As a child, I was taught in Sunday school that lying is a sin and that there are two kinds of lies: those of commission and those of omission. That is why, when witnesses are sworn in to testify, they promise to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
Following Wednesday’s House vote to impeach Donald Trump for the second time, the president’s lawyers convinced him to release a video to prevent further legal exposure for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol last week. Even so, Trump hasn’t stopped lying. In the video, he said: “No true supporter of mine could ever support political violence…No true supporter of mine could ever threaten or harass their fellow Americans.”
That is a lie of commission. As this video from the documentary film “13th” demonstrates, Trump repeatedly called on his supporters to threaten and harass fellow Americans during his campaign rallies.
“In the good ol’ days…” #13TH pic.twitter.com/2IzF87ODP6
— 13TH (@13THFilm) October 12, 2016
Furthermore, Trump had a different reaction while the violence was underway at the Capitol last week. Josh Marshall reports that “As members of Congress were besieged and then retreated to a secure undisclosed location, Trump received numerous pleas from members of Congress to send reinforcements or call on his supporters to disperse. He refused because he liked what he was seeing.” A source told journalist Caroline Graham that Trump’s response eventually soured.
As a White House source told The Mail on Sunday last night, Trump was “apoplectic” in embarrassment because the “white trash” mob on screen made him look bad…When they first stormed the Capitol he was enjoying it. These were “his people”. But when he saw pictures of the half-naked guy in the fur hat he started complaining they looked “cheap and poor”.
The president wasn’t disturbed by the violence. He eventually decided that the “white trash” made him look bad. Perhaps the former reality television star would have been pleased if Mark Burnett had orchestrated the insurrection.
Included in Wednesday night’s video was also one major lie of omission. To stop further violence, all Trump would have to say is, “Joe Biden won the election and will be our next president.” According to White House reporter Asawin Suebsaeng of The Daily Beast, he refuses to do that.
Trump is still going on and on behind closed doors about Dominion voting machine conspiracy theories and how he won in a landslide and therefore Biden is an illegitimate president. (None of the president’s claims there are true.) The president has also said that he’ll now make the polite-sounding public statements that his staff has drafted for him about a “smooth” transfer of power, but has repeatedly—sometimes unprompted—ruled out making any statements that Biden won, emphasizing that he will “never” admit such a thing.
After traveling with the president to Texas on Tuesday, Republican Senator Lindsay Graham confirmed to reporters that “[Trump] thinks he was cheated, but nothing’s going to change that.”
That is the big lie the president is unlikely to ever abandon for two reasons. First of all, his narcissistic ego can’t handle the truth that he lost the election. As Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal, explained, for Trump, to lose is “the equivalent of obliteration.” But secondly, Trump will cling to the lie as a way to maintain relevance and undermine Biden’s legitimacy. It will keep his base of loyalists energized in much the same way that the lie of birtherism was used to inflame opposition to Barack Obama.
As former Republican consultant Stuart Stevens documented in his book, It Was All a Lie, the GOP’s entire edifice has been based on lies for 50 years. Trump’s presidency and its violent end are merely the culmination of a party that went off the rails long ago. Lying has become their brand, so it’s doubtful they’ll ever reckon with the truth.