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— chelsea adelaine hassler (@chelseaadelaine) May 3, 2018
At the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz, it's revealed that the Wizard isn't actually some big, giant, omniscient talking head — instead, he's a tiny, red-faced, white-haired madman. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," he yells, furiously trying to hide behind a silken emerald screen.
This may seem like a random tangent, but it's quickly becoming the best representation of the dichotomy between what President Donald Trump says to the world versus the stories those around him tell. Fiction versus the actual fact is a recurring theme, too — just ask his doctor or his lawyers, who have been subjected to the recurring pattern of "That's the truth!" before the inevitable "yeah, what had happened was . . . "
The most recent example of this playing out on a grand scale can be found in a May 2 appearance by Trump legal team member (and former New York City mayor) Rudy Giuliani, on presidential chum Sean Hannity's Fox News show, Hannity. The late-evening conversation between the adviser and pro-president voicebox seemed innocuous enough but soon revealed major lies told by Trump.
Giuliani explained that Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey because he refused to publicly state that the president "was not a target of the investigation," a fact that many are pointing out as an example of obstruction of justice. Giuliani then went on to drop a massive second bomb, admitting that Trump actually had a hand in the Stormy Daniels payoff that he has stressed to know nothing about.
"Trump didn't know about specifics," Giuliani said of the Daniels payment. "But he did know about the general arrangement." Giuliani then explained that Trump's handling of the $130,000 payment was entirely legal and didn't violate campaign finance laws because it was "funneled it through a law firm" by way of paying back Michael Cohen, the lawyer's president who orchestrated the payment.
Remarkable: Hannity tries to give Rudy opportunity to clean up comment Trump reimbursed him for Stormy payment. But Rudy insists: "I was talking about the $130K payment . . . That was money paid by his lawyer . . . and the president had reimbursed him over a period of several months"
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 3, 2018
Despite Hannity scrambling to cover up the many admissions by the former mayor, the damage was done. Daniels's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, spoke with MSNBC by phone that evening and was "absolutely speechless." "[Americans] deserve to be told the truth by your president," he said. "This is an outrage what has gone on here. The American people have been lied to about this agreement."
The morning after the Hannity appearance, Trump admitted he did indeed know all about the Daniels payment. "This was a private agreement," Trump tweeted. "Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction."
While the cleanup crew has been moving fast — Giuliani appeared on Fox & Friends and Fox Business Network the morning after — this is yet another example of our presidential wizard at work. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," we may be told, articulated via Twitter and by various presidential surrogates. Unfortunately for them, we see how far back the orange curtain has been pulled.
Thank you for that, presidential watchdogs.