At the end of Amadeus, after Salieri finishes his lengthy, dramatic "confession" of all he did to destroy the career and life of his rival, Mozart, the movie cuts away to the reaction of the priest he's speaking to. The man's head comes up slowly from his hands and the expression on his face is absolutely priceless, conveying in a single look exhaustion, horror, desperation, helplessness and no small amount of bewilderment. If you translated it into spoken English the result would likely be, "Dear God in heaven, what in the fuck was that?" Well, that's how I feel right now. That look the priest gives Salieri? That's the only proper response to the news that Donald Trump once pretended to be his own publicist so he could brag on the phone about the sexual conquests of Donald Trump. In the third person.
Perhaps you've heard about this by now -- and if you haven't, might I suggest finding some electrical tape to wrap around your head so your screaming brains don't try to escape your body through your ears. No? Okay, well don't say I didn't warn you.
Today The Washington Post published a recording of a call made from Trump's office to People magazine reporter Sue Carswell in 1991, not long after Trump's divorce from his first wive, Ivana, was finalized. Carswell had called asking for an interview -- she wanted to talk about the divorce, Trump's new girlfriend Marla Maples, and the rumors of other female celebrities he'd been involved with -- and she says that within five minutes she got a call back from someone who called himself John Miller and claimed to be handling PR for Trump. The thing is, the person on the other end of the line -- "John Miller" -- sounded suspiciously like Trump himself. In fact, let's just be blunt. It's Trump. It's fucking Trump. The voice on the recording made available by the Post doesn't simply have Trump's distinctive intonation and accent, it follows his painfully digressive cadence and even throws in a couple of Trump's favorite catchphrases -- at one point he emphasizes a declaration with the comically tautological "that I can tell you" -- leaving no doubt as to who it is.
"John Miller" was apparently the most intimately knowledgable publicist in the history of PR, given that on the tape he can be heard telling Carswell not only what Trump was doing at the time but what he was thinking. What he was doing, according to "Miller," was dating a lot of very famous women because he "gets called by everybody in the book, in terms of women," mostly “actresses and people you write about.” Even "Madonna called and wanted to go out with him," Trump's alter-ego says. In probably the most mind-bogglingly self-absorbed -- read: Trumpian -- moments of the whole thing, Trump-as-Miller boasts about how model Carla Bruni, the future wife of Nicholas Sarcozy, had left Mick Jagger to date Trump.
Just read the way "John Miller" speaks and tell me if it sounds like someone we all know far too well.
Trump: I heard Carla—I mean, I’ll give you the—this is getting to be a little different from what I normally discuss. This is, I think, an interesting point. Carla is a very beautiful girl from Italy, whose father is one of the wealthiest men in Europe.
Carswell: Who is her—what’s the name of her father?
Trump: Well, her father’s name is—her name is Carla Bruni Tedeschi.
Carswell: How do you spell that?
Trump: I don’t know. Tedeschi. She doesn’t use the last name because it’s too complicated. But anyway, her father is one of the wealthiest men in Europe. Carla is extraordinarily beautiful and didn’t want to be a model, except that every time she’d go to a show to look, people like Ralph Lauren and various people would say, “Carla, you have to be in the show, et cetera, et cetera.” So she does all of the top shows, and she’s always very busy and very successful, et cetera, et cetera. She was having a big thing with Mick Jagger. Did you hear about this?
Carswell: Well, I’ve just been reading about it.
Trump: What happened is, she was going with Eric Clapton.
Carswell: Mick Jagger, who was married at that point?
Trump: Mick Jagger, as of three months ago, she was having a big thing. But she just doesn’t want to be in the limelight. What she—and she was having a very big thing with Mick Jagger, and then what happened, she was going with Eric Clapton. And Eric Clapton introduced her to Mick Jagger. And then Mick Jagger started calling her, and she ended up going with Mick Jagger. And then she dropped Mick Jagger for Donald. And that’s where it is right now.
Carswell: What kinds of things have they done? I mean, do they go out?
Trump: Well, they just get along very good, and she’s very pretty and all of that stuff. But you know, he doesn’t have any idea who she is, right? When he meets the right woman, it’s going to be a great relationship and it’s going to be a very, you know, because he believes strongly in the marriage concept.
Now here's the most revealing and sadly not at all surprising thing in this through-the-looking-glass tale. This morning on the Today show, Savannah Guthrie questioned Trump about the tape and the Post's story. Guess how he responded? No, really, guess what he did? “I don’t know anything about it. You’re telling me about it for the first time and it doesn’t sound like my voice at all,” he responded “I have many, many people that are trying to imitate my voice and then you can imagine that, and this sounds like one of the scams, one of the many scams—doesn’t sound like me.” Realizing that equivocating on his utter bullshit was for pussies, though, a second later he denied it completely. “It was not me on the phone. And it doesn’t sound like me on the phone, I will tell you that, and it was not me on the phone. And when was this? Twenty-five years ago?”
Keep in mind that Trump had already admitted, in 1990, that he used the John Miller alias on occasion. And yet there he was -- lying his ass off. The Today show, the Post and his own unmistakable voice had him dead to rights. No sane person would've denied it was Trump and no sane person would've expected that he could get away with denying it was Trump -- but there was Donald Trump, just bald-face lying to the planet. Because Donald Trump is incapable of telling the truth. About anything. He lies spectacularly and mundanely, about any and all subjects. If you ask Trump what time it is and he answers you, get a second opinion because there's a pretty good chance what he told you is nonsense. Trump is compulsive and pathological, exhibiting the traits not simply of a narcissistic bullshit artist but of someone with a genuine personality disorder.
Every day it feels like we fall deeper into a rabbit hole of insanity this election cycle. Every day, particularly with Trump, there's one new moment that's even more batshit than the last. I can only imagine what tomorrow's revelation about this buffoonish con man will be, but it should serve as one more reminder that while we can laugh at his ridiculousness, he now stands literally one vote away from becoming the most powerful man in the world. That's not funny. That's fucking terrifying.