Reliable Sources: Separating facts and Trump's fictions

donald trump greenbrier speech
President Trump spoke Tuesday at the Salute to Service dinner in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

It can be tempting to look away from President Trump's kookiest tweets. It can be tempting to shrug and say "Trump's just being Trump." But then his tweets are the only word, with no facts to correct his fictions. And the fictions are getting more and more fanciful.

I know I say it a lot, but Trump's deceptions and denial of reality are a daily story -- a story with international consequences. Most days, "here's what the president said" is the wrong frame. The right frame is "Why isn't he telling the truth about X, Y, Z? Is he misinformed, or lying, or worse?"

Take Tuesday for example. Julie Davis of The New York Times said "the string of insults, misstatements, exaggerations and outright falsehoods emanating from the White House began just after sunrise." It was a lot to keep up with.

DOJ debunks a conspiracy theory

Fact-checking can't -- and shouldn't -- be solely the province of journalists. Case in point: In the span of a few hours, "Trump's Justice Department and the GOP-run Senate intel committee have issued official findings at-odds with his Russia-related conspiracy theories," the WashPost's Aaron Blake wrote Tuesday afternoon.

This news might be buried because of the holiday. But it's important. As Blake wrote here, Tuesday's plea deal for former Democratic House staffer Imran Awan doubled as a "subtle but stinging rebuke of Trump and his cohorts who pushed conspiracy theories about Awan."

Trump and his MAGA-phone spun wild and wicked tales about Awan, but the DOJ's "thorough investigation" debunked all of it. Don't hold your breath for corrections or apologies... Because Trump just pivoted to other topics instead. On Tuesday:

-- Trump tweeted that the admin is "working with other Motor Cycle companies who want to move into the U.S." Bloomberg contacted multiple companies and couldn't figure out which ones Trump was talking about.

-- Then he "falsely connected the recent deletion of information from an intelligence-agency database to the special counsel's investigation of whether his presidential campaign conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election," per the Washington Post.

-- And he kept up his rhetoric about an MS-13 "infestation." His repeated exaggerations about ICE left David A. Graham asking: "Does Trump Know What ICE Does?"

-- Later in the day, according to The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale, Trump again falsely claimed "that this year's military spending is 'a record.' Obama signed a larger version of the same bill for 2011."

It's uncomfortable...

The conundrum: As CNN's Jim Acosta recently said, fact-checking consumes "a lot of the coverage," and leaves many people with the impression that "all we're doing all day long is bashing the president, when, in fact, we have to be fact-checkers."

I found myself agreeing with NBC's Andrea Mitchell when the two of us spoke on a panel last week. Saying the president lied again, saying he's peddling false info, "is uncomfortable," Mitchell said. She's right. This has been going on for a while, but it's still uncomfortable... Yet necessary... And here's another reason why...

From an Iranian cleric to a paper to Fox News to Trump's Twitter feed

Oliver Darcy emails: "Trump seems to have relied on a dubious Fox News story Tuesday morning to unleash a Twitter attack on Obama. Without any real evidence, Trump accused Obama of granting citizenship to 2,500 Iranians as part of nuclear deal negotiations. The unsubstantiated claim first gained widespread attention when Fox News wrote a story that cited an Iranian news agency that cited an Iranian newspaper that quoted a single Iranian cleric who made the assertion." Read more from Darcy here...

"The scary thing is..."

Darcy adds: "Former Obama officials said the cleric's claim was false. They also skewered Trump for getting his intelligence from Fox News. 'It shouldn't be lost on anyone that this is a case of Donald Trump parroting Fox News, which is peddling the claims of an Iranian hardliner,' said Jeff Prescott, former NSC director under Obama. Jake Sullivan, another former Obama official, added: 'The scary thing is that he's increasingly relying on sources like Fox News to get his intelligence rather than the professionals in his own government.'"

One of Fox's own commentators, former Obama State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, told the network that the cleric's claim "sounds like totally made up BS." Fox News included her comment toward the end of its story, but chose to publish the article anyway...

He's back to attacking the press

The White House came under pressure on Monday for declining the Annapolis mayor's request to lower American flags to half-staff to honor the five slain Capital Gazette employees. The mayor says he submitted the request on Saturday... But the White House says Trump didn't hear about it until Monday night... And agreed right away.

Trump issued a proclamation honoring the victims. But he also resumed his anti-media rhetoric. On Twitter, he called the "fake news" part of the "opposition party;" chastised journalists for pointing out his Twitter typos; accused the WashPost of making up sources again; and called the Post "a disgrace to journalism," adding, "but then again, so are many others!"


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