Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, visibly shaken on Friday, went on the record to confirm Donald Trump's repeated use of the term "shithole" to refer to African countries during an immigration meeting Thursday in the Oval Office.
After Durbin—the sole Democrat in the room—broke the GOP's code of silence around Trump, the six Republican lawmakers in the room were left to pick up the pieces of their continued deception and naturally, some decided the best course of action was to continue doing what they have been doing all along: lie.
In particular, GOP Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue claimed they didn't "recall" those words "specifically," a lie both men repeated over the weekend.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, whom Durbin said objected to Trump's characterization during the meeting, hasn't denied Durbin's retelling and, on Monday, he took a swipe at Cotton and Perdue for doubling down on their deception. The Charleston Post and Courier writes:
In what appeared to be a direct jab at Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, Graham said, "My memory hasn't evolved. I know what was said and I know what I said." Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, said Friday that Graham told him media reports of what Trump said were “basically accurate."
Lindsey Graham is a lot like Sen. John McCain these days—sometimes he shows glimmers of hope and others he's just a run of the mill Republican doing Trump's bidding. But this appears to be one of his better episodes—perhaps because he actually feels some sense of conviction about the plight of Dreamers.
But he remains the only Republican in that room who has been willing to publicly signal that Durbin's version of events is accurate whereas Cotton and Perdue are just straight up lying.
What this means is that if Durbin hadn't been there, the public would likely still have no idea that Trump dissed African nations as "shitholes" because lying has become a way of life for GOP lawmakers under Trump, their grand marshal in the lying parade.
As MSNBC's Nicole Wallace reported Friday, it's a miracle that it took so long for something like this to leak because, frankly, this is standard fare for Trump.
I spoke to two of Donald Trump's close friends and allies of this White House—people who support the president personally and support most of his agenda—and they said, this is exactly how he talks. It's surprising that it took this long for something like this to leak.
When the NPR podcast Embedded reported a series on Trump's life before he became a politician, one former Apprentice executive producer, Bill Pruitt, talked about multiple cringe-inducing moments on set that he wasn’t at liberty to repeat due to his Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Was it just about women - mostly about women?
PRUITT: No - very much a racist issue.
[KELLY] MCEVERS: It was about race?
MCEVERS: About African-Americans, Jewish people, all of the above?
MCEVERS: And was it just him - I mean, were other - you know, was it sort of a Billy Bush situation where it was like. Yeah, man. I know what you mean, like, other people talking that way to you? Like, was it a culture of the place?
PRUITT: No. No, I think when you heard these things, there's the audible gasp. You know, that is quickly followed by a cough, kind of like (gasping), you know, then (coughing). Yes, and anyway, you know, and then you just sort of carry on.
The longer one contemplates Trump’s “shithole” remark, the more it becomes clear how often Republicans—who are usually left to their own devices in a room with Trump—must be lying and covering up for a guy who's M.O. is talking in overtly and offensively racist ways.
But the routine lying represents something worse than just a cover up, it reeks of absolute disrespect and contempt for voters.
Daniel Ellsberg—who famously exposed a decades-long ethic of the federal government lying to the American people about Vietnam by leaking the Pentagon Papers to media outlets in the early '70s—reflected on the ethos in his book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.
In the passage below, he remembered acclimating to having a high-level clearance at the Pentagon in the mid '60s:
Once I was inside the government, my awareness of how easily and pervasively Congress, the public, and journalists were fooled and misled contributed to a lack of respect for them and their potential contribution to better policy. That in turn made it easier to accept, to participate in, to keep quiet about practices of secrecy and deception that fooled them further and kept them ignorant of the real issues..."
This is exactly the loop Republican lawmakers are currently in and it's only gotten worse during Trump's presidency. They have been telling mistruths to their constituents for decades—about science, about their agenda and the results it will yield, about who's responsible for what. The more they have lied and still gotten votes, the easier it has become, and the more disrespect they have developed for the voters they are fooling. That’s made it even easier to continue lying—believing in fact that voters aren't really capable of knowing the truth.
That has given lawmakers like Sens. Cotton and Perdue license to feel completely comfortable, and even righteous, about lying and then lying again, even on national TV. Why not? The voters are not only too stupid to figure out the truth, in their estimation, they’re also too stupid to be trusted with it.