Monday, October 1, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He changed his stance on the Kavanaugh FBI investigation yet again.

Today, apparently on the spur of the moment, Trump changed his public explanation of what the FBI was allowed to do with respect to investigating Brett Kavanaugh's reported sexual assaults in high school and college. Here is a timeline of his evolving claims on the matter.

Before the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing. While Christine Blasey Ford (and other Kavanaugh accusers) were demanding an FBI investigation happen before last Thursday's hearing, Trump insisted that the FBI--that is, the Federal Bureau of Investigation--could not do an investigation of a candidate for federal office. 

This is absolutely not true.

Friday. In order to keep Kavanaugh's chances alive, Trump reversed course and agreed to let the FBI look into certain allegations. But he ordered that any such investigation be "limited in scope and completed in less than one week." 

Saturday. En route to a campaign rally, Trump said that the FBI had been "all over, talking to everybody" and that "they have free rein to do whatever they have to do."

In reality, as NBC and the New York Times reported the same day, the probe was extremely limited. It ignored at least one of Kavanaugh's named accusers (possibly because Trump is feuding with her lawyer), and had an approved witness list with only four names on it. 

Sunday. As witnesses began to complain publicly that the FBI was refusing to take their calls, Trump insisted that NBC's reporting had been wrong, and that he wanted the FBI to "interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion."

By the end of the third day of the seven-day investigation, there was no evidence to suggest that there had been any change.

Today. On the fourth day, ignoring Sunday's insistence that there were no limits on the "limited in scope" investigation, Trump said at a press conference on trade issues that the FBI could "interview anybody that they want within reason, but you have to say within reason."

Trump seemed to be bowing to pressure put on him by moderate Republican senators. But by the end of the day, there was no indication that the FBI's actual instructions had changed. (A president's comment at a press conference is not the same thing as an order.) 

Why does this matter?

  • Presidents who tell the truth the first time about major news events don't have to change their story every day.