For now, Donald Trump has abandoned Twitter. The last time the GOP presidential nominee and potential possessor of our nuclear codes popped off at a political enemy on his favorite social media platform was 6:43 a.m. Wednesday morning. Since then, he’s only tweeted “thank you” notes to his rally crowds.
Trump’s most recent caustic tweet:
Our incompetent Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was the one who started talks to give 400 million dollars, in cash, to Iran. Scandal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2016
It could be that he dropped his phone into the bucket of Aquanet and human urine he uses to style his wacky clown hair every morning. Or maybe he’s just busy. The most likely explanation is that GOP A-listers convinced him to shut up for a while. He very well could have promised to stop tweeting incendiary blurts about anyone who successfully crawled under his puffy orange skin. If true, it’d be a token gesture to mitigate the concerns of Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan who are holding the party together with nothing but Scotch Tape and the glossy spooge Mitch McConnell uses to keep his reptilian face moistened.
One thing’s for sure, Trump hasn’t engaged in any course corrections during his rallies, which continue to be the same old incoherent, sweaty, vindictive rants he’s always delivered.
During a rally in Daytona Beach on Wednesday, Trump admitted that he was, in fact, mocking disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski. You might recall how Kovaleski contradicted Trump’s story about seeing American Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks. During the primaries, Trump mimicked Kovaleski’s disabled arm during a rally — perhaps the lowest point of any Trump rally. Despite almost universal condemnations for the mockery, Trump screamed to his Daytona crowd this week, “[Kovaleski] was groveling!” He continued by confirming that he was, in fact, mocking the reporter: “I won’t do the [arm] motions because… [trailed off].”
From there, Trump told his throng of angry white superfans about how, earlier in the morning, he watched a video of Iranians unloading from an airplane $400 million in cash — allegedly cash for hostages, even though it was, in reality, an installment payment from the U.S. to Iran in accordance with a court settlement presided over at the Hague.
So, while the transfer of cash did, in fact, occur, it’s impossible to find any actual video of it being unloaded. So, either Trump made up the story about the video or he watched it as part of his national security briefings. Either way, he said it was “the first thing” he saw this morning.
“Now, here’s the amazing thing: Over there, where that plane landed, top secret, you don’t have a lot of paparazzi. You know, the paparazzi doesn’t do so well over there, right? And they have a perfect tape, done by obviously a government camera, and the tape is of the people taking the money off the plane. Right? That means that in order to embarrass us further, Iran sent us the tapes. Right? It’s a military tape; it’s a tape that was a perfect angle, nice and steady, nobody getting nervous because they’re gonna be shot because they’re shooting a picture of money pouring off a plane.”
As I watched the rally live, I attempted to track down the video, wondering whether Trump made it up, or if he had inadvertently blurted the details of information presented to him during one of his national security briefings.
Nothing. No video existed of Iranian officials unloading pallets of money — no “money pouring off a plane.” Yet Trump insisted that he watched it; that it was “top secret,” and that it was something his rally audience hadn’t ever seen. Occam’s Razor would indicate that Trump probably made it up, but it the “top secret” part set off alarm bells, and not just with me. The political press jumped in to investigate.
According to Trump’s consigliere, Paul Manafort, Trump hasn’t received any national security briefings. Thank goodness. The Obama White House would’ve contradicted the line had Manafort been lying, so it’s likely that Manafort was telling the truth for a change.
It turns out that Trump watched footage of something on Fox News that morning. But it wasn’t cash being unloaded. And it wasn’t in Iran. Oh, and it wasn’t footage from this week, it was B-roll from January of American hostages deplaning in Geneva. People. Not money.
Case closed. Trump watched something completely different and thought it was cash being unloaded in Iran. It was a helpful mistake for Trump who, along with most the GOP establishment, is marketing in the cash-for-hostages lie. (Charlie Pierce described that actual background behind the payment.)
Nevertheless, Trump’s tall tale was almost entirely debunked by most major news outlets by around 11 a.m. Thursday morning. The Washington Post debunked Trump’s video story at around midnight Wednesday night. Trump repeated the false story at around 6:30 p.m. eastern.
Worse, we all know that he’ll just repeat the story at every rally between now and Election Day because. 1) it’s what he does, and 2) his cult worshipers will believe every word. The only concern is that cable news will do what CNN did on Wednesday, which is to lead the story with what Trump and Pence said about the money, embossing the falsehoods in the minds of viewers, while leaving the actual details of the $400 million until later. Again, a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on.
Obviously, Trump has no intention of shaving the edges off his public persona. This is it, as Hillary Clinton said during her DNC address. This is who he is. The question now is whether cable news will instinctively shift gears to a “Trump surge” narrative. After all, Trump doesn’t need to change a damn thing to win. It’s all about how the press covers his awfulness.
It’s not over yet…