THE WASHINGTON POST OPINIONS
Individuals were expecting something special from Thursday’s White House press briefing, given the material churning through this news cycle.
On Wednesday night, Trump attorney, former New York City mayor and blabbermouth-at-large Rudy Giuliani told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that President Trump had repaid attorney Michael Cohen for the $130,000 that the latter had paid in hush money to Stormy Daniels. The repayment plan, said Giuliani, proceeded in $35,000 monthly installments.
Huh? But what about all the previous statements that contradicted Giuliani’s claim, such as Trump’s very own denial on April 5 that he knew anything about the payment? And the March 7 statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that “there was no knowledge of any payments from the president, and he’s denied all of these allegations”?
Reporters wanted to pierce these contradictions at the White House on Thursday afternoon. They failed to do so.
“We give the best information that we have at the time,” said Sanders in response to a question from Jonathan Karl of ABC News. Steering clear of the Stormy Daniels weeds, Karl wondered how the U.S. citizenry could trust the White House in light of statements that just didn’t hold up. In recent weeks, for instance, Trump denounced news reports portending a shake-up of his legal team; a shake-up of his legal team ensued. Also: Trump falsely bashed the Obama administration’s North Korea policy, Karl pointed out. And now there’s this latest Stormy Daniels flare-up.
To rebut those points, Sanders took a shallow dive into the merits of those situations but retreated to the warm waters of cliche: “And again, we give the best information possible at the time and we’re going to continue to do that.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta inspected the same dumpster of garbage. “Again, I can’t get into the details of the ongoing litigation. I’d refer you back to the president’s outside counsel,” said Sanders. Not content, Acosta pushed again about the timeline of knowledge on Daniels, noting Sanders’s March 7 statement — was she lying or was she in the dark? “The president has denied and continues to deny the underlying claim, and again, I’ve given the best information I had at the time,” responded the press secretary.
Again and again and again. It takes gumption, patience and no small amount of shamelessness to dissemble and evade with such consistency.
What’s eerie about Sanders’s Thursday evasions is that in the hands of straightforward people, the best-information-at-the-time response can be authentic and honest. People can make premature and incomplete statements about things. Understanding of events does progress over time.
Yet Sanders works for a man who defaults to mendacity. And when he’s not lying, chances are good that he’s wrong or ill-informed or just plain dumb. The facts and circumstances and statements that Sanders is called upon to defend each week inevitably come from him. All of which means that the “very best information possible at the time” is a can of piss. Glenn Thrush of the New York Times remarked last year that the information coming from the White House was “junk food.” Downgrade that to “poison.”