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The Lazy Lies of President Chaos

A sad spectacle yesterday in the White House press briefing room.
September 4, 2020
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(Hannah Yoest / Photos: GettyImages)

You want some convenient examples of why Donald Trump is not fit to serve as president of the United States? I know, it’s not as if anybody needs even more. But yesterday’s White House press briefing offered up three on a platter.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany began by showing video footage of Nancy Pelosi and making fun of the speaker of the House for what happened when she went to get her hair styled on Monday. McEnany and President Trump have highlighted the fact that Pelosi is seen in the video not wearing a mask. The implication, of course, is that Pelosi is a hypocrite of the “Do as I say and not as I do” variety—an accusation that comes as no surprise to the members of the White House press corps, many of whom (myself included) have tried to get Trump and McEnany to wear masks for the last few months when they visit the Brady Briefing Room.

But all that was just run-of-the-mill hypocrisy from Trump’s team.

The first of the big three new items came as McEnany tried to explain why the president is threatening to hold back funds from cities across the United States that won’t do as he says to deal with protests and violence surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and recent examples of police brutality.

According to McEnany, the president is trying to “incentivize” the mayors of the cities in question. That is, if they are under the threat of losing federal funds then they’ll do what Trump wants.

This fits the dictionary definition of extortion—and shows that the president obviously hasn’t learned his lesson from the “quid pro quo” behavior with Ukraine that got him impeached.

The second of the big three offenses occurred when NBC’s Peter Alexander tried to ask McEnany to clear up something Trump said. Trump told reporters in early March of this year, in answering a question I posed to him, that his visit to the Walter Reed Medical Center in November 2019 was the first of two visits for his annual physical and that he would return to Walter Reed and give us the results of his physical by June 1:

But Trump apparently never visited Walter Reed again and we were later told that the presidential physician came to him—somewhere else—and finished the physical. We got the report on June 2.

Questions surfaced again this week following reports that Trump may have lied about the reason for his visit to Walter Reed. That followed several public appearances where Trump appeared in questionable health. In response to those reports, Trump sent out a tweet denying he had had “mini-strokes”:

He also changed his story and claimed—contrary to everything he and his staff had repeatedly been saying since last November—that the 2019 visit to Walter Reed was the end of his physical, not the beginning:

If the new timeline was true, then why did Trump wait until June to release his physical? Why did he tell us on the South Lawn in March that he still had yet to finish his physical—because he was “so busy”? He certainly had plenty of time to golf during those months, but not enough time to visit Walter Reed.

Peter Alexander tried to get an answer from McEnany, but she blundered through one excuse after another before finally saying that she wasn’t going to indulge media “conspiracy theories.”

All Alexander wanted was clarification. All he got was obfuscation.

Then there was the third episode. Jon Karl from ABC began by asking McEnany if the president would admit that knowingly voting twice in an election is a criminal offense. McEnany tried to parry, and then tried to deny and finally she got Karl off the topic and tried to tell everyone that Trump is for the rule of law, but if someone voted by mail and they showed up to vote and a poll worker couldn’t guarantee they had voted, then the voter should vote again.

This encourages chaos because plenty of Democrats and Republicans could reason that it is okay to do this, and it could throw the entire election into question. And, to use just one state as an example, in the case of North Carolina, it can take up to three days to finish receiving and tabulating the mail-in votes, so poll workers may not know on Election Day if you voted.

But the bottom line is that is illegal to knowingly vote twice in an election and in many places it’s also illegal to encourage such behavior.

The president who claims to be all about law and order is telling people to break the law.

When I followed up on Jon Karl’s original question in the briefing room—“Knowingly voting twice is a crime, why is he telling people to vote twice?”—McEnany walked away. She wouldn’t even address it. It is a legitimate question. It deserves an answer.

Donald Trump is not fit for office and his press secretary isn’t fit to serve.

They are encouraging lawlessness, not the rule of law.

They are encouraging chaos in the cities and chaos at the ballot box while pushing lies about the opposition and lies about the president’s annual physical.

At her first press briefing Trump’s press secretary said she’d never lie to the American people. That was her first lie.

There have been a steady stream of them ever since.

Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the senior White House correspondent for Playboy magazine. He successfully sued Donald Trump to keep his press pass after Trump tried to suspend it. He has also gone to jail to defend a reporter's right to keep confidential sources.