Donald Trump
Credit: Michael Vadon/Flickr

Back on October 10, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post reported that President Trump was in discussions with Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff Matt Whitaker about possibly replacing his boss as attorney general on either an interim basis or perhaps even a permanent capacity. When the president appeared that day on Fox News, Steve Doocy asked him about the article in the Post.

Trump wasn’t particularly forthcoming but he did clearly vouch for Whitaker’s character based on the fact that he knew him. Yet, when reporters asked him about Whitaker today at the White House, Trump said, “I don’t know Matt Whitaker.”

So, here we have two quotes from the president. They are both short and succinct and as uncomplicated as statements can be:

“I know Matt Whitaker.” –October 10, 2018
“I don’t know Matt Whitaker.” –November 9, 2018

Those two statements would not necessarily contradict each other if they came in reverse chronological order. After all, when you spend some time with someone you had not previously met, then it’s no longer true that you do not know them, but it remains true that you didn’t know them at an earlier period of time. But you can’t know someone in October and no longer know them in November.

Trump was telling the truth the first time, which is well-documented and can be verified all over the internet.

There are a lot of people discussing the constitutionality of putting Whitaker in charge of the Department of Justice and speculating about why it was done and what it might mean. Those are all interesting angles on this story which should be discussed. But I just want to pause for one second to point at those two conflicting statements from the president of the United States.

“I know Matt Whitaker.”
“I don’t know Matt Whitaker.”

He has absolutely no conscience or shame, no pangs of guilt or any possibility of feeling remorse when he contradicts himself like this. Say what you want, but this isn’t normal.

There is something broken in Donald Trump and because almost half the country is in his corner and taking his side for whatever self-interested reasons they may have, the entire country is breaking as a result.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at