The Russia investigation has ensnared three Trump campaign officials, a former national security advisor, and the President’s son-in-law.
Donald Trump has snubbed global leaders at a public forum and played a guessing game with the world as to whether he will take the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, making America one of only three countries not participating.
And his executive order on restricting lobbyists from doing some kinds of government work has been waived for at least 17 new White House appointees, enabling them to work on areas connected to their former interests in the private sector.
With all this going on, why was one of the biggest stories emanating from the White House this week Trump’s mysterious invention of the word “covfefe”?
It was blatantly obvious from the context of the tweet (which read, in its entirety: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe”), that this was a simple mis-typing of “coverage”. Nonetheless, Trump used the incident as an opportunity for some misdirection and endeavoured to keep the mystery alive for a full news cycle.
The misspelled tweet was kept up for six hours, while Twitter speculated in a frenzy about what it might mean. Trump then returned to his account to stoke the flames. “Who can figure out the true meaning of ‘covfefe’ ??? Enjoy!” he taunted. “The President and a small group of people know exactly what he meant,” insisted Sean Spicer, Trump’s beleaguered press secretary whose harried attempts to spin for the White House have reduced him to a caricature.
This is, of course, a lie. No one knew what Trump meant by the word, because the word was a typo. Any other world leader (not that other world leaders have such an addiction to Twitter) would have acknowledged the error, perhaps tried to make a joke out of it, and the story would have died there. But Trump got his team to lie for him rather than admit he had made a mistake.
On the very first full day of his presidency, Trump sent Spicer into the White House press briefing room to lie about the numbers attending his inauguration. When Spicer’s figures were proven false, Kellyanne Conway was put in front of cameras to talk about “alternative facts”. At the time, many journalists worried that, if the President was prepared to manufacture such deceit about something as trivial as attendance levels, what would stop him misleading the American public on far more important matters that could threaten national security?
Between the augmented crowd numbers and the definition of “covfefe”, here’s what has happened. Trump repeatedly defended the disgraced Michael Flynn, who broke protocols and ethics guidelines by having illicit conversations with Russian officials, and then lied about it. It later emerged that Flynn had received lobbying payments worth $600,000 from a Turkish man linked to Russia that he had failed to declare on his security clearance form. Trump fired the FBI director on spurious grounds, after the director refused a personal request to drop the Bureau’s investigation into Flynn.
As for the President’s businesses, despite pledging before the inauguration not to engage in any new foreign deals, the global reach of the Trump companies has continued to creep. In March, China granted 38 Trump trademarks that had been pending for nearly a year but were coincidentally authorised days after the President changed his mind and announced he would honour the One China policy. His contentious ban on travellers from mainly-Muslim countries notably did not include Middle Eastern nations with which he has business ties, including the UAE and Turkey.
Meanwhile his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is under investigation for his own undisclosed contact with Russia, has been Trump’s unofficial foreign policy surrogate. His company continues to broker lucrative international deals, including a $400m investment from a Chinese conglomerate in March. Kushner’s sister also appeared to use her brother’s position at a controversial event at which the family company pitched US visas to wealthy Chinese investors – for $500,000 each.
On top of all of this, the President still has not released his tax returns, which would clarify once and for all what his conflicts of interests are and whether the precautions taken to mitigate them are sufficient. It is almost a certainty that they are not.
These are oversights that could already be undermining US foreign policy. The American people and the global community deserve answers. Instead, they have a President who revels in misleading his audience, surrounded by officials who are prepared to cover for him.
If the White House can’t even tell the truth about a typo, what else are they hiding?