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Trump doubles down on lying

Witcover: We know how great Trump thinks he is, but how will he make the U.S. great?

President Donald Trump, still obsessed with the fact he lost the 2016 popular vote to Hillary Clinton, told congressional leaders at a White House reception last week that he really had won it — because as many as five million people had voted illegally, presumably for Ms. Clinton and against him.

The next day, he sent out White House press secretary Sean Spicer to brief White House reporters on the same lie, which Mr. Spicer sanitarily passed on without saying he agreed. Or as Mr. Spicer put it: "The President does believe that, I think he's stated that before, and stated his concern of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence people have brought to him."

Asked for the evidence, Mr. Spicer erroneously cited a Pew Charitable Trust report for a different year that he claimed "showed 14 percent of people who voted were noncitizens," though it actually said nothing of the kind.

Thus, for the second day in his brief tenure, Mr. Spicer channeled Mr. Trump's grievance with the news media for challenging one of his false claims. The day after the inauguration, the official White House mouthpiece trumpeted Mr. Trump's "evidence," widely disputed by photographs, that his inaugural audience was the largest in history — "period."

Mr. Spicer's explanation of Mr. Trump's allegation of voter fraud came after affirming from the briefing podium that, in the words of a reporter's question, he "would never say knowingly something that is not factual." His dodge on Mr. Trump's voter fraud claim was that he was only reporting what Mr. Trump had actually said.

Of more public concern is Mr. Trump's repeated and bizarre need to defend his self-image as the most popular, most supported and most revered figure in the country, if not the world. After Democratic Rep. John Lewis' declared that his presidency is not "legitimate," Mr. Trump lashed out at the congressman's service to his Georgia district, demonstrating an incredibly thin skin for a man so long in the public eye.

This impression is also reinforced by Mr. Trump's continuing snide and mean-spirited late-night tweeting, with which he encourages his "movement" to keep alive its flame of invective against professional journalism.

Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump's former public relations operative and now counselor to the president, has provided a handy new category of deception — "alternative facts" — to justify what also is now being called the "post-truth" era.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, among the 16 failed challengers to Mr. Trump for last year's GOP nomination and now an outspoken critic, has said the new president's contention of widespread voter fraud "undermines faith in our democracy. It's not coming from a candidate for the office; it's coming from a man who holds the office. So I am begging the president, share with us the information you have you have about this, or please stop saying it."

Mr. Trump's response is to announce plans to spend billions on his promised wall along the Mexican border and ordering a federal investigation into to his wild and self-serving allegations of extensive voter fraud.

What's really needed from Mr. Trump now is to relax and accept that he is the president of the United States, which may finally dawn on him after he has been living in the People's House a while longer — that is, unless he clings to his other home in Trump Tower, where wife Melania apparently will remain until their son Barron finishes grade school in New York.

Finally, for the sake of his own credibility and that of his official spokesman, Mr. Trump should stop rolling out his press secretary on a skateboard every day to air his daily personal laments about how the resident reporters treat him.

The White House watchdogs well understand that their role is to strain against their leashes to learn what the new president is doing and thinking about how he intends to make America great again. The country already knows how incredibly great Donald Trump thinks he is.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is

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