Sep 10, 2017 - Politics & Policy

Trump's private life goes public

Olivier Matthys / AP

When backed into a corner, President Trump has a habit of bringing up alleged conversations or interactions to gain leverage.

Why it matters: These conversations were in private, and unless the subjects are willing to challenge Trump's account, only his side of the story is on display — and sometimes that side turns out to be false or misleading.

Bob Corker

  • Context: Corker questioned Trump's "competence" as president in July.
  • The claim: Trump tweeted a few days later, "Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in '18. Tennessee not happy!"
  • Explanation: Corker hasn't announced whether he will run for a third term in 2018. There have been rumors of primary challengers.

James Clapper

  • Context: The former director of National Intelligencequestioned Donald Trump's "fitness for office" after Trump's speech in Arizona.
  • The claim: Trump tweeted, "James Clapper, who famously got caught lying to Congress, is now an authority on Donald Trump. Will he show you his beautiful letter to me?"
  • Explanation: Clapper told CNN, "The night before the election, we deployed two teams so that we would be ready to provide a PDB brief the next morning to whomever won. I hand-wrote almost identical short notes to each of the two candidates to accompany the first brief as President-elect; only one actually got deployed — the one to him."

Morning Joe

  • Context: Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski had been harshly criticizing Donald Trump on their morning show, despite defending Trump during the campaign at various times.
  • The claim: Donald Trump tweeted, "I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"
  • Explanation, from an op-ed Joe and Mika published in the Washington Post: "Mr. Trump claims that we asked to join him at Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row. That is false. He also claimed that he refused to see us. That is laughable."

James Comey

  • The context: Trump fired FBI Director James Comey as the Russia investigation escalated. Comey then released memos from his private conversations with Donald Trump, alleging that the President had asked him to let go of the Michael Flynn investigation.
  • The claim: Trump tweeted, "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
  • Explanation: This ended up being a false threat, and Trump ultimately admitted that there were no tapes.

Mexico's President Peña Nieto

  • Context: Trump was introducing John Kelly as his new chief of staff and praised him for his work as the secretary of Homeland Security.
  • The claim: Trump said, "Even the president of Mexico called me — they said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they're not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment."
  • Explanation: There was no such call. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said there was a face-to-face meeting between the two presidents, but no call.

Boy Scouts

  • Context: Trump gave a politically-charged speech to the National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • The claim: Trump claimed the Boy Scouts' president called him and said it was "the greatest speech ever made to them."
  • Explanation: The Boy Scouts organization released a statement saying there was no call. Sarah Sanders explained, "It wasn't a lie. That's a pretty bold accusation ... The conversations took place. They just simply didn't take place over a phone call. He had them in person."

Bill Clinton

  • Context: The Access Hollywood tapes had just leaked, and Trump had defended himself by describing the derogatory comments toward women as "locker room talk."
  • The claim: In his apology video, Trump shifted blame to Bill Clinton saying that the former president "has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close."
  • Explanation: Donald Trump often tried to bring up Clinton's affairs to deflect from his own lawsuits and claims from former Miss Universe and Apprentice contestants, as well as the bombshell Access Hollywood tape.

Sen. John McCain

  • Context: Shortly after the Access Hollywood tape was released, John McCain withdrew his support from Trump as the Republican nominee.
  • The claim: Trump tweeted a week later, "The very foul mouthed Sen. John McCain begged for my support during his primary (I gave, he won), then dropped me over locker room remarks!"
  • Explanation: In 2008, Trump did endorse McCain, saying, "I've known him. I like him. I respect him. He's a smart guy and I think he's going to be a great president."

Cherri Jacobus

  • Context: In January 2016, Cherri Jacobus, a Republican political strategist, said on CNN that Trump "comes off like a third grader faking his way through an oral report on current affairs."
  • The claim: Trump tweeted afterward, "Really dumb @CheriJacobus. Begged my people for a job. Turned her down twice and she went hostile. Major loser, zero credibility!" He also tweeted, "@cherijacobus begged us for a job. We said no and she went hostile. A real dummy! @CNN"
  • Explanation: Jacobus went on to file a defamation lawsuit, alleging Trump had attempted to sabotage her career after the comments she made.

Bob Vander Plaats

  • Context: Bob Vander Plaats, an Iowa conservative, refused to give Trump his endorsement, endorsing Ted Cruz instead.
  • The claim: Trump tweeted, "Why doesn't phony @bobvanderplaats tell his followers all the times he asked for him and his family to stay at my hotels-didn't like paying," as well as "@bobvanderplaats begged me to do an event while asking organizers for $100,000 for himself—a bad guy!"
  • Explanation: Vander Plaats replied to the first tweet with, "Still consider you a friend and you still can't have my endorsement. My friendship isn't phony." And to the second accusation, he tweeted, "you know that's not true. I gave you an introduction and opportunity and you charged the guy $100K. May work in NY not IA."

Barbara Res

  • Context: Barbara Res worked as the executive vice president and senior vice president of the Trump Organization. She spoke out against Trump throughout the campaign, and told her stories of him being "a supreme sexist" to several news agencies.
  • The claim: Trump tweeted, "Barbara Res is LYIN! She was BEGGING me for a job. I said NO! Now she says garbage about me! BAD!" and "What Barbara Res does not say is that she would call my company endlessly, and for years, trying to come back. I said no."
  • Explanation: Res told Frontline last September, "I was totally taken aback by this. I even sent him a letter. I had communicated with him a few times, once when I was looking for a job and then when I wrote the book. Then, a couple of times after that, when there were rumors about him and being a sexist and stuff like that, I wrote to him and said, 'You know, Donald, you had me in jobs, Trump Tower, so you certainly don't discriminate against women.'"
Go deeper