Many Americans were no doubt relieved Monday to read on Twitter that “truth isn’t truth” is not actually the official position of the Trump administration. Well, at least it’s not a proper “pontification on moral theology,” as Rudy Giuliani explained on the social media website. It was Mr. Giuliani, speaking as President Donald Trump’s lawyer on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, who originally declared that truth isn’t truth while trying to explain that White House counsel Don McGahn’s 30 hours of testimony to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation wasn’t an argument that the truth is coming out and Mr. Trump should testify as well.
As Mr. Giuliani tweeted, two people can disagree on the facts and present a he said/he said situation, and that’s absolutely true. Like the famous parable about the blind men and the elephant, people only understand their limited perspective, and it can sometimes be in conflict with how others see the same circumstances with everyone missing the big picture. But add the former New York mayor’s instant internet meme on a Sunday morning talk show to President Trump’s penchant for lying and the Trump administration’s broader “alternative facts” strategy that would have the public believe that separating undocumented children at the border was a longstanding policy when it wasn’t or that Barack Obama wiretapped the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential campaign when he hadn’t or, well, the list goes on and on — and you can appreciate Mr. Giuliani’s pronouncement as more of an inadvertent insight then misstep.
Here’s a question: Do you think President Trump notices he and his chief legal spokesman are acting more and more like disgraced monarchs living in a castle under siege (but with smart phones handy)? Mr. Giuliani is not even the worst of it. Mr. Trump was back on Twitter Monday morning describing the Mueller probe in terms usually reserved for military coups. "Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his whole group of Angry Democrat Thugs spent over 30 hours with the White House Councel [sic], only with my approval, for purposes of transparency. Anybody needing that much time when they know there is no Russian Collusion is just someone looking for trouble," he wrote, adding that the investigators are “looking to impact the election” and that “They are a National Disgrace!"
Obviously, there’s a lot to unpack there, but let’s review it on the most basic level. President Trump is both claiming transparency with the Mueller probe while attacking that same investigation as highly political, corrupt and the worst thing since Joseph McCarthy. What’s wrong with this picture? This notion that the president is highly cooperative with an investigation that shouldn’t exist in the first place is the kind of both-sides-of-the-mouth argument defense attorneys like to use in guilty cases. Claim to respect the legal proceedings and portray your client as cooperative, then attack, attack, attack in the most outrageous, over-the-top manner possible until you can find something that sticks or just find one sympathetic juror. It’s the norm in criminal proceedings, but for a president it sounds awfully — and we use this word advisedly — lawyerly.
The better litmus test for how isolated and frenzied the White House has become was one off-hand reference President Trump made on Twitter to another famous White House figure one day earlier. Complaining about The New York Times coverage of Mr. McGahn’s testimony, the president tweeted that the Times had implied that the “White House Councel” [well, at least his misspelling is consistent] “must be a John Dean type ‘RAT.’” Isn’t that something — with the all-capital letters and everything. What stands out here is that most people don’t think of Richard Nixon’s White House counsel as a “rat” let alone a “RAT” at all. He’s remembered as the guy who discovered his conscience and eventually cooperated with prosecutors, pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in the Watergate cover-up but also bringing down Mr. Nixon, the most demonstrably corrupt U.S. president of modern times. Is President Nixon the hero of Mr. Trump’s recollection of Watergate and John Dean is the bad guy? Because that’s the implication.
Obstruction of justice is a crime, Mr. President, just as it was in the Nixon era, and you have a miserable track record at keeping your story straight. We don’t blame your legal team for resisting the idea of you sitting down for an interview with Mr. Mueller. But please spare us the obfuscation, the lies and the baseless attacks on the former FBI director, a Republican appointed to his current post by a Republican deputy attorney general. They aren’t helping your case.