Does Trump Know He’s Lying?

Yes. He just doesn’t care.

Shortly after the inauguration in January, Jennifer Rubin posed an interesting question.

The supposition among pundits, elected officials and political insiders is that Trump, like his argument over the inaugural crowd size, “lies” to make himself feel better. His staff salutes, repeats his lies and then gets bashed. What if, however, he thoroughly, “honestly” believes his crazy, unsubstantiated claims? When he denies saying something, what if he honestly does not, cannot recall statements that now come back to haunt him?

…Before reverting to sycophantic form after his primary defeat, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), incensed about Trump’s assertion that Cruz’s father participated in the JFK assassination, called Trump a “pathological liar.” He said, “He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And he had a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook. His response is to accuse everybody else of lying.”

Putting aside the psychiatric lingo, Cruz’s essential point — Trump cannot tell what is real and what is not — surely looks right on point less than a week into the presidency.

We may now have an answer to the question about whether or not the president is aware that he’s lying.

During the campaign, this is the kind of thing that Trump said repeatedly.

He claimed that the job numbers were rigged and that unemployment was actually as high as 42%. But at a “Made in America” roundtable discussion this week, he said this:

When we got those great reports, I kept saying, ‘you know, those numbers, whether it’s 4.2, 4.3 [percent], I said, for a long time, they don’t matter. But now I accept those numbers very proudly. I say they do matter.

In February, Sean Spicer said this at a press briefing when asked about the jobs report:

I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly: ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.’ “

There was a hint of a smile on Spicer’s face when he said that, so it was hard to tell if he was joking. Based on what Trump said this week, it’s clear he wasn’t.

All of this adds up to the fact that Trump was lying during the campaign and knew it.

None of this is a refutation of what I’ve written previously about his mental unfitness for office. Contrary to what Rubin was suggesting, he knows the difference between the truth and a lie. The situation is actually more dire. He doesn’t care.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.