What if “C-A-T” spelled “dog”?
Take Thursday and the confusion caused by President Donald Trump’s early morning tweets on the re-authorization of a controversial domestic surveillance program.
He started here: “Disproven and paid for by Democrats ‘Dossier used to spy on Trump Campaign. Did FBI use Intel tool to influence the Election?’ @foxandfriends Did Dems or Clinton also pay Russians? Where are hidden and smashed DNC servers? Where are Crooked Hillary Emails? What a mess!”
Then went here: “House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.” This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”
Those twin tweets set off a panic among Republicans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as they were directly at odds with the Administration’s stated support for the FISA reauthorization — and opposition to an amendment backed by the opposition to reauthorization.
“The Administration strongly opposes the ‘USA Rights’ amendment to the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, which the House will consider tomorrow,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement sent to reporters just after 9 p.m. ET Wednesday. “The Administration urges the House to reject this amendment and preserve the useful role FISA’s Section 702 authority plays in protecting American lives.”
So. Let’s recap:
1. The White House — via Sanders — said Wednesday night that they supported the FISA reauthorization.
2. The president tweeted this morning that this program allowed Trump Tower to be surveilled during the 2016 campaign and declared the entire thing a “mess.”
Then came this tweet from Trump — an hour after he sent the first tweets: “With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!”
That last tweet reads like a classic bit of political cleanup. Trump tweeted something without totally understanding his administration’s stated policies. It caused a major uproar within his party. He tweeted again to make sure everyone knew he was in support of FISA reauthorization. The end.
But, no! Not the end. Because when Sanders took the podium at her daily White House briefing on Thursday, she insisted that the sky was not, in fact, blue at all.
“We don’t think that there was a conflict at all,” Sanders said of Trump’s tweets. “The President fully supports the 702 and was happy to see that it passed the House today. We don’t see any contradiction or confusion in that.”
To which I say: Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?
There is simply no way to read Sanders’ statement from Wednesday night and Trump’s early-morning tweets and not see them in direct conflict. It’s not possible unless you suspend your entire idea of what truth and facts actually mean.
While this is the most egregious example of the White House’s troubling tendency to bend reality to fit their own views, it’s not the only one of late.
Take Trump senior counselor Kellyanne Conway insisting to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night that “we don’t care about (Hillary Clinton). Nobody here talks about her.”
That assertion came just hours after Trump brought up Clinton — without being asked — in a press conference with the Norwegian prime minister. “Hillary was not for a strong military and Hillary — my opponent — was for windmills,” Trump said.
And it came just hours before Trump — as noted above — mentioned Clinton AGAIN; “Did Dems or Clinton also pay Russians? Where are hidden and smashed DNC servers? Where are Crooked Hillary Emails?” is what Trump tweeted — just in case you forgot.
Or, how about the White House’s handling of the deal reached by the so-called “Gang of Six” — three Democratic Senators, three Republican senators — on immigration?
On Tuesday, Trump said this of any immigration deal emerging from Congress: “I’m signing it. I mean, I will be signing it.” Later, he added: “If they come to me with things I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it.”
But today, Sanders seemed to totally forget what her boss had said 48 hours before. “There has not been a deal reached yet,” she insisted, adding: “We’ve laid out those non-negotiables for us.”
Look. All White Houses try their best to spin bad news — or unforced errors — into less bad news. That’s politics.
But that’s also not what this White House is doing. What they are doing is actively erasing and then rewriting history — and then shaming you if you happen to say “But, wait a minute, that’s not at all what happened.”
Facts are not malleable. The truth — even, and actually especially, the uncomfortable ones — matter. No matter what Sarah Sanders says.