Interestingly, they decided to ding him not for his tweets about Joe Scarborough possibly having murdered someone that have caused such an uproar in media but for his tweets about mail-in voting.
Maybe they’re getting around to the Scarborough tweets. If they’re going to systematically fact-check all of Trump’s recent Twitter musings, there’s a huge backlog to work through. Where do they even start?
I’m sure the president will receive this news with his usual equanimity and good cheer.
Click the fact-check link in those tweets and you’re sent to this page, which claims among other things that “fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.” That’s … not quite true, per this NPR story from early April: “Election experts say Trump is partially correct, that there is slightly more fraud in mail-voting than in-person voting.” The key word is “slightly,” a small risk relative to the considerable risk that voting in-person this fall will intensify a second wave of COVID-19. The same experts told NPR that “election fraud is extremely rare in all instances” and that mail-in voting can be done safely and securely, a point even Mitt Romney has made recently. Americans like the idea of voting by mail, favoring it by a nearly two-to-one margin in Fox’s latest poll, and more states are in the process of facilitating it.
But “no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud”? Not quite true, and that’s the headache Twitter has created for itself by launching this fact-check feature. Righties will demand, and rightly so, that the fact-checking function be applied to Democrats as well as Republicans even though the feature was obviously developed because one particular pol can’t stop smearing his enemies. And Trumpers are going to fact-check the fact-checking done by Twitter in even more granular detail than I just did with their voter-fraud claim to try to vindicate him whenever Twitter calls him out. Frankly, ranting about Twitter fact-checks is apt to become Trump’s new hobby on the platform.
Although maybe that’s by design. Maybe the fact-check feature is just a clever diversion by Twitter to give him something to obsess about other than conspiracy theories about murder cold cases involving cable news hosts who criticize him.
He was asked at his press conference today about Scarborough and the letter from Lori Klausutis’s widower begging Twitter to delete Trump’s tweets on the subject. Trump replied by suggesting that Klausutis’s husband was on his side in wanting to “get to the bottom” of what happened, which is the exact opposite of the point of the letter.
Question: Have you seen the letter written by her husband begging Twitter to delete your tweets, talking about how hard it’s been for his family?
Trump: Yeah I have but I’m sure ultimately they want to get to the bottom of it… there’s no statute of limitations pic.twitter.com/0udU76GwF9
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) May 26, 2020
Peter Wehner ran through some of Trump’s greatest conspiracy hits to contextualize the Scarborough/Klausutis smear:
That Donald Trump would resort to conspiracy theories to attack his perceived enemies is hardly a revelation. After all, Trump employed a racist conspiracy theory against Barack Obama, which helped him gain political prominence in the Republican Party, and later claimed that President Obama had wiretapped his phones. During the 2016 primary, Trump linked Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and retweeted a supporter who claimed that Marco Rubio was ineligible to run because his parents were not natural-born U.S. citizens. Trump suggested that the suicide of Vince Foster, a former aide to President Bill Clinton, and the death of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were murders; that childhood vaccines cause autism; and that windmills cause cancer. He’s claimed that climate change is “a total and very expensive hoax” by China’s government, that a cybersecurity company framed Russia for election interference, that Ukraine was hiding Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, and that voter fraud cost him the popular vote in 2016.
Right, but one thing that sets Trump apart from other conspiracy theorists is that it’s never clear whether he believes the theories he propagates or not. They’re almost always directed at personal and/or political enemies to delegitimize them somehow — or, as with his theory about Ukraine framing Russia, to relegitimize himself. (His vaccine skepticism may be a rare case of Trump embracing a conspiracy theory on the merits, without an ulterior self-serving motive.) It’s impossible to tell whether he sincerely believes that Scarborough murdered Klausutis but didn’t care so long as Scarborough was praising him or whether he doesn’t believe it but cynically revived the allegation to wound Scarborough as payback for all of the criticism aimed at him on “Morning Joe.” Trump himself may not know. Maybe his mind vacillates between belief and disbelief depending on whether it serves his interests to believe or not. When Scarborough was an ally, he might have convinced himself that the Klausutis smears were nonsense. Once Scarborough became an enemy, he may have talked himself into believing there was something to it because his ego needed assurance that anyone capable of criticizing Trump is capable of anything.
I don’t think that’s how he operates, though. My guess is that he just doesn’t care whether Scarborough murdered Klausutis or not. The subject is interesting to him only to the extent that he needs it for leverage of some kind. Scarborough could have a body count that tops Ted Bundy’s and so long as “Morning Joe” is onboard the Trump train, it’s of no concern to the president.
Here’s Kayleigh McEnany at today’s White House briefing insisting that “our hearts are with Lori’s family.” They aren’t or else Trump wouldn’t be doing this, needless to say.
an absolutely bizarre two minutes pic.twitter.com/kALSOVTSDv
— Alex Thomas (@AlexThomasDC) May 26, 2020
Update: That didn’t take long.
….Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
Right now Pat Cipollone is trying to explain to him that he has no right of free speech on Twitter.