Trump furiously denies that he promised pardons to officials who break the law to build his wall — but that's not what his own aide said
Following a now-typical pattern, President Donald Trump on Wednesday furiously denied a report in the Washington Post on Twitter — even though his own team had been given the opportunity to respond to the report before publication.
The report published Tuesday contained the bombshell allegation that Trump offered pardons to officials who break the law in order to build his promised border wall. It seems this offer of a pardon came as a part of the president's desperate effort to fulfill his central campaign promise before the 2016 election. It would also be a brazen abuse of power and clearly an impeachable offense.
But when a White House official responded to the allegation, they didn't directly deny it:
Asked for comment, a White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Trump is joking when he makes such statements about pardons.
Whether Trump was "joking" — or perhaps "wink, wink" joking — it seems he has done this before. The Associated Press reported in April:
Indeed, last week Trump urged his soon-to-be acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to seal the southern border and told McAleenan he would pardon him if he were to find himself in trouble for blocking legal asylum-seekers, according to two people familiar with the conversation who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private exchange.
That report also added that it wasn't "clear whether the president was joking." (Tip for future presidents: If you're joking about something that would otherwise be an impeachable offense, make it clear that you're joking.)
Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley called internal criticisms “just more fabrications by people who hate the fact the status quo,” but he didn't outright deny the report.
Now Trump, predictably, is calling it fake news:
Another totally Fake story in the Amazon Washington Post (lobbyist) which states that if my Aides broke the law to… https://t.co/mHnCxS2Rnn— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1567019199.0
That, of course, contradicts the idea — promoted by his own staff — that he was "joking."
But Trump is an unapologetic liar, so there's no reason to take his denial seriously at all — especially when this appears to be a pattern of behavior. The Post even found that, behind closed doors, Trump has admitted that his central promise of building a wall rests on a lie:
Trump conceded last year in an immigration meeting with lawmakers that a wall or barrier is not the most effective mechanism to curb illegal immigration, recognizing it would accomplish less than a major expansion of U.S. enforcement powers and deportation authority. But he told lawmakers that his supporters want a wall and that he has to deliver it.
And if Trump really wants to undermine the story and mitigate the fears about his abuse of power, he could simply promise right now that no one apparently breaking laws on his behalf will receive a pardon. If Trump really was joking, such a statement would make that clear to anyone who misinterpreted him. And while Trump could always go back on such a promise, the fact that he had made it in public would make any official inclined to break the law for him much less likely to do so, because they couldn't feel assured that they would get the pardon in the end.
The fact that Trump almost certainly won't make this public promise tells us all we need to know.