"Access Hollywood" to Trump: The tape is very real

A follow-up to last night’s post. Trump still hasn’t said a word about this publicly; the claim that he’s grumbling about the tape possibly having been faked comes from two sources who spoke to the New York Times. Or rather, three sources: Watch the second clip below from CNN, in which Times reporter Maggie Haberman says she now has a third source who says Trump has questioned the tape’s authenticity recently.

This detail from Haberman, in particular, has the ring of truth:

She said in several conversations the president has said he is not really sure it was him and in January told a senator he was “looking into hiring people to ascertain whether or not it was his voice.”

Trump trying to impress people by claiming he’s shelling out cash for PIs to expose a fraudulent political document? Why does that seem familiar? Ah, right. From 2011:

Self-proclaimed birther Donald Trump is now so doubtful of President Obama’s birthplace that he’s sent a team of his own investigators to Hawaii in hopes of getting to the bottom of the issue.

That’s according to Trump himself, who, in an interview with NBC, warned his investigators just might uncover “one of the greatest cons in the history of politics and beyond.”

“I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” Trump said an interview that aired Thursday Morning.

“Absolutely,” he answered when NBC asked if he’d already assigned investigators to search in Hawaii. Five years later, there was still no evidence that he ever had. History will remember that Birther episode as his launching pad to the presidency, the moment he showed populists he was willing to attack Obama in ways more respectable Republicans wouldn’t, however dubious the basis. To this day a mystery remains as to whether Trump merely pretended to doubt Obama’s origins, knowing how well that would play with GOP voters, or if he really did doubt it.

Same goes for this business about him supposedly doubting the tape. Trump seems like a guy who has such terrible difficulty believing anything unflattering about himself that he might have talked himself into believing that that’s not him chatting with Billy Bush. I don’t know what other explanation there could be for him questioning its authenticity in private, among trusted advisors, rather than in public. Maybe he’s doing it as a trial balloon, gauging their reaction to see how nutty they think he sounds before he starts bringing it up in interviews. Or maybe, with accusations piling up against other powerful men, it irks him that there’s any sort of bad behavior on his own record, even rhetorical, that he’s publicly admitted to. Roy Moore’s probably going to be a senator by denying, denying, denying the allegations against him. Trump became president by following the same strategy — except for the tape, which he copped to. It might still bug him to this day.

Frankly, as I said last night, it’s surprising that he *hasn’t* questioned the tape’s authenticity. If he’s willing to repeatedly question Russia’s role in campaign hacking because he thinks the truth would tar his victory, it stands to reason that he’d question the “Access Hollywood” tape in hindsight. Losing the popular vote bothers him so much that he’s latched on to the unlikely idea that Hillary owes her margin entirely to millions of illegals casting unlawful ballots. It’d be easier for him to argue that he lost the vote because of the tape, a supposed dirty trick engineered by Democratic technical wizards to try to ruin him. “I only apologized last fall because my advisors thought it was best to move past the episide as quickly as possible,” Trump can (and probably will eventually) say. “But I doubted the tape from the start.” What percentage of Republicans would buy that explanation? Seventy-five percent?

He’ll be asked about this soon at a press conference. What’ll he say?