When backed into a corner, lie like a rug

Amber Phillips notes there’s this pattern President Liar has of throwing out criminal accusations whenever the heat gets too close to his bum.

We know that James B. Comey is a leaker. It’s doubtful that he’s a criminal; legal experts have said that even though the former FBI director shared his memos of conversations with President Trump with the media, if the information wasn’t classified, that probably wasn’t a crime.

Do we know that Comey is a leaker? I don’t feel as if I know that. He shared his own notes with a friend with a request to read portions to the Times. The notes were typed on a fed machine on fed time, true, but is that by itself really enough to qualify them as a leak if he shares them? Especially when the conversation they record was forced on him in the first place? When he would have avoided the conversation if he could have?

At any rate, Trump’s response was that tweet we saw yesterday:

Trump just basically accused the FBI director he fired of leaking classified information, days after Comey testified under oath to Congress that the president might have interfered in an FBI investigation.

In hindsight, this tweet probably shouldn’t have been surprising: When the president feels threatened, his go-to move is to accuse his opponent of doing something illegal and offer no evidence to back it up. Conspiracy theorists can and will pick this up and run with it, people can choose to believe which narrative they want, and the waters are sufficiently muddied.

And Trump, I would think, has opened himself to a libel suit.

But soon, Trump could regret this tweet. Congress might be calling the president’s bluff — if that’s what it is — by asking the White House to turn over tapes of Trump’s conversations with Comey (if they exist) and other evidence of their conversations. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) even invited Trump to testify before Congress. (“One hundred percent,” Trump said Friday when asked in a news conference if he’d testify under oath if asked.)

The problem for Trump is that Comey is a largely credible witness, and his testimony under oath was detailed and shocking.

Unlike Comey, Trump has offered no proof. And he appears to be going out of his way to create another story line: Comey is a leaker (true), and maybe even leaked more than we know about and it might be illegal (there is no evidence for this).

I don’t think Comey has offered any “proof” either, unless the legal definition is more relaxed than I realized. He’s offered evidence. We all learned at the start of his that an agent’s contemporaneous notes are considered admissible evidence in court, but evidence isn’t the same as proof. I think the actual claim should be that Comey has offered evidence while Trump has not. The nature of the evidence though is surely different when the agent in question is defending himself as well as his agency, the country, etc. I don’t for a second think Comey lied, but if I were Trump’s lawyer I’m sure I would point out that it’s certainly possible that he did, and that he had a motive.

Trump does this so often that reporters call him out in news stories for it. “It has long been his practice to stir up new controversies to deflect attention from a damaging news cycle,” The Washington Post’s White House team wrote about the wiretapping tweet.

In November, just weeks after Trump’s election, he claimed that the biggest voter fraud in U.S. history caused him to lose the popular vote. Seven months later, there’s no investigation of this, and there is no evidence for it.

He’s a serial liar, who tells destructive lies about other people to protect or puff up himself. And he’s the president.

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