Accuracy in Media

President Donald Trump’s strategy to deal with the impeachment investigation he’s enduring now has become to simply lie, according to a story Wednesday in the Washington Post.

He lies about the “whistleblower,” who appears to have coordinated with House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. He claims people who testify against him are “NeverTrumpers.” He has “recounted conversations in which senators deemed him ‘innocent’ only to have the lawmakers deny making the statements.”

And he makes claims about the “whistleblower’s” testimony that can’t be reckoned.

The common theme is “a form of gaslighting that has become the central defense strategy for the president as he faces his greatest political threat yet,” wrote Toluse Olorunnipa and Philip Rucker in “Trump makes falsehoods central to impeachment defense as incriminating evidence mounts.”

But this approach “is coming under increasing strain as congressional Democrats release transcripts and prepare to hold public hearings presenting evidence that directly undercuts Trump’s claims.”

The story began with Olorunnipa and Rucker pointing to a moment in Trump’s rally Monday in Lexington, Ky., when he claimed “a whistleblower from the intelligence community misrepresented a presidential phone call at the center of the impeachment inquiry that threatens his presidency.”

Trump responded by promptly releasing a transcript of the call. One of the whistleblower’s claims was that Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky eight times about Biden. The transcript, which others have testified accurately depicts the call, has him mentioning Biden once, in passing, at the end of the call.

The Post says the “whistleblower report essentially mirrors the set of facts that have since been revealed by a stream of documented evidence and sworn testimony” and that Trump has “pushed other specious arguments in his harried attempt to counter the growing evidence from witnesses implicating his administration in a quid pro quo scheme linking military aid to Ukrainian investigations targeting Democrats.”

Trump points this out not to challenge the substance of the call – his transcript allows everyone to judge that for themselves – but to call into question how the “whistleblower” received the information given it got this significant detail wrong.

The Post claimed that Trump misquoted the whistleblower’s account and, paraphrasing remarks from former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, that his “willingness to repeatedly mislead the public represents an attempt to protect himself by creating doubt about the fundamental nature of truth.”

It referred to the “Read the Transcript” T-shirts distributed at the Lexington rally as “Trump’s attempt to recast an incriminating summary of his July 25 call with Ukraine’s president as a piece of exonerating evidence.”

The Post also wrote: “Without evidence, Trump has claimed that his own administration officials who have complied with congressional subpoenas are ‘Never Trumpers.’” There actually is abundant evidence that Bill Taylor, whom Democrats see as their strongest witness to date, has been associated with anti-Trump groups such as the Soros-funded Atlantic Council and the McCain Institute, named for the late Arizona senator who opposed Trump.

Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine and another key witness for the Democrats, was accused by Ukraine’s top prosecutor of presenting him a “do-not-prosecute” list that included Biden, Burisma, the company Biden’s son worked for in a no-show job that paid him $83,000 per month, and the Post says Yovanovitch did criticize the Trump administration but only because she thought Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, was working to undermine her.

The Post includes some psychoanalysis as well. Trump’s “repetitive use of false claims represents an attempt to immunize himself from impeachment by seeding favorable information in the minds of the public, even when that information is incorrect.”

It then quotes Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, saying: “We know from work in social psychology that repeated exposure to a claim increases the likelihood that you think it’s accurate. As you hear or read something repeatedly, you are more likely to think it’s accurate even if faced with evidence that it’s not.”

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