Tracking all the president’s lies is a Herculean effort best left to the teams of political reporters at august publications with time and money to burn. But there was one lie Friday so flagrant and easy to disprove there’s no good reason not to point it out.
The Justice Department on Friday unveiled an eight-count indictment charging 13 Russian nationals in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by, among other acts, targeting US voters online with divisive propaganda intended to undermine faith in the integrity of the election process. One goal of the Kremlin-backed operation, as the US intelligence community first asserted in January 2017, was to swing the presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor.
Although President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the White House communications staff continue to lie about it to this day, the intelligence community has never claimed that the election’s outcome wasn’t influenced by Russia’s efforts—which included a numerous cybercrimes, covertly purchased online political ads, protests on US soil, and an information warfare campaign spread across multiple social media platforms.
Putting aside the fact that determining the impact on the election was outside the scope of the intelligence community’s assessment, it is practically impossible to say with any degree of certainty what was going through the minds of the 62 million American voters when they checked Trump’s name on the ballot. We’ll simply never know.
In response to Friday’s indictments, President Trump took to Twitter, of course: “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” he wrote. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong—no collusion!”
Trump formally announced his candidacy in June 2015, but by then it was a foregone conclusion. There was no element of surprise here. His assertion that, because the Russian group began its misinformation operations around April 2014, there could be no ties to his own campaign, is—for lack of a better word—stupid. Just because the Russian conspiracy was launched prior to his formal announcement doesn’t mean its aims weren’t flexible. A plot to influence the election would have to be dynamic—taking into account the fact that no one had formally declared their intent to run and the nominations for major party candidates were years down the road.
Trump’s statement that he hadn’t announced a plan to run before 2016 is laughably easy to invalidate. In January 2014, he told Reuters he was considering a White House run because he was “unhappy with the way things are going in America.” Later that spring, he told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, that he would run, “as you’re sitting here,” if the “right person” didn’t come along.
And in March 2014, Trump copied and pasted another person’s tweet declaring: “Trump 2016 is the only way to stop the decline of the West. Only one man in America could deal with Putin.” He attached the hashtag #Trump2016. If that’s not a declaration of intent, what is?
Some of Trump’s lies aren’t very good, and this one definitely isn’t. It’s lazy, disproven by a two-second search on his social media platform of choice.