of points that needed to be made quickly and passed them to White House aides, a person familiar with the matter said... Bill Shine, the newly minted deputy chief of staff for communications and a former Fox News executive, voiced concern that the White House needed to provide a new TV image so that networks would stop broadcasting images of Mr. Trump’s news conference in Helsinki, a person familiar with the matter said... Mr. Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence emphasized the importance of reassuring the intelligence community.