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Westlake Legal Group > News Media (Page 184)

House Sends Articles Of Impeachment To Senate

Westlake Legal Group 5e18bc442500008b29990671 House Sends Articles Of Impeachment To Senate

The House voted Wednesday to send articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate nearly one month after voting to impeach him, clearing the way for his trial to begin.

Members of the House are expected to formally march the impeachment articles over to the Senate later in the day, following tradition.

Earlier on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the seven lawmakers she had chosen to act as managers in the Senate trial, arguing the case for removing Trump from office. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will serve as lead manager. The other six are House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas).

Due to Republicans’ control of the Senate, the president will most likely be acquitted. 

The two articles of impeachment approved Dec. 18 ― abuse of power and obstruction of Congress ― involve Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump is accused of attempting to use congressionally approved military aid earmarked for Ukraine as leverage to advance conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and to make trouble for a key 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Impeachment advocates have pointed to a particular phrase, “do us a favor,” which Trump used in a July phone call with Zelensky, to argue that he was abusing his power.

“Do me a favor?” Pelosi said Wednesday on the House floor as she recapped the president’s alleged wrongdoing. “Do you paint houses, too? What is this, ‘do me a favor’?”

Trump, the speaker said, had launched “an assault on the U.S. Constitution” and “gave us no choice” but to pursue impeachment. 

During the weekslong delay imposed by Pelosi, Democrats had hoped to secure assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about how the trial would be conducted, but received none. 

In the interim, however, new evidence emerged in the form of a cache of emails that offered new details about the Ukrainian aid. In one email, an Office of Management and Budget official told a top Pentagon official there was “[c]lear direction from POTUS to hold,” referring to the aid.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have pressed for new witnesses and documentation to be introduced. They are reportedly very close to securing support from four Republican senators, which would give them just enough leverage to issue subpoenas.

“Time has been our friend in all of this,” Pelosi said earlier Wednesday. 

Impeachment hearings in the House held late last year produced an array of testimony from State Department officials, but the Trump administration has blocked people who were closest to the conversations with Ukraine from speaking to investigators. One such official, former national security adviser John Bolton, said earlier this month he would testify if the Senate subpoenas him ― putting pressure on Republicans to do so. Trump has said he would move to block a subpoena on grounds of executive privilege.

McConnell and other top GOP leaders, however, have been extremely dismissive about the prospect of a trial, with McConnell going so far as to say he would be “coordinating with the White House.”

“I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There’s not anything judicial about it,” he told reporters in December. 

McConnell’s comments prompted calls for his recusal, as members of the Senate are required to take an oath pledging impartiality in an impeachment trial.

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House Votes to Send Impeachment Charges to Senate, Approving Managers

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-livevote-vid-facebookJumbo House Votes to Send Impeachment Charges to Senate, Approving Managers United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Schiff, Adam B Pelosi, Nancy impeachment House of Representatives

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to send the Senate two articles of impeachment against President Trump, appointing seven Democrats to prosecute the case and initiating only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

The 228-193 vote came almost a month after the House impeached Mr. Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, formally accusing him of seeking foreign election assistance from Ukraine and then trying to conceal his actions from a House inquiry. Like that earlier vote, Wednesday’s fell largely along party lines.

Only one Democrat, Representative Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, joined every Republican in voting “no.”

It set the stage for what promises to be a partisan impeachment trial, which has already opened bitter divisions in the normally staid Senate, and has the potential to shape Mr. Trump’s legacy, stoke the country’s political polarization and inject fresh uncertainty into the 2020 elections.

Earlier Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the lawmakers who would serve as prosecutors, or managers, of the case. Both chambers were also grappling on Wednesday with a trove of new documents related to Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign that played into Democrats’ arguments that any trial must include new witnesses and evidence. More material was expected to be disclosed, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.

“Time has been our friend in all of this because it has yielded incriminating evidence, more truth into the public domain,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters, arguing that the emergence of new revelations had validated her strategy to delay pressing charges for weeks.

At the White House, Mr. Trump denounced the inquiry anew as a “hoax,” and encouraged Republicans to rally to his defense shortly before the vote. During an event in the East Room, he told members of the House that they should leave if they needed to in order to cast votes at the Capitol across town against moving forward on the matter.

“I’d rather have you voting than sitting here listening to me introduce you,” Mr. Trump said during a signing ceremony for an initial trade deal with China. “They have a hoax going on over there — let’s take care of it.”

As expected, the House prosecution team will be led by Representatives Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee who led the Ukraine inquiry.

He will be joined by Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Zoe Lofgren of California, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Val B. Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas. Mr. Crow and Ms. Garcia are both first-term members.

The managers are scheduled to reconvene in the Capitol at 5 p.m. to finalize the articles with Ms. Pelosi in a formal “engrossment ceremony” that will mark the beginning of an elaborate, and highly orchestrated, ritual. From there, accompanied by the House clerk and sergeant-at-arms, the managers will file from the House, through the old House chamber and the Capitol Rotunda to the Senate, where Democrats will present the articles to the secretary of the Senate.

But the trial itself is not expected to start until Thursday, when the managers will most likely exhibit the articles inside the Senate chamber.

Once they do so, the Senate will summon Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to preside and all senators will take an oath to administer “impartial justice.” The Senate must promptly issue a summons to Mr. Trump informing him of the charges and requesting a response.

Republican leaders have said the proceeding will not begin in earnest until next Tuesday, after the long holiday weekend. That will give them time to clear other pending legislative items, including a North American trade agreement, and finish preparing for a process that could consume senators for weeks.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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We’re Living in a Subscriptions World. Here’s How to Navigate It.

Westlake Legal Group 15Techfix-illo-facebookJumbo We’re Living in a Subscriptions World. Here’s How to Navigate It. Video Recordings, Downloads and Streaming Spotify Netflix Inc Music Movies Mobile Applications Data Storage Computers and the Internet Cloud Computing

Nowadays we don’t really buy things. We just subscribe to online services.

And how can we resist? The streaming revolution has brought us vast amounts of video and music entertainment at the click of a button. In an era of cloud storage, where we store our data on remote computer servers, tech companies like Google and Apple take care of the headache of managing our information so that we no longer lose important files or progress on our work.

For many of us, giving up control and ownership to these services is the point. But for others, there is a downside to losing some flexibility and freedom. While Spotify may not have all the music we want to listen to, if we cancel our subscription, we lose access to its large catalog of music. With cloud storage services, putting our documents and other files online is simple, but pulling them out can be a pain.

This can make some people feel trapped. We could always resort to the obvious old-school methods, like buying discs of music and carrying around thumb drives of our files and documents, but who wants to do that?

Fortunately, there are some approaches to taking control of our media while enjoying the benefits of subscription services. Those steps range from the obvious, like creating local copies of your data, to more advanced methods, like making a personal cloud using an internet-connected storage device that acts like a miniature server.

All it takes is some forethought and technological know-how. Here’s what you need to know.

Cloud storage services like Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud — which let you store small amounts of data online free and which charge a few dollars a month to hoard larger amounts — offer major benefits. Namely, we can get access to our data from any device with an internet connection, and because our files are copied onto a company’s servers, we can’t lose them.

But beware of becoming over-reliant on the cloud. What if one day you decide to cancel your subscription? For anything that is stored exclusively online, you would then have to download each piece of data to your own drive, which can be frustrating and time-consuming.

That’s why, as a rule of thumb, people should continue creating local copies of their data for their computers and smartphones and store only important files on the cloud.

Here are the tools you will need:

  • An external hard drive. Portable hard drives can store vast amounts of data, and they are generally cheap. Seagate’s Backup Plus Slim 2, a Wirecutter recommendation, costs about $60 and holds two terabytes of data, which is probably enough to store backups of your computer, tablet and smartphone.

  • A software program for creating computer backups. Mac computers include Apple’s Time Machine backup tool. Microsoft’s Windows 10 includes a free tool called File History. Both apps can be set up to automatically back up your computer data.

  • An app for backing up your smartphone data. Apple users can back up their iPhones to their computers via the Finder or iTunes apps. Android users with Windows computers can access their data via “My Computer,” and on a Mac, Android users can use the app Android File Transfer.

From there, the steps vary slightly depending on which device and apps you use, but the processes are generally the same. To back up your computer data, you plug your external hard drive into your computer and run the backup program. To back up your smartphone data to your computer, you plug the smartphone into the computer and run your backup app. (If you need more steps, Wirecutter published a comprehensive guide on creating data backups.)

This way, if we become dissatisfied with a cloud service, we can cancel the subscription and have the ease and flexibility to take our files elsewhere.

Streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV Plus and Hulu offer a buffet of TV shows and movies to binge on. Similarly, Spotify and Apple Music give you instant access to millions of songs. But streaming services don’t have access to everything out there, like obscure art house films or live performances by music artists.

So here’s how you can take control of the content you stream to your devices. There’s a clever approach that involves creating your own media cloud, which acts like an online locker for your own content.

Michael Calore, an editor for Wired and a part-time D.J., said that when Spotify lacks his favorite music, he extracts the songs from a disc and uploads them to Google Play Music, Google’s online music service. Then he plays the music on the Google Play Music app from his smartphone.

“It’s basically like my own private streaming music service,” he said. In general, people can apply this approach to any songs they can’t get on streaming services.

For movies, I’ll share my setup, which is not for the faint of heart.

As a film studies student, I owned a collection of hundreds of DVDs, many of them obscure indie titles that are nowhere to be found on any streaming service. So I converted the titles into digital video formats, which I stored on a network-attached storage device, essentially a miniature server.

From there, I installed the Plex video-streaming app on my Apple TV, and on my smartphone, I installed Infuse 6, another video-streaming app. I set up both apps to pull movies from my mini server. This way, I can still enjoy the ability to stream my special collection of art house movies via my own equipment.

Of course, for many of a certain (younger) age, physical discs are unheard-of, and newer obscure titles will more likely be released on a streaming service. Still, for those wanting to tailor the content they stream, physical media is worth exploring.

So here’s what you will need to create personal clouds for your movies and music:

  • Tech to extract content from discs. First, you will need an optical drive, which is still included with some desktop computers, to read discs.

    Second, you will need apps to “rip” the content and turn the movies into digital files. For videos, special computer programs like Handbrake can extract movies from discs and convert them into video files. For audio, programs like iTunes and Windows Media Player can rip digital music files from CDs.

  • Tech to create a video server. Basically, you need an internet-connected device with some storage for movies, which essentially acts as a miniature server. There are plenty of options, like the $150 Nvidia Shield TV, or the Synology DiskStation DS218+, which costs about $300.

  • Tech to play media over the internet. For music, Google Play Music lets you upload your own songs to a cloud library and stream them through the app. For movies, streaming apps like Plex or Infuse 6 let you play movies from a TV app or smartphone.

If that all sounds complicated, that’s because setting up your content to be easily accessible over the internet is no easy feat. But these options exist for people who want more freedom.

Mr. Calore said that despite having a nice setup for streaming media via a personal cloud, he still consumed the vast majority of music and movies from paid streaming services.

“We’ve lost the excitement and the specialness of a physical idea,” he said. “But what we’ve gained in exchange is abundance at a scale that we could never have imagined. That is very much worth the trade-off.”

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Trump Signs China Deal, Halting Trade War That Hurt Global Growth

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an initial trade deal with China on Wednesday, bringing the first chapter of a protracted and economically damaging fight with the world’s second-largest economy to a close.

The pact is intended to open Chinese markets to more American companies, increase farm and energy exports, and provide greater protection for American technology and trade secrets. China has committed to purchasing an additional $200 billion worth of American goods and services by 2021 and is expected to ease some of the tariffs it has placed American products.

But the agreement preserves the bulk of tariffs that Mr. Trump has placed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, and it maintains the threat of additional punishment if Beijing does not live up to the terms of the deal.

“Today we take a momentous step, one that has never been taken before with China toward a future of fair and reciprocal trade with China,” Mr. Trump said at a ceremony at the White House. “Together we are righting the wrongs of the past.”

U.S.-China Trade Deal: Full Text

Read the text from the Trump administration of the first phase of the deal of the deal struck with China.

Westlake Legal Group thumbnail Trump Signs China Deal, Halting Trade War That Hurt Global Growth United States International Relations United States Economy Trump, Donald J International Trade and World Market Customs (Tariff) China   94 pages, 1.51 MB

The deal caps more than two years of tense negotiations and escalating threats that at times seemed destined to plunge the United States and China into a permanent economic war. Mr. Trump, who campaigned for president in 2016 on a promise to get tough on China, pushed his negotiators to rewrite trade terms that he said had destroyed American industry and jobs, and he imposed record tariffs on Chinese goods in a gamble to get Beijing to accede to his demands.

“As a candidate for president I vowed strong action,” Mr. Trump said. “Unlike those who came before me, I kept my promise.”

At the White House ceremony, Mr. Trump seized on the deal signing as a welcome distraction from impeachment proceedings that were taking place across town at the Capitol, where lawmakers were about to vote to approve House prosecutors for a Senate trial.

Mr. Trump denounced the inquiry as a “hoax,” and encouraged Republican lawmakers in attendance to leave if they needed to go vote against moving forward on the matter.

“I’d rather have you voting than sitting here listening to me introduce you,” Mr. Trump said. “They have a hoax going on over there — let’s take care of it.”

The resulting pact marks a significant turning point in American trade policy and the types of free trade agreements that the United States has typically supported. Rather than lowering tariffs and other economic barriers to allow for the flow of goods and services to meet market demand, this deal leaves a record level of tariffs in place and forces China to buy $200 billion worth of specific products within two years.

To Mr. Trump and other supporters, the approach corrects for past trade deals that enabled corporate outsourcing and led to lost jobs and industries. To critics, it is the type of managed trade approach that the United States has long criticized, especially with regard to China and its control over its economy.

Rather than trying to change China’s approach, it leans into it by requiring Beijing to buy set amounts of certain goods and services.

And it does not resolve more pernicious structural issues surrounding China’s approach, particularly its pattern of subsidizing and supporting key industries that compete with American firms, like solar and steel. American businesses blame those economic practices for allowing cheap Chinese goods to flood the United States market, putting domestic firms out of business.

Instead, like the presidents who preceded him, Mr. Trump plans to rely on allies and the World Trade Organization to try and push China to change its ways.

The president’s approach may pay off politically. He will head into a re-election campaign with a commitment from China to strengthen its intellectual-property protections, make large purchases of American products and pursue other economic changes that will benefit American business. Even before the deal was signed, Mr. Trump’s supporters said the president took China on and won.

But the agreement has plenty of critics in both parties, who say that Mr. Trump’s tactics have been haphazard and economically damaging, and that the agreement leaves many important economic issues unresolved.

That includes cybersecurity and China’s tight controls over how companies handle data and cloud computing. China rejected American demands to include promises to refrain from hacking American firms in the text, insisting it was not a trade issue.

The administration has said it will address some of these changes in Phase 2 of the negotiations and is keeping tariffs in place in part to maintain leverage for the next round of talks. Mr. Trump said if the two sides could reach agreement on the next phase, the tariffs would come off.

“I will agree to take those tariffs off if we’re able to do Phase 2,” he said.

But Mr. Trump has already kicked the deadline for another agreement past the November election, and there is deep skepticism that the two countries will reach another trade deal anytime soon.

In the interim, the remaining tariffs will continue to inflict financial pain on American businesses that rely on Chinese imports and the consumers who buy their products.

As part of the deal, Mr. Trump agreed to reduce the rate on tariffs imposed in September and forgo additional import taxes in the future. But the United States will continue to maintain tariffs covering 65 percent of American imports from China, according to tracking by Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics. That leaves the United States with an overall tariff rate higher than that of any other advanced nation, as well as China, India and Turkey.

China will still tax 57 percent of imports from the United States in retaliation, according to Mr. Bown, though it’s possible some of those levies may be reduced or waived in the weeks to come.

Before the deal was signed on Wednesday it was already under fire from top Democrats. Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader from New York, criticized the agreement for failing to address China’s state-owned enterprises and industrial subsidies. He suggested that President Xi Jinping was privately laughing at the United States over the weakness of the deal and that China has “taken President Trump to the cleaners.”

“This Phase 1 deal is an extreme disappointment to me and to millions and millions of Americans who want to see us make China play fair,” Mr. Schumer said on the senate floor. “President Trump’s phase one trade deal with China is a historic blunder.”

The trade deal contains a variety of wins for American industry, including opening up markets for financial services, pharmaceuticals, beef and poultry. China has committed to increasing its purchases of food, energy, manufactured goods and services by $200 billion over two years, though many analysts say that figure appears unrealistic given what the United States currently produces and what China buys.

China has also committed to not forcing American companies to hand over their technology as a condition of doing business there, under penalty of further tariffs. Beijing has also promised to refrain from devaluing its currency, the renminbi, to gain an advantage in export markets, among other pledges.

Those terms appear likely to benefit American companies and increase exports in coming months, potentially narrowing the trade deficit with China, which has become a focal point for Mr. Trump.

The president seized on many of China’s concessions during the signing ceremony, singling out audience members who will benefit from the trade deal. He called out a litany of Wall Street executives, many of whom have been pressing for greater access to China’s financial services market, including Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the private equity firm Blackstone Group; Kenneth C. Griffin, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Citadel; and the heads of Citibank, Visa, Fidelity Investments and American International Group.

Referring to the energy purchases in the agreement, Mr. Trump called on Senator Joni Ernst, the Iowa Republican, saying “you got ethanol so you can’t be complaining.”

But those wins have come at a heavy price. The uncertainty created by Mr. Trump’s tariff threats and approach to trade has weighed on the economy, raising prices for businesses, delaying corporate investments and slowing growth around the globe. Businesses with exposure to China, like Deere & Company and Caterpillar, have cut some workers and lowered revenue expectations, in part citing the trade war.

And although Mr. Trump claims that China is paying for his tariffs, studies show that American companies are bearing much of the cost. Since July 6, 2018, when the first tariffs went into effect, companies have paid more than $42 billion in tariffs related to the trade war with China.

Clete Willems, a partner at Akin Gump who left the White House last year, said the deal was important for proving that the United States and China could solve problems with each other despite disagreements and heightened tensions.

“We didn’t fix every single problem with China in this agreement, there is no question about that,” Mr. Willems said. “But what was done is really significant.”

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Majority of Black Voters Say They Could Vote for Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Election

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Heart-warming pictures show lion cub nuzzling its mother

A tender moment for the king of the jungle.

A lioness at Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland was captured on film nuzzling its five-month-old cub, British news agency SWNS reports.

The lioness, known as Roberta, gave birth to five cubs in August 2019, but only three survived. They have been named Mitaali, Keshari and Kushanu.

Westlake Legal Group lion-eskimo-kiss-1 Heart-warming pictures show lion cub nuzzling its mother fox-news/science/wild-nature/mammals fox-news/science/wild-nature/endangered fox-news/science fox news fnc/science fnc Chris Ciaccia article 18f75b1f-6377-5028-8472-012dd4b860f0

This is the adorable moment an Asiatic lion cub nuzzles its mother Roberta at the Edinburgh Zoo. (Credit: SWNS)

HILARIOUS VIDEO SHOWS LION CUB SPOOKING HER MOM

Roberta, an Asiatic lion, came to the zoo in 2014 after having lived at the Magdeburg Zoo in Germany. She eventually mated with Jayendra, who came from the Bristol Zoo in 2012. Both Roberta and Jayendra are part of the European endangered species program, SWNS added, pointing out that every additional birth could aid in the possibility they are released into the wild.

Westlake Legal Group lion-eskimo-kiss-2 Heart-warming pictures show lion cub nuzzling its mother fox-news/science/wild-nature/mammals fox-news/science/wild-nature/endangered fox-news/science fox news fnc/science fnc Chris Ciaccia article 18f75b1f-6377-5028-8472-012dd4b860f0

Roberta was snapped touching noses with a five-month-old cub at Edinburgh Zoo. The mum gave birth in August 2019 to five cubs – but only three survived. The three Asiatic lion cubs were named Mitaali, Keshari and Kushanu. (Credit: SWNS)

According to the World Wildlife Fund, Asiatic lions are endangered, slightly smaller in stature than their African cousins and have an estimated population at just over 500.

INCREDIBLE PICTURE SHOWS LION CUB LETTING OUT ITS FIRST ROAR

“Asiatic lions were once distributed up to the state of West Bengal in east and Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, in central India,” the WWF wrote on its website, adding that “Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary [in western India] is the only abode of the Asiatic lion.”

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Westlake Legal Group lion-eskimo-kiss-1 Heart-warming pictures show lion cub nuzzling its mother fox-news/science/wild-nature/mammals fox-news/science/wild-nature/endangered fox-news/science fox news fnc/science fnc Chris Ciaccia article 18f75b1f-6377-5028-8472-012dd4b860f0   Westlake Legal Group lion-eskimo-kiss-1 Heart-warming pictures show lion cub nuzzling its mother fox-news/science/wild-nature/mammals fox-news/science/wild-nature/endangered fox-news/science fox news fnc/science fnc Chris Ciaccia article 18f75b1f-6377-5028-8472-012dd4b860f0

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We All Know Trump Lies. What We Forget Is How Corrosive It Is To Democracy.

As our president sat across from Volodymyr Zelensky in New York last autumn, he explained to the newly elected leader that he knew all about his country because, after all, he used to own the Miss Universe pageant, and one year the winner was from Ukraine.

“We got to know the country very well in a lot of different ways,” Donald Trump said.

It was, unsurprisingly, completely false. A Miss Ukraine had never won the Miss Universe title in the pageant’s 66-year history, including the 20 that Trump had owned it.

Equally unsurprisingly, the lie went largely unnoticed and uncared about. In the flood of falsehoods that gush from Trump’s mouth and Twitter feed most every day, something like this lacked anywhere near the heft to make a splash.

Indeed, on that day during his United Nations General Assembly visit, Trump also claimed:  “We have created the greatest economy in the history of our country.” Of the USMCA trade agreement: “It’s a great trade deal — the greatest we’ve ever had. NAFTA was a horrible trade deal. It replaces NAFTA.” Of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “A lot of her members now are having second thoughts. They’re saying they’re in a very bad position.” Of his long-promised wall along the Mexican border: “And the wall is going up, many miles a week.” Of the WTO: “World Trade Organization was not one of the greats. Not one of the greats. That was the creation of China, which went like a rocket ship from the day they signed.” And of new automotive plants: “Many of the great Japanese companies, at my request, are now building their plants in the United States. … Big ones going up in South Carolina, Florida.”

Not a single one of Trump’s assertions was true.

Today’s economy is not the greatest economy in the country’s history, and has, in fact, over the past year been slowing down. Trump’s United States Mexico Canada Agreement is essentially the North American Free Trade Agreement with some minor tweaks. Pelosi was not losing support among her Democratic members. Not a single mile of new fence had been built someplace where there hadn’t already been a barrier. China did not create the WTO, and Toyota and Nissan are not suddenly building new plants here. Not in Florida. Not anywhere.

And on that day, the scandal now threatening Trump’s presidency – his request of Zelensky for the “favor” of investigating a political rival – was just erupting into full bloom, the day after Pelosi had announced a formal impeachment inquiry.

It was easy for the fake Ukrainian Miss Universe to get lost.

_____________________________

It is exhausting. All of it.

I’ve been a journalist for 33 years. I’ve covered Congress. NASA and the military space program. City and county halls. The Florida statehouse. Criminal courts, including armed robbers and serial killers. In all of that time, I have never encountered a public official, a candidate for office, a bureaucrat, a defense lawyer or, frankly, an actual criminal who is as regularly and aggressively dishonest as the current president of the United States. And that includes a dozen years covering the Florida legislature.

It is, in fact, the defining feature of this White House: The president will spew falsehoods about nearly everything, morning, noon and night. He lies in one-on-one interviews, in formal news conferences, and standing beside other world leaders. He lies in “official” government speeches and at campaign rallies.

Westlake Legal Group 5e0bad96250000041998f7f7 We All Know Trump Lies. What We Forget Is How Corrosive It Is To Democracy.

Mike Kemp via Getty Images Protesters gather against Trump in London, July 2018.

Trump lied about the size of his inaugural crowd on his very first full day in office, at CIA headquarters standing in front of a memorial to officers killed in the line of duty. He invented “millions” of illegal votes by illegal aliens to rationalize Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory. He made up Japanese officials who supposedly told him that Democrats wanted our country to fail, just to make Trump look bad. He told the leader of Pakistan that India’s prime minister wanted Trump to mediate an agreement on Kashmir. The Indian government within minutes put out a statement denying that Narendra Modi had said any such thing.

He has lied repeatedly about the status of the border wall he promised Mexico would pay for. (He lied several times that Mexico was actually paying for it, when, in fact, Mexico has not paid a single peso.) He has lied and continues to lie that China is paying the tariffs he imposed on imported Chinese goods. And he lies and he lies and he lies, over and over again, that he was somehow responsible for the VA choice law, which allowed veterans facing long wait times at VA clinics to see private doctors. In fact, it came to be thanks to three Trump nemeses: the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who wrote it, and Democratic President Barack Obama, who signed it into law two years before Trump was elected.

Westlake Legal Group 5e1ccbe7210000530014a36e We All Know Trump Lies. What We Forget Is How Corrosive It Is To Democracy.

Reuters Staff / Reuters A combination of photos taken at the National Mall shows the crowds attending the inauguration ceremonies to swear in U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 20, 2017 and President Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009.

In all, to date, there have been many thousands of falsehoods, and a significant percentage of them are lies: That is, Trump knows what he saying is not true, but says it anyway. It is not worth trying to list even a small subset of them – other journalists are doing yeoman’s work in that area – but it is nevertheless truly astonishing when you stop and think about it: Whenever the president of the United States opens his mouth, odds are that the words that tumble forth are false. Whenever the erstwhile leader of the free world puts his thumbs to his iPhone keypad, it is more likely than not that the assertions that pop up on social media moments later are an exaggeration. Or a random fabrication. Or a dramatic embellishment. Or a deliberate lie.

And perhaps the most troubling part of all this? That three years into the Donald Trump presidency, these observations lack the capacity to shock or even to raise an eyebrow. It is no longer newsworthy that the person leading the world’s most powerful nation, commanding the most destructive arsenal in human history, is untrustworthy to his core. It is simply where we are today.

If Ronald Reagan is the president who won the Cold War, and Obama will be remembered as the first Black president, Trump’s place in the history books is certain to be considerably less flattering: the impeached president who made up the most stuff, pretty much all day, pretty much every day.

Once upon a time, not terribly long ago, Donald J. Trump’s difficult relationship with the truth was of little actual consequence to anyone.

He was an outer-borough real estate guy turned Manhattan celebrity turned game show host, whose fame was built largely on his willingness to fill New York City’s tabloid gossip pages. He would say whatever juicy or outrageous or provocative thing that came to mind to get himself ink. It mattered not at all whether he was truly sleeping with a particular supermodel, as his made-up-spokesman alias would claim, or if a member of the royal family was really moving into one of his properties – except perhaps to the writer struggling to fill those remaining column inches by deadline.

That all changed in May 2016, when he became the presumptive presidential nominee for one of the two major American political parties. Overnight, his utterances became deeply significant, every syllable pored over both in America, where many until that point had not paid much attention to him, and more so in capital cities the world over ― even if he didn’t appreciate it or care.

Three and a half years later, pretty much everyone on the planet paying even the least bit of attention understands that when it comes to assertions of fact from the American president, there is good reason to take them with a healthy dose of skepticism. Several healthy doses, in fact. And because Donald Trump demands loyalty both in words and deed – expecting behavior that tends to normalize his own – that caveat became necessary early on for just about everyone who works at the White House as well as the political appointees across the executive branch agencies.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS Real estate magnate Donald Trump and his then-girlfriend (and eventual second wife) Marla Maples are seen at the Holyfield-Foreman fight at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, N.J., April 19, 1991. 

Which brings us to today. The president faces removal from office for withholding hundreds of millions of dollars of congressionally approved military aid to coerce a foreign leader into helping Trump’s own reelection campaign. He is simultaneously embracing a go-it-alone escalation with Iran that could easily blossom into a full-on war.

Regarding Ukraine, there are a great number of facts out there, both from witness testimony and documents, corroborating the accusations against him. And on Iran, there seem to be few facts backing up his claims that it was preparing imminent attacks against the United States.

To survive a Senate trial and win reelection later this year, the president needs a substantial plurality of Americans to ignore all of that and instead accept Trump’s word.

Based on his track record, there is zero reason for anyone to do so. Zero.

_____________________________

On an Air Force One flight back to Washington after a Louisiana outing last spring, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise couldn’t help but chortle as he recounted all the absurdities sprinkled into Trump’s remarks earlier that day: “Windmills cause cancer! Dead birds!”

Trump, as is his wont, had been railing on about another of his nemeses, wind turbines, and how they are unreliable for watching television because ― what if the wind dies? How their spinning blades kill birds, and especially, for some reason, bald eagles. How they cause nearby homes to plummet in value. How, he even claimed once, they cause cancer.

It goes without saying that not a word Trump had said about wind power was true. Indeed, implicit in Scalise’s levity was that Trump’s words are not to be taken seriously. They are terrific for their entertainment value, but it is pointless to parse them for meaning.

Unfortunately, the nation and the world do parse Trump’s words, because while they are often absurd and even more often false, he himself usually intends them seriously, and the powers at his fingertips are so vast that he cannot be safely ignored.

His words mattered a great deal, for example, to a U.S. Navy SEAL and an untold number of Yemeni civilians who died in the first days of Trump’s presidency when he approved a special operations raid there ― in no small measure because predecessor Barack Obama had refused to approve it.

They’ve mattered and will continue to matter in the Middle East, where his decisions to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement ― again, in large measure because Obama had achieved it ― to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and, most recently, to kill Iran’s top military leader have all further destabilized the region.

And they’ve certainly mattered to farmers in the American Midwest, whose livelihoods have been crushed because Trump’s trade war with China wrecked a market they had spent decades nurturing.

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Jim Young / Reuters President Donald Trump displays the “Space Policy Directive 4” establishing a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces, Feb. 19, 2019. 

Each of these decisions had been telegraphed for months or years along with outlandish claims of his military acumen, his foreign policy expertise and his mastery of international trade ― claims that have turned out to be entirely specious. Trump does not, in fact, know more about war than “his generals.” The Iran agreement was actually working, as officials in his own administration were telling him. And trade wars, it appears, are neither “good” nor “easy to win.”

More so than any previous administration in modern times, Donald Trump and his White House are eager and willing to disseminate false information to advance an agenda that seems to have no other goal than to secure Trump a second term.

The examples are legion. Trump, and his staff, claim that drug prices are coming down. That air quality is the best in the world. That the southern border wall is rapidly getting built. That the military is suddenly bristling with hundreds of brand-new airplanes and ships. That jobs are “pouring” back into the country from overseas.

A conference call the White House staged last summer was beyond Orwellian. The former coal lobbyist Trump had put in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency was literally giving his boss credit for environmental progress made under presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. We had truly entered the upside-down world.

This happens so often, on so many fronts, that it becomes numbing. We simply get used to the nonsense and shrug. Perhaps that is the intended goal.

Progressives excoriate and conservatives praise the policies that Trump has put into place, from rolling back environmental regulations to installing Federalist Society judges to signing a tax cut that disproportionately helps the richest. Trump has, indeed, done those things ― but most if not all would have come from any Republican president from that 2016 field.

What Trump has brought, uniquely, is far more consequential long term: He has destroyed the credibility of the United States government, both at home and abroad. And while Scalise and other Republicans like to pretend that that doesn’t really matter, it does. Immensely.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS In this June 30, 2019, file photo, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea.

The only time NATO’s mutual defense provision has ever been triggered in its 70-year history was when, we, the United States of America, were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Soldiers, pilots and sailors from 14 countries put their lives at risk on behalf of ours.

Yet over the past three years, our president has repeatedly lied about our allies and their financial obligations to the military alliance. He has falsely claimed that the European Union was created to undermine the United States. He has similarly lied about the terms of military and trade agreements with Japan and South Korea.

In Trump’s first year, European officials would hear from top administration voices, including then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, that the core relationship had not changed, regardless of what the president personally might be saying at any given moment. Over time, though, reassuring words have lost meaning as they saw that Trump could and would act precipitously, such as his announcement to abandon the Kurds in Syria ― who had done much of the fighting and bleeding and dying for America in the fight against ISIS ― to the mercies of Turkey’s strongman Recep Erdoğan.

What will happen if the day comes when we truly need those traditional allies again? How will they trust us? Why should they trust us?

_____________________________

Of course, what might happen in some future overseas crisis, even one as looming and as plausible as a war with Iran, is a hypothetical that for a variety of reasons will not alarm many Americans.

A far more worrisome example of the Trump White House’s toxic mix of recklessness and mendacity already took place right here at home, just a few months back.

On Sept. 1, at 10:21 a.m. Washington time, the president of the United States emerged from a hurricane briefing and decided to offer his own update on Twitter: “In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5. BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!”

Except, by then, the National Hurricane Center’s consensus was that Dorian would parallel the east coast of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, before eventually turning northeast and off to sea. Hurricane watches and warnings were posted along those coasts.

In other words, Trump’s inclusion of Alabama had zero relationship to the actual Hurricane Center forecast.

To appreciate why what happened next was so appalling, it is perhaps necessary to have lived in a hurricane-prone state for a period of years. In those places, the rule is simple: Accept the experts’ analyses and recommendations. Don’t embellish. Don’t play games. People’s lives hang in the balance.

It’s also important to understand that the public advisories issued by forecasters are carefully workshopped to strike a balance between providing meteorological precision and managing an orderly public response. Evacuations are time-consuming and come with their own risks and opportunity costs. Evacuating southeast Florida, for instance, makes evacuating Central Florida much harder, because, first, there are only so many hotel rooms and shelters within a day’s drive of the coast and, second, the interstates and turnpike can only carry so many cars before they become parking lots. Most of all, forecasters want to maintain public confidence in their products to maximize compliance with whatever response emergency managers choose to order. For example, they hate “windshield wipering” a forecast track ― bending it in one direction, and then the other – even if successive computer model runs indicate exactly that, because doing so exasperates an anxious public.

Donald Trump’s Alabama tweet ran roughshod over all of that.

Why he did so is probably not worth the headache that trying to divine Trump’s motives often brings. The simplest explanation is that Trump has always been a drama junkie, and that his last career before his White House run was hosting a reality television show where that trait was particularly prized. Alabama has been a favorite of his ever since a campaign visit to Mobile in August 2015 brought out a crowd of 30,000. He simply wrote the state into the Hurricane Dorian episode.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS Trump holds a Hurricane Dorian forecast tracking chart — adjusted by a Sharpie — as he talks with reporters in the White House Oval Office.

The consequences, of course, were immediate. The National Weather Service office in Birmingham was flooded with panicked phone calls, asking about the monster hurricane that was suddenly bearing down on their state. Forecasters responded 20 minutes later with their own tweet: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

And that act of truth-telling set off more than a week of Trump and his political appointees at the White House waging war on the actual experts, the actual facts and, really, the actual truth.

Rather than just admit the mistake and move on, Trump instead insisted that he had been right. He claimed – falsely – that at the time of the tweet, there had still been a decent chance that Alabama would be struck. And that, in turn, triggered a response that had already happened so many times previously and which continues to happen today: His staff tried to re-engineer reality to fit the lie their boss had told and was refusing to back away from.

To this end, they ordered up a large poster board of a forecast map from nearly a week earlier, when the storm had been predicted to cross the Florida peninsula. Trump then drew in an additional semicircle with a black Sharpie to include southeastern Alabama.

And this, within the White House, became the official line. For days. That Trump had been right, and the country’s best meteorologists had been wrong. One top press officer, in fact, kept an 8 1/2-by-11 printout of the outdated tracking map on his desk – a prop to continue arguing to reporters, for months, that Trump had been correct.

The whole thing became comical – which served to hide the perils it exposed.

Trump, even in serious matters, could not be counted on to tell the truth or to correct obvious mistakes. Even worse, his White House and top agency officials would take his side and chastise line-level employees who dared contradict him.

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Tomohiro Ohsumi via Getty Images The USS John S. McCain destroyer is moored out of sight in Japan on June 1, 2019, after the White House and Defense Department exchanged emails on hiding the ship during Trump’s visit so he wouldn’t be enraged by seeing the name of his rival. 

The National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are among the crown jewels of the federal government – islands of quiet competence regardless of the political winds of the moment. Trump’s childishness drew them both into the churning chaos that constantly surrounds him.

On Sept. 6, NOAA headquarters released a statement – unsigned but presumably a political appointee – backing up Trump and scolding the Birmingham office. That, in turn, drew a chorus of condemnation from the top scientists and career staff. It was a mess, generated for no good reason at all.

This was a hurricane, a relatively predictable weather event for which the White House is not the sole or even the main source of information. What happens when it is something else, a terrorist bombing, an attack on an overseas military base, a disease outbreak, where the White House is a primary or perhaps the only source of information?

Something like, say, the targeted killing of a top leader of a hostile nation? 

_____________________________

As Trump made dishonesty a principal feature of his White House, he had an unwitting accomplice: the White House press corps itself.

Part of this was inevitable, at least in the beginning. Journalists generally assume that someone is telling the truth when they talk to us, and Trump and his staff were afforded that same benefit of the doubt. Now, arguably, given his decades-long history as a fabulist – recall that he used to dial up gossip columnists and, identifying himself as “John Barron” or “John Miller,” try to plant fake stories about his sexual and business conquests – perhaps Trump should not have been trusted from the outset.

But there was a notion, pushed strongly by national Republican leaders, that Trump would grow into the job, that the responsibility of the office would weigh on his shoulders and that he would finally act like an adult.

Of course, that did not happen. I was by chance the pool reporter for Trump’s first full day in office, and watched with my own eyes as he stood in front of the memorial wall at CIA headquarters across the river in Langley, Virginia, and claimed, falsely, that there had been as many as a million and a half people on the National Mall for his inauguration and that the media were lying about him having had a much smaller crowd than Barack Obama eight years earlier. A couple of hours later, White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s first official act in that job was to march into the briefing room, repeat those lies and then march out.

The barrage of near-daily dishonesties that followed helped sweep away that deep-seated aversion that most journalists – including this one – had to using the word “lie” in print and on the air. The likelihood of turning off some in the audience with such a charged term aside, there was the definitional problem: A lie means that the purported liar knows what he is saying is false at the moment that he says it. On a real-time basis, of course, that’s nearly impossible to prove. How can we know what is going through people’s heads as they say things?

As the weeks and months passed, though, we began to see that Trump had, in fact, time after time, been given accurate information about topics as silly as to whether Ronald Reagan had won Wisconsin (he had) to as consequential as to whether China was paying the tariffs Trump had imposed (they were not). Yet he had continued to make the false claims anyway. This eventually led to more and more news organizations getting past their reticence and calling Trump a liar as warranted.

Unfortunately, other more deeply rooted factors remain that have served to make this president’s relationship with the truth seem to reside within a band of normal, when in reality it is an extreme outlier.

Instead of pointing out the casual lies coming from the administration as they happen, too many members of the press corps just put the lie out there as news. “The president said X,” is the headline, rather than: “The president lied about X” or, more accurately, “The president lied about X again.”

As a former Associated Press reporter versed in the responsibility of providing just-the-facts coverage, I appreciate that there are times our jobs require that we act as stenographers. As someone who has covered Trump from the day he rode down his escalator, I appreciate that this approach does our audience an enormous disservice. Yet it remains a staple of far too much White House coverage.

Some of this is a function of journalists too young and too inexperienced to understand that Trump’s behavior is not merely unusual, but aberrant and dangerous to a self-governing society.

Once upon a time, covering the White House was a mid- or late-career assignment. Reporters making their way there would have spent decades covering school boards, county commissions, criminal courts, statehouses, Congress, the Pentagon, the State Department – all of which provided a solid foundation for understanding the functioning of American government and the players who make it work.

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Erin Scott / Reuters Trump holds what appears to be a prepared statement and handwritten notes after watching testimony by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland as he speaks to reporters from the South Lawn of the White House  on Nov. 20, 2019. 

Today, the White House press corps is radically different. Many reporters had covered just a few, or even just one, political campaign before their White House assignments. They would be hard-pressed to explain ad valorem taxation. Or how a bond issue works. Or statewide school funding formulas. This is one reason, for example, that when 2016 candidates vowed to eliminate Common Core educational standards and bring decisions to local school boards, too many of the reporters covering them just scribbled it all down, rather than ask the candidates what they meant, given that schools are already controlled by local boards.

In fairness, this isn’t completely their fault. The recession of 2008-09 wreaked havoc on the news business, which made wholesale cuts of higher-salaried journalists, which is to say those with a decade or more of experience. This resulted in a press corps nationally and in Washington far younger and greener than prior to the recession, while the industry itself morphed to keep up with the Internet and social media.

And it’s this last piece that’s the most sinister element “normalizing” someone like Trump.

The era of filing one or two articles a day, let alone weekly in-depth pieces, is long gone at the vast majority of news organizations. Some “new media” outlets have a quota of five or six bylined items a day. It goes without saying that this is not a winning formula for producing high-quality journalism.

As it turns out, though, the Trump noise machine is perfectly suited for meeting that five-or-six piece quota. Indeed, between the morning tweets and the random comments at Oval Office photo opportunities, Cabinet meeting preambles and shouting sessions on the South Lawn beside the idling jet turbines of Marine 1, Donald Trump generates enough fresh material for a dozen, sometimes two dozen pieces of “content” each and every day. Contrast this with the Obama presidency, or the George W. Bush presidency, when days or even a week could go by without the president saying anything particularly newsworthy.

This is why even senior members of the White House press corps – those who should know better – actually praise Trump and his White House for being the most “accessible” in history, without acknowledging that so much of that access is to material that is either straight-up false or noisy nonsense.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks to reporters on the North Lawn outside the White House on May 23, 2019.

A perfect example of this is Sarah Huckabee Sanders. As press secretary to the White House, her main job should have been to provide accurate information to the American public through the news media. Of course she had the right to “spin” facts to put the president in the best possible light. But she went way beyond that. She would often claim, for instance, that Trump worked harder than anyone she had ever known – even though Trump has kept the lightest work schedule of any president going back at least 50 years. She would claim that Trump was fully versed on details of his administration’s policy goals – even though a cursory review of his statements shows that he often doesn’t have the slightest idea of what is contained in legislation or, sometimes, in his own executive orders.

Yet even flackery that far over the top can be excused. What she did in the days following the May 2017 firing of James Comey cannot.

When asked about morale at the FBI after Trump dismissed their director in hopes of blocking an investigation into his campaign, Sanders said that she personally had heard from “countless members of the FBI” in support of the firing. When asked a follow-up the next day about how many “countless” might mean, exactly, she said: “I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said they’re very happy with the president’s decision.”

As it turned out, all of that was a lie. Not just a small lie, but invented out of whole cloth for the sole purpose of destroying someone’s reputation. This came out in simple, matter-of-fact prose in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report nearly two years later. From that day forward, Sanders should have been treated as if she were wearing a giant scarlet “L,” and no journalist should have trusted a word she said again.

Instead, months later when she stepped down, all was apparently forgiven. Two members of the White House Correspondents Association board even hosted a farewell party for her.

_____________________________

There will come a day when Donald Trump is no longer president.

Perhaps that’s a year from now. Perhaps five years. Or, in the off chance an unforeseen turn ends in his removal or resignation, perhaps just weeks or months. In any case, his departure from the White House will bring a serious reckoning of what we, as Americans, will tolerate from our top elected official.

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Carlo Allegri / Reuters U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Dec. 8, 2017. 

After Richard Nixon, the nation came to a consensus that what had happened was not at all good, and introduced institutional safeguards to try to prevent it from happening again. Nixon’s use of barely regulated slush funds to pay the Watergate burglars resulted in new campaign finance laws imposing limits and requiring better disclosure. Other laws provided privacy protections, created independent inspectors general for executive agencies, codified presidential record keeping and strengthened the Freedom of Information Act.

Underlying all of these reforms was the shared conviction that a president ought not to lie and cheat. This was the fundamental virtue Jimmy Carter was selling in 1976: that he would not lie to the American people. He was a long shot, but that message made him a winner. 

Four decades later, is truth still of value to Americans? Polling shows that the vast majority of the public knows full well that Trump and his White House are profoundly dishonest. A CNN survey in September showed that only 28% of Americans believe all or most of the information coming out of the White House. Yet some 40% to 45% continue to approve of Trump. I’ve talked to a great number of people in that subset who disbelieve Trump but support him anyway. Among their top rationales: All politicians lie, so what’s so terrible about Trump’s lies?

And that, perhaps, is the worst, most corrosive lie that Trump has sold to his defenders: That everyone is corrupt, that everyone lies, so Republicans may as well go with a corrupt liar who is on their side.

I’ve seen this attitude in Trump supporters from Wisconsin to New Hampshire to Florida when confronted with irrefutable evidence of Trump’s falsehoods and self-dealing. A selectman from Plymouth, New Hampshire, population 6,752, said he didn’t mind if Trump was dishonest because all politicians were, although he could not at that moment give any examples. A treasurer for a county GOP committee in western Iowa told me it didn’t bother him that Trump was trying to steer a multi-million dollar government contract to his own South Florida golf resort because all elected officials find ways to funnel themselves public money.

Well, everyone is not corrupt. Everyone does not lie.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS President Donald Trump gestures as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speaks in the East Room of the White House on Nov. 6, 2019. Graham has become one of Trump’s leading GOP apologists.

In fact, most politicians do not lie, and do everything they can to avoid lying. They try to present unfavorable facts about themselves in as favorable a light as they can manage. They obfuscate. They change the subject. They avoid journalists and the public. But by and large, they try hard not to lie, because lying brings opprobrium at best and the end of one’s political career at worst.

At least, that was the landscape before Trump’s presidency.

The conduct of Trump’s most ardent Republican supporters in the House – most vividly on display during the impeachment hearings – suggests there will be a cadre of public officials who will try to make “alternative facts” a permanent feature of American politics going forward.

It’s hard to overstate how dangerous this would be. The revelation that Nixon had lied about something Big and Important led to his downfall when a substantial slice of voters in his own party decided that such conduct was unacceptable. Forty-six years later, with an analogous set of facts already in the public domain that Trump tried to cheat his way to victory in his reelection, Republican voters appear to be giving Trump a pass, seeming to embrace instead a series of lies nonsensical on their face.

How does self-government survive when a significant number of participants simply refuse to accept facts because they are harmful to the leader who panders to their prejudices?

In astrophysics, there is a maxim that gravity always wins in the end. After the strong and weak nuclear forces are spent, after all the photons have scattered and dissipated, gravity will remain and will inexorably make its presence felt.

So it is in the world of the everyday. Facts can be ignored, but cannot be willed away. Calling climate change a hoax will not prevent Miami and Norfolk and Annapolis from flooding every spring tide. Claiming that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is no longer interested in nuclear weapons does not, as it turns out, actually make it so.

Yet if truth is to win post-Trump, it will have to be the American public that makes it so. Average citizens, those who do not spend hours each day monitoring cable news and Twitter, will have to decide that lying is unacceptable in our governance. That those entrusted with the public’s money and the public’s well-being have a core obligation to provide that public the truth.

The news media cannot lead the way in this. News is a business, and in business, the customer is always right. If the customer in this case prefers to hear lies that match up with his fears and preconceptions, there are plenty of media outlets willing to offer that service.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. 

The question Americans need to ask themselves is do we have the right to accurate information from our White House, or not? Would we permit an elected small town mayor to lie this frequently about town business? How about a school board chair?

In hindsight, it is easy to understand why the fake Ukrainian Miss Universe winner was so easy to miss in that Sept. 25 photo opportunity.

In those 17 minutes, Trump claimed – falsely – that he had not pressured the new Ukrainian president into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden, even though the call memo of that phone conversation from two months earlier made clear that he had done precisely that. He claimed that other European countries were not helping Ukraine as much as the United States was, when the opposite is true.

He defended his lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to push a debunked conspiracy theory that Russia had not helped Trump win the 2016 election, and that Ukraine had framed Russia by planting fake evidence. He repeated his frequent, but untrue, claim that China had “given” Hunter Biden $1.5 billion.

And squeezed in there among all the lies was one statement to Volodymyr Zelensky that could almost qualify as a policy declaration. Asked by Zelensky for help getting Crimea back from Russia, Trump essentially washed his hands of the matter, saying the invasion and annexation had happened under predecessor Barack Obama – “It’s just one of those things” – and urging Zelensky to work with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. “You’ve really made some progress with Russia,” Trump told him. “Just keep it going.”

The pained expression on Zelensky’s face through most of the session said it all. Correcting Trump about the Miss Universe pageant was the least of his worries. Or ours.

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Majority of Black Voters Say They Could Vote for Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Election

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We’re Living in a Subscriptions World. Here’s How to Navigate It.

Westlake Legal Group 15Techfix-illo-facebookJumbo We’re Living in a Subscriptions World. Here’s How to Navigate It. Video Recordings, Downloads and Streaming Spotify Netflix Inc Music Movies Mobile Applications Data Storage Computers and the Internet Cloud Computing

Nowadays we don’t really buy things. We just subscribe to online services.

And how can we resist? The streaming revolution has brought us vast amounts of video and music entertainment at the click of a button. In an era of cloud storage, where we store our data on remote computer servers, tech companies like Google and Apple take care of the headache of managing our information so that we no longer lose important files or progress on our work.

For many of us, giving up control and ownership to these services is the point. But for others, there is a downside to losing some flexibility and freedom. While Spotify may not have all the music we want to listen to, if we cancel our subscription, we lose access to its large catalog of music. With cloud storage services, putting our documents and other files online is simple, but pulling them out can be a pain.

This can make some people feel trapped. We could always resort to the obvious old-school methods, like buying discs of music and carrying around thumb drives of our files and documents, but who wants to do that?

Fortunately, there are some approaches to taking control of our media while enjoying the benefits of subscription services. Those steps range from the obvious, like creating local copies of your data, to more advanced methods, like making a personal cloud using an internet-connected storage device that acts like a miniature server.

All it takes is some forethought and technological know-how. Here’s what you need to know.

Cloud storage services like Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud — which let you store small amounts of data online free and which charge a few dollars a month to hoard larger amounts — offer major benefits. Namely, we can get access to our data from any device with an internet connection, and because our files are copied onto a company’s servers, we can’t lose them.

But beware of becoming over-reliant on the cloud. What if one day you decide to cancel your subscription? For anything that is stored exclusively online, you would then have to download each piece of data to your own drive, which can be frustrating and time-consuming.

That’s why, as a rule of thumb, people should continue creating local copies of their data for their computers and smartphones and store only important files on the cloud.

Here are the tools you will need:

  • An external hard drive. Portable hard drives can store vast amounts of data, and they are generally cheap. Seagate’s Backup Plus Slim 2, a Wirecutter recommendation, costs about $60 and holds two terabytes of data, which is probably enough to store backups of your computer, tablet and smartphone.

  • A software program for creating computer backups. Mac computers include Apple’s Time Machine backup tool. Microsoft’s Windows 10 includes a free tool called File History. Both apps can be set up to automatically back up your computer data.

  • An app for backing up your smartphone data. Apple users can back up their iPhones to their computers via the Finder or iTunes apps. Android users with Windows computers can access their data via “My Computer,” and on a Mac, Android users can use the app Android File Transfer.

From there, the steps vary slightly depending on which device and apps you use, but the processes are generally the same. To back up your computer data, you plug your external hard drive into your computer and run the backup program. To back up your smartphone data to your computer, you plug the smartphone into the computer and run your backup app. (If you need more steps, Wirecutter published a comprehensive guide on creating data backups.)

This way, if we become dissatisfied with a cloud service, we can cancel the subscription and have the ease and flexibility to take our files elsewhere.

Streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV Plus and Hulu offer a buffet of TV shows and movies to binge on. Similarly, Spotify and Apple Music give you instant access to millions of songs. But streaming services don’t have access to everything out there, like obscure art house films or live performances by music artists.

So here’s how you can take control of the content you stream to your devices. There’s a clever approach that involves creating your own media cloud, which acts like an online locker for your own content.

Michael Calore, an editor for Wired and a part-time D.J., said that when Spotify lacks his favorite music, he extracts the songs from a disc and uploads them to Google Play Music, Google’s online music service. Then he plays the music on the Google Play Music app from his smartphone.

“It’s basically like my own private streaming music service,” he said. In general, people can apply this approach to any songs they can’t get on streaming services.

For movies, I’ll share my setup, which is not for the faint of heart.

As a film studies student, I owned a collection of hundreds of DVDs, many of them obscure indie titles that are nowhere to be found on any streaming service. So I converted the titles into digital video formats, which I stored on a network-attached storage device, essentially a miniature server.

From there, I installed the Plex video-streaming app on my Apple TV, and on my smartphone, I installed Infuse 6, another video-streaming app. I set up both apps to pull movies from my mini server. This way, I can still enjoy the ability to stream my special collection of art house movies via my own equipment.

Of course, for many of a certain (younger) age, physical discs are unheard-of, and newer obscure titles will more likely be released on a streaming service. Still, for those wanting to tailor the content they stream, physical media is worth exploring.

So here’s what you will need to create personal clouds for your movies and music:

  • Tech to extract content from discs. First, you will need an optical drive, which is still included with some desktop computers, to read discs.

    Second, you will need apps to “rip” the content and turn the movies into digital files. For videos, special computer programs like Handbrake can extract movies from discs and convert them into video files. For audio, programs like iTunes and Windows Media Player can rip digital music files from CDs.

  • Tech to create a video server. Basically, you need an internet-connected device with some storage for movies, which essentially acts as a miniature server. There are plenty of options, like the $150 Nvidia Shield TV, or the Synology DiskStation DS218+, which costs about $300.

  • Tech to play media over the internet. For music, Google Play Music lets you upload your own songs to a cloud library and stream them through the app. For movies, streaming apps like Plex or Infuse 6 let you play movies from a TV app or smartphone.

If that all sounds complicated, that’s because setting up your content to be easily accessible over the internet is no easy feat. But these options exist for people who want more freedom.

Mr. Calore said that despite having a nice setup for streaming media via a personal cloud, he still consumed the vast majority of music and movies from paid streaming services.

“We’ve lost the excitement and the specialness of a physical idea,” he said. “But what we’ve gained in exchange is abundance at a scale that we could never have imagined. That is very much worth the trade-off.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

We All Know Trump Lies. What We Forget Is How Corrosive It Is To Democracy.

As our president sat across from Volodymyr Zelensky in New York last autumn, he explained to the newly elected leader that he knew all about his country because, after all, he used to own the Miss Universe pageant, and one year the winner was from Ukraine.

“We got to know the country very well in a lot of different ways,” Donald Trump said.

It was, unsurprisingly, completely false. A Miss Ukraine had never won the Miss Universe title in the pageant’s 66-year history, including the 20 that Trump had owned it.

Equally unsurprisingly, the lie went largely unnoticed and uncared about. In the flood of falsehoods that gush from Trump’s mouth and Twitter feed most every day, something like this lacked anywhere near the heft to make a splash.

Indeed, on that day during his United Nations General Assembly visit, Trump also claimed:  “We have created the greatest economy in the history of our country.” Of the USMCA trade agreement: “It’s a great trade deal — the greatest we’ve ever had. NAFTA was a horrible trade deal. It replaces NAFTA.” Of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “A lot of her members now are having second thoughts. They’re saying they’re in a very bad position.” Of his long-promised wall along the Mexican border: “And the wall is going up, many miles a week.” Of the WTO: “World Trade Organization was not one of the greats. Not one of the greats. That was the creation of China, which went like a rocket ship from the day they signed.” And of new automotive plants: “Many of the great Japanese companies, at my request, are now building their plants in the United States. … Big ones going up in South Carolina, Florida.”

Not a single one of Trump’s assertions was true.

Today’s economy is not the greatest economy in the country’s history, and has, in fact, over the past year been slowing down. Trump’s United States Mexico Canada Agreement is essentially the North American Free Trade Agreement with some minor tweaks. Pelosi was not losing support among her Democratic members. Not a single mile of new fence had been built someplace where there hadn’t already been a barrier. China did not create the WTO, and Toyota and Nissan are not suddenly building new plants here. Not in Florida. Not anywhere.

And on that day, the scandal now threatening Trump’s presidency – his request of Zelensky for the “favor” of investigating a political rival – was just erupting into full bloom, the day after Pelosi had announced a formal impeachment inquiry.

It was easy for the fake Ukrainian Miss Universe to get lost.

_____________________________

It is exhausting. All of it.

I’ve been a journalist for 33 years. I’ve covered Congress. NASA and the military space program. City and county halls. The Florida statehouse. Criminal courts, including armed robbers and serial killers. In all of that time, I have never encountered a public official, a candidate for office, a bureaucrat, a defense lawyer or, frankly, an actual criminal who is as regularly and aggressively dishonest as the current president of the United States. And that includes a dozen years covering the Florida legislature.

It is, in fact, the defining feature of this White House: The president will spew falsehoods about nearly everything, morning, noon and night. He lies in one-on-one interviews, in formal news conferences, and standing beside other world leaders. He lies in “official” government speeches and at campaign rallies.

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Mike Kemp via Getty Images Protesters gather against Trump in London, July 2018.

Trump lied about the size of his inaugural crowd on his very first full day in office, at CIA headquarters standing in front of a memorial to officers killed in the line of duty. He invented “millions” of illegal votes by illegal aliens to rationalize Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory. He made up Japanese officials who supposedly told him that Democrats wanted our country to fail, just to make Trump look bad. He told the leader of Pakistan that India’s prime minister wanted Trump to mediate an agreement on Kashmir. The Indian government within minutes put out a statement denying that Narendra Modi had said any such thing.

He has lied repeatedly about the status of the border wall he promised Mexico would pay for. (He lied several times that Mexico was actually paying for it, when, in fact, Mexico has not paid a single peso.) He has lied and continues to lie that China is paying the tariffs he imposed on imported Chinese goods. And he lies and he lies and he lies, over and over again, that he was somehow responsible for the VA choice law, which allowed veterans facing long wait times at VA clinics to see private doctors. In fact, it came to be thanks to three Trump nemeses: the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who wrote it, and Democratic President Barack Obama, who signed it into law two years before Trump was elected.

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Reuters Staff / Reuters A combination of photos taken at the National Mall shows the crowds attending the inauguration ceremonies to swear in U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 20, 2017 and President Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009.

In all, to date, there have been many thousands of falsehoods, and a significant percentage of them are lies: That is, Trump knows what he saying is not true, but says it anyway. It is not worth trying to list even a small subset of them – other journalists are doing yeoman’s work in that area – but it is nevertheless truly astonishing when you stop and think about it: Whenever the president of the United States opens his mouth, odds are that the words that tumble forth are false. Whenever the erstwhile leader of the free world puts his thumbs to his iPhone keypad, it is more likely than not that the assertions that pop up on social media moments later are an exaggeration. Or a random fabrication. Or a dramatic embellishment. Or a deliberate lie.

And perhaps the most troubling part of all this? That three years into the Donald Trump presidency, these observations lack the capacity to shock or even to raise an eyebrow. It is no longer newsworthy that the person leading the world’s most powerful nation, commanding the most destructive arsenal in human history, is untrustworthy to his core. It is simply where we are today.

If Ronald Reagan is the president who won the Cold War, and Obama will be remembered as the first Black president, Trump’s place in the history books is certain to be considerably less flattering: the impeached president who made up the most stuff, pretty much all day, pretty much every day.

Once upon a time, not terribly long ago, Donald J. Trump’s difficult relationship with the truth was of little actual consequence to anyone.

He was an outer-borough real estate guy turned Manhattan celebrity turned game show host, whose fame was built largely on his willingness to fill New York City’s tabloid gossip pages. He would say whatever juicy or outrageous or provocative thing that came to mind to get himself ink. It mattered not at all whether he was truly sleeping with a particular supermodel, as his made-up-spokesman alias would claim, or if a member of the royal family was really moving into one of his properties – except perhaps to the writer struggling to fill those remaining column inches by deadline.

That all changed in May 2016, when he became the presumptive presidential nominee for one of the two major American political parties. Overnight, his utterances became deeply significant, every syllable pored over both in America, where many until that point had not paid much attention to him, and more so in capital cities the world over ― even if he didn’t appreciate it or care.

Three and a half years later, pretty much everyone on the planet paying even the least bit of attention understands that when it comes to assertions of fact from the American president, there is good reason to take them with a healthy dose of skepticism. Several healthy doses, in fact. And because Donald Trump demands loyalty both in words and deed – expecting behavior that tends to normalize his own – that caveat became necessary early on for just about everyone who works at the White House as well as the political appointees across the executive branch agencies.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS Real estate magnate Donald Trump and his then-girlfriend (and eventual second wife) Marla Maples are seen at the Holyfield-Foreman fight at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, N.J., April 19, 1991. 

Which brings us to today. The president faces removal from office for withholding hundreds of millions of dollars of congressionally approved military aid to coerce a foreign leader into helping Trump’s own reelection campaign. He is simultaneously embracing a go-it-alone escalation with Iran that could easily blossom into a full-on war.

Regarding Ukraine, there are a great number of facts out there, both from witness testimony and documents, corroborating the accusations against him. And on Iran, there seem to be few facts backing up his claims that it was preparing imminent attacks against the United States.

To survive a Senate trial and win reelection later this year, the president needs a substantial plurality of Americans to ignore all of that and instead accept Trump’s word.

Based on his track record, there is zero reason for anyone to do so. Zero.

_____________________________

On an Air Force One flight back to Washington after a Louisiana outing last spring, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise couldn’t help but chortle as he recounted all the absurdities sprinkled into Trump’s remarks earlier that day: “Windmills cause cancer! Dead birds!”

Trump, as is his wont, had been railing on about another of his nemeses, wind turbines, and how they are unreliable for watching television because ― what if the wind dies? How their spinning blades kill birds, and especially, for some reason, bald eagles. How they cause nearby homes to plummet in value. How, he even claimed once, they cause cancer.

It goes without saying that not a word Trump had said about wind power was true. Indeed, implicit in Scalise’s levity was that Trump’s words are not to be taken seriously. They are terrific for their entertainment value, but it is pointless to parse them for meaning.

Unfortunately, the nation and the world do parse Trump’s words, because while they are often absurd and even more often false, he himself usually intends them seriously, and the powers at his fingertips are so vast that he cannot be safely ignored.

His words mattered a great deal, for example, to a U.S. Navy SEAL and an untold number of Yemeni civilians who died in the first days of Trump’s presidency when he approved a special operations raid there ― in no small measure because predecessor Barack Obama had refused to approve it.

They’ve mattered and will continue to matter in the Middle East, where his decisions to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement ― again, in large measure because Obama had achieved it ― to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and, most recently, to kill Iran’s top military leader have all further destabilized the region.

And they’ve certainly mattered to farmers in the American Midwest, whose livelihoods have been crushed because Trump’s trade war with China wrecked a market they had spent decades nurturing.

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Jim Young / Reuters President Donald Trump displays the “Space Policy Directive 4” establishing a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces, Feb. 19, 2019. 

Each of these decisions had been telegraphed for months or years along with outlandish claims of his military acumen, his foreign policy expertise and his mastery of international trade ― claims that have turned out to be entirely specious. Trump does not, in fact, know more about war than “his generals.” The Iran agreement was actually working, as officials in his own administration were telling him. And trade wars, it appears, are neither “good” nor “easy to win.”

More so than any previous administration in modern times, Donald Trump and his White House are eager and willing to disseminate false information to advance an agenda that seems to have no other goal than to secure Trump a second term.

The examples are legion. Trump, and his staff, claim that drug prices are coming down. That air quality is the best in the world. That the southern border wall is rapidly getting built. That the military is suddenly bristling with hundreds of brand-new airplanes and ships. That jobs are “pouring” back into the country from overseas.

A conference call the White House staged last summer was beyond Orwellian. The former coal lobbyist Trump had put in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency was literally giving his boss credit for environmental progress made under presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. We had truly entered the upside-down world.

This happens so often, on so many fronts, that it becomes numbing. We simply get used to the nonsense and shrug. Perhaps that is the intended goal.

Progressives excoriate and conservatives praise the policies that Trump has put into place, from rolling back environmental regulations to installing Federalist Society judges to signing a tax cut that disproportionately helps the richest. Trump has, indeed, done those things ― but most if not all would have come from any Republican president from that 2016 field.

What Trump has brought, uniquely, is far more consequential long term: He has destroyed the credibility of the United States government, both at home and abroad. And while Scalise and other Republicans like to pretend that that doesn’t really matter, it does. Immensely.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS In this June 30, 2019, file photo, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea.

The only time NATO’s mutual defense provision has ever been triggered in its 70-year history was when, we, the United States of America, were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Soldiers, pilots and sailors from 14 countries put their lives at risk on behalf of ours.

Yet over the past three years, our president has repeatedly lied about our allies and their financial obligations to the military alliance. He has falsely claimed that the European Union was created to undermine the United States. He has similarly lied about the terms of military and trade agreements with Japan and South Korea.

In Trump’s first year, European officials would hear from top administration voices, including then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, that the core relationship had not changed, regardless of what the president personally might be saying at any given moment. Over time, though, reassuring words have lost meaning as they saw that Trump could and would act precipitously, such as his announcement to abandon the Kurds in Syria ― who had done much of the fighting and bleeding and dying for America in the fight against ISIS ― to the mercies of Turkey’s strongman Recep Erdoğan.

What will happen if the day comes when we truly need those traditional allies again? How will they trust us? Why should they trust us?

_____________________________

Of course, what might happen in some future overseas crisis, even one as looming and as plausible as a war with Iran, is a hypothetical that for a variety of reasons will not alarm many Americans.

A far more worrisome example of the Trump White House’s toxic mix of recklessness and mendacity already took place right here at home, just a few months back.

On Sept. 1, at 10:21 a.m. Washington time, the president of the United States emerged from a hurricane briefing and decided to offer his own update on Twitter: “In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5. BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!”

Except, by then, the National Hurricane Center’s consensus was that Dorian would parallel the east coast of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, before eventually turning northeast and off to sea. Hurricane watches and warnings were posted along those coasts.

In other words, Trump’s inclusion of Alabama had zero relationship to the actual Hurricane Center forecast.

To appreciate why what happened next was so appalling, it is perhaps necessary to have lived in a hurricane-prone state for a period of years. In those places, the rule is simple: Accept the experts’ analyses and recommendations. Don’t embellish. Don’t play games. People’s lives hang in the balance.

It’s also important to understand that the public advisories issued by forecasters are carefully workshopped to strike a balance between providing meteorological precision and managing an orderly public response. Evacuations are time-consuming and come with their own risks and opportunity costs. Evacuating southeast Florida, for instance, makes evacuating Central Florida much harder, because, first, there are only so many hotel rooms and shelters within a day’s drive of the coast and, second, the interstates and turnpike can only carry so many cars before they become parking lots. Most of all, forecasters want to maintain public confidence in their products to maximize compliance with whatever response emergency managers choose to order. For example, they hate “windshield wipering” a forecast track ― bending it in one direction, and then the other – even if successive computer model runs indicate exactly that, because doing so exasperates an anxious public.

Donald Trump’s Alabama tweet ran roughshod over all of that.

Why he did so is probably not worth the headache that trying to divine Trump’s motives often brings. The simplest explanation is that Trump has always been a drama junkie, and that his last career before his White House run was hosting a reality television show where that trait was particularly prized. Alabama has been a favorite of his ever since a campaign visit to Mobile in August 2015 brought out a crowd of 30,000. He simply wrote the state into the Hurricane Dorian episode.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS Trump holds a Hurricane Dorian forecast tracking chart — adjusted by a Sharpie — as he talks with reporters in the White House Oval Office.

The consequences, of course, were immediate. The National Weather Service office in Birmingham was flooded with panicked phone calls, asking about the monster hurricane that was suddenly bearing down on their state. Forecasters responded 20 minutes later with their own tweet: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

And that act of truth-telling set off more than a week of Trump and his political appointees at the White House waging war on the actual experts, the actual facts and, really, the actual truth.

Rather than just admit the mistake and move on, Trump instead insisted that he had been right. He claimed – falsely – that at the time of the tweet, there had still been a decent chance that Alabama would be struck. And that, in turn, triggered a response that had already happened so many times previously and which continues to happen today: His staff tried to re-engineer reality to fit the lie their boss had told and was refusing to back away from.

To this end, they ordered up a large poster board of a forecast map from nearly a week earlier, when the storm had been predicted to cross the Florida peninsula. Trump then drew in an additional semicircle with a black Sharpie to include southeastern Alabama.

And this, within the White House, became the official line. For days. That Trump had been right, and the country’s best meteorologists had been wrong. One top press officer, in fact, kept an 8 1/2-by-11 printout of the outdated tracking map on his desk – a prop to continue arguing to reporters, for months, that Trump had been correct.

The whole thing became comical – which served to hide the perils it exposed.

Trump, even in serious matters, could not be counted on to tell the truth or to correct obvious mistakes. Even worse, his White House and top agency officials would take his side and chastise line-level employees who dared contradict him.

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Tomohiro Ohsumi via Getty Images The USS John S. McCain destroyer is moored out of sight in Japan on June 1, 2019, after the White House and Defense Department exchanged emails on hiding the ship during Trump’s visit so he wouldn’t be enraged by seeing the name of his rival. 

The National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are among the crown jewels of the federal government – islands of quiet competence regardless of the political winds of the moment. Trump’s childishness drew them both into the churning chaos that constantly surrounds him.

On Sept. 6, NOAA headquarters released a statement – unsigned but presumably a political appointee – backing up Trump and scolding the Birmingham office. That, in turn, drew a chorus of condemnation from the top scientists and career staff. It was a mess, generated for no good reason at all.

This was a hurricane, a relatively predictable weather event for which the White House is not the sole or even the main source of information. What happens when it is something else, a terrorist bombing, an attack on an overseas military base, a disease outbreak, where the White House is a primary or perhaps the only source of information?

Something like, say, the targeted killing of a top leader of a hostile nation? 

_____________________________

As Trump made dishonesty a principal feature of his White House, he had an unwitting accomplice: the White House press corps itself.

Part of this was inevitable, at least in the beginning. Journalists generally assume that someone is telling the truth when they talk to us, and Trump and his staff were afforded that same benefit of the doubt. Now, arguably, given his decades-long history as a fabulist – recall that he used to dial up gossip columnists and, identifying himself as “John Barron” or “John Miller,” try to plant fake stories about his sexual and business conquests – perhaps Trump should not have been trusted from the outset.

But there was a notion, pushed strongly by national Republican leaders, that Trump would grow into the job, that the responsibility of the office would weigh on his shoulders and that he would finally act like an adult.

Of course, that did not happen. I was by chance the pool reporter for Trump’s first full day in office, and watched with my own eyes as he stood in front of the memorial wall at CIA headquarters across the river in Langley, Virginia, and claimed, falsely, that there had been as many as a million and a half people on the National Mall for his inauguration and that the media were lying about him having had a much smaller crowd than Barack Obama eight years earlier. A couple of hours later, White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s first official act in that job was to march into the briefing room, repeat those lies and then march out.

The barrage of near-daily dishonesties that followed helped sweep away that deep-seated aversion that most journalists – including this one – had to using the word “lie” in print and on the air. The likelihood of turning off some in the audience with such a charged term aside, there was the definitional problem: A lie means that the purported liar knows what he is saying is false at the moment that he says it. On a real-time basis, of course, that’s nearly impossible to prove. How can we know what is going through people’s heads as they say things?

As the weeks and months passed, though, we began to see that Trump had, in fact, time after time, been given accurate information about topics as silly as to whether Ronald Reagan had won Wisconsin (he had) to as consequential as to whether China was paying the tariffs Trump had imposed (they were not). Yet he had continued to make the false claims anyway. This eventually led to more and more news organizations getting past their reticence and calling Trump a liar as warranted.

Unfortunately, other more deeply rooted factors remain that have served to make this president’s relationship with the truth seem to reside within a band of normal, when in reality it is an extreme outlier.

Instead of pointing out the casual lies coming from the administration as they happen, too many members of the press corps just put the lie out there as news. “The president said X,” is the headline, rather than: “The president lied about X” or, more accurately, “The president lied about X again.”

As a former Associated Press reporter versed in the responsibility of providing just-the-facts coverage, I appreciate that there are times our jobs require that we act as stenographers. As someone who has covered Trump from the day he rode down his escalator, I appreciate that this approach does our audience an enormous disservice. Yet it remains a staple of far too much White House coverage.

Some of this is a function of journalists too young and too inexperienced to understand that Trump’s behavior is not merely unusual, but aberrant and dangerous to a self-governing society.

Once upon a time, covering the White House was a mid- or late-career assignment. Reporters making their way there would have spent decades covering school boards, county commissions, criminal courts, statehouses, Congress, the Pentagon, the State Department – all of which provided a solid foundation for understanding the functioning of American government and the players who make it work.

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Erin Scott / Reuters Trump holds what appears to be a prepared statement and handwritten notes after watching testimony by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland as he speaks to reporters from the South Lawn of the White House  on Nov. 20, 2019. 

Today, the White House press corps is radically different. Many reporters had covered just a few, or even just one, political campaign before their White House assignments. They would be hard-pressed to explain ad valorem taxation. Or how a bond issue works. Or statewide school funding formulas. This is one reason, for example, that when 2016 candidates vowed to eliminate Common Core educational standards and bring decisions to local school boards, too many of the reporters covering them just scribbled it all down, rather than ask the candidates what they meant, given that schools are already controlled by local boards.

In fairness, this isn’t completely their fault. The recession of 2008-09 wreaked havoc on the news business, which made wholesale cuts of higher-salaried journalists, which is to say those with a decade or more of experience. This resulted in a press corps nationally and in Washington far younger and greener than prior to the recession, while the industry itself morphed to keep up with the Internet and social media.

And it’s this last piece that’s the most sinister element “normalizing” someone like Trump.

The era of filing one or two articles a day, let alone weekly in-depth pieces, is long gone at the vast majority of news organizations. Some “new media” outlets have a quota of five or six bylined items a day. It goes without saying that this is not a winning formula for producing high-quality journalism.

As it turns out, though, the Trump noise machine is perfectly suited for meeting that five-or-six piece quota. Indeed, between the morning tweets and the random comments at Oval Office photo opportunities, Cabinet meeting preambles and shouting sessions on the South Lawn beside the idling jet turbines of Marine 1, Donald Trump generates enough fresh material for a dozen, sometimes two dozen pieces of “content” each and every day. Contrast this with the Obama presidency, or the George W. Bush presidency, when days or even a week could go by without the president saying anything particularly newsworthy.

This is why even senior members of the White House press corps – those who should know better – actually praise Trump and his White House for being the most “accessible” in history, without acknowledging that so much of that access is to material that is either straight-up false or noisy nonsense.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks to reporters on the North Lawn outside the White House on May 23, 2019.

A perfect example of this is Sarah Huckabee Sanders. As press secretary to the White House, her main job should have been to provide accurate information to the American public through the news media. Of course she had the right to “spin” facts to put the president in the best possible light. But she went way beyond that. She would often claim, for instance, that Trump worked harder than anyone she had ever known – even though Trump has kept the lightest work schedule of any president going back at least 50 years. She would claim that Trump was fully versed on details of his administration’s policy goals – even though a cursory review of his statements shows that he often doesn’t have the slightest idea of what is contained in legislation or, sometimes, in his own executive orders.

Yet even flackery that far over the top can be excused. What she did in the days following the May 2017 firing of James Comey cannot.

When asked about morale at the FBI after Trump dismissed their director in hopes of blocking an investigation into his campaign, Sanders said that she personally had heard from “countless members of the FBI” in support of the firing. When asked a follow-up the next day about how many “countless” might mean, exactly, she said: “I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said they’re very happy with the president’s decision.”

As it turned out, all of that was a lie. Not just a small lie, but invented out of whole cloth for the sole purpose of destroying someone’s reputation. This came out in simple, matter-of-fact prose in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report nearly two years later. From that day forward, Sanders should have been treated as if she were wearing a giant scarlet “L,” and no journalist should have trusted a word she said again.

Instead, months later when she stepped down, all was apparently forgiven. Two members of the White House Correspondents Association board even hosted a farewell party for her.

_____________________________

There will come a day when Donald Trump is no longer president.

Perhaps that’s a year from now. Perhaps five years. Or, in the off chance an unforeseen turn ends in his removal or resignation, perhaps just weeks or months. In any case, his departure from the White House will bring a serious reckoning of what we, as Americans, will tolerate from our top elected official.

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Carlo Allegri / Reuters U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Dec. 8, 2017. 

After Richard Nixon, the nation came to a consensus that what had happened was not at all good, and introduced institutional safeguards to try to prevent it from happening again. Nixon’s use of barely regulated slush funds to pay the Watergate burglars resulted in new campaign finance laws imposing limits and requiring better disclosure. Other laws provided privacy protections, created independent inspectors general for executive agencies, codified presidential record keeping and strengthened the Freedom of Information Act.

Underlying all of these reforms was the shared conviction that a president ought not to lie and cheat. This was the fundamental virtue Jimmy Carter was selling in 1976: that he would not lie to the American people. He was a long shot, but that message made him a winner. 

Four decades later, is truth still of value to Americans? Polling shows that the vast majority of the public knows full well that Trump and his White House are profoundly dishonest. A CNN survey in September showed that only 28% of Americans believe all or most of the information coming out of the White House. Yet some 40% to 45% continue to approve of Trump. I’ve talked to a great number of people in that subset who disbelieve Trump but support him anyway. Among their top rationales: All politicians lie, so what’s so terrible about Trump’s lies?

And that, perhaps, is the worst, most corrosive lie that Trump has sold to his defenders: That everyone is corrupt, that everyone lies, so Republicans may as well go with a corrupt liar who is on their side.

I’ve seen this attitude in Trump supporters from Wisconsin to New Hampshire to Florida when confronted with irrefutable evidence of Trump’s falsehoods and self-dealing. A selectman from Plymouth, New Hampshire, population 6,752, said he didn’t mind if Trump was dishonest because all politicians were, although he could not at that moment give any examples. A treasurer for a county GOP committee in western Iowa told me it didn’t bother him that Trump was trying to steer a multi-million dollar government contract to his own South Florida golf resort because all elected officials find ways to funnel themselves public money.

Well, everyone is not corrupt. Everyone does not lie.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS President Donald Trump gestures as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speaks in the East Room of the White House on Nov. 6, 2019. Graham has become one of Trump’s leading GOP apologists.

In fact, most politicians do not lie, and do everything they can to avoid lying. They try to present unfavorable facts about themselves in as favorable a light as they can manage. They obfuscate. They change the subject. They avoid journalists and the public. But by and large, they try hard not to lie, because lying brings opprobrium at best and the end of one’s political career at worst.

At least, that was the landscape before Trump’s presidency.

The conduct of Trump’s most ardent Republican supporters in the House – most vividly on display during the impeachment hearings – suggests there will be a cadre of public officials who will try to make “alternative facts” a permanent feature of American politics going forward.

It’s hard to overstate how dangerous this would be. The revelation that Nixon had lied about something Big and Important led to his downfall when a substantial slice of voters in his own party decided that such conduct was unacceptable. Forty-six years later, with an analogous set of facts already in the public domain that Trump tried to cheat his way to victory in his reelection, Republican voters appear to be giving Trump a pass, seeming to embrace instead a series of lies nonsensical on their face.

How does self-government survive when a significant number of participants simply refuse to accept facts because they are harmful to the leader who panders to their prejudices?

In astrophysics, there is a maxim that gravity always wins in the end. After the strong and weak nuclear forces are spent, after all the photons have scattered and dissipated, gravity will remain and will inexorably make its presence felt.

So it is in the world of the everyday. Facts can be ignored, but cannot be willed away. Calling climate change a hoax will not prevent Miami and Norfolk and Annapolis from flooding every spring tide. Claiming that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is no longer interested in nuclear weapons does not, as it turns out, actually make it so.

Yet if truth is to win post-Trump, it will have to be the American public that makes it so. Average citizens, those who do not spend hours each day monitoring cable news and Twitter, will have to decide that lying is unacceptable in our governance. That those entrusted with the public’s money and the public’s well-being have a core obligation to provide that public the truth.

The news media cannot lead the way in this. News is a business, and in business, the customer is always right. If the customer in this case prefers to hear lies that match up with his fears and preconceptions, there are plenty of media outlets willing to offer that service.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. 

The question Americans need to ask themselves is do we have the right to accurate information from our White House, or not? Would we permit an elected small town mayor to lie this frequently about town business? How about a school board chair?

In hindsight, it is easy to understand why the fake Ukrainian Miss Universe winner was so easy to miss in that Sept. 25 photo opportunity.

In those 17 minutes, Trump claimed – falsely – that he had not pressured the new Ukrainian president into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden, even though the call memo of that phone conversation from two months earlier made clear that he had done precisely that. He claimed that other European countries were not helping Ukraine as much as the United States was, when the opposite is true.

He defended his lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to push a debunked conspiracy theory that Russia had not helped Trump win the 2016 election, and that Ukraine had framed Russia by planting fake evidence. He repeated his frequent, but untrue, claim that China had “given” Hunter Biden $1.5 billion.

And squeezed in there among all the lies was one statement to Volodymyr Zelensky that could almost qualify as a policy declaration. Asked by Zelensky for help getting Crimea back from Russia, Trump essentially washed his hands of the matter, saying the invasion and annexation had happened under predecessor Barack Obama – “It’s just one of those things” – and urging Zelensky to work with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. “You’ve really made some progress with Russia,” Trump told him. “Just keep it going.”

The pained expression on Zelensky’s face through most of the session said it all. Correcting Trump about the Miss Universe pageant was the least of his worries. Or ours.

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