The 5-Minute Fix: Why Sean Spicer's fact slip was more than a slip up
Sponsored by SEIU | Day 14 of President Trump's claim that President Obama tapped his phones during the campaign, and we're basically in a standoff. Trump won't back down, but he won't provide any evidence either. That's forcing his loyal aides to reach well past deductive reasoning into the land of -- well, of laughable reasoning. That's always a dangerous game …
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By Amber Phillips Day 14 of President Trump's claim that President Obama tapped his phones during the campaign, and we're basically in a standoff. Trump won't back down, but he won't provide any evidence either. That's forcing his loyal aides to reach well past deductive reasoning into the land of -- well, of laughable reasoning. That's always a dangerous game to play on this stage, and one insinuation really crossed the line this week. The slip-up: Trump's main spokesman, Sean Spicer, suggested in a news briefing Thursday that British intelligence helped President Obama spy on Trump. Uhhh...no we didn't, replied Britain. The suggestion was so audacious the U.S. national security adviser had to apologize to the Brits. More questionable facts: Spicer also seized on a top Hill Republican's statement "it's possible" Trump's phones were wrapped up in surveillance that wasn't targeted at him. So there's your evidence Trump was wiretapped, Spicer argued, totally ignoring the fact House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes (Calif.) said "clearly the president was wrong." Collecting unrelated strings of reality to fit one's own reality is the definition of a conspiracy theory. So what's going on here? White House press secretary Sean Spicer (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) The answer that makes the most sense says Chris Cillizza, is that Trump wants Spicer to go out and defend like hell his evidence-free claim he was wiretapped. Spicer may have pleased his boss, but he created a much bigger headache for his country. Cillizza: "Words matter. Facts matter. And if the spokesman for the president of the United States shows a cavalierness with words and facts, it sends a dangerous message to the country and the world." Why is Trump unwilling to acknowledge an alternative to his reality? Trump, you may have realized by now, does not traffic in gray. It's black or white/good or bad/right or wrong/his team or not his team. Perhaps Trump sees nuance as a sign of weakness. He certainly seems to blanch at the prospect of acknowledging remorse about pretty much anything: "No, I don't regret anything," is how Candidate Trump reflected on his fight with a family who lost a son in the Iraq War. "No, he's proud of his heritage. I respect him for that," is how Candidate Trump defended his race-based attacks on a federal judge. "No. I won," is what a newly elected Trump told the Wall Street Journal when asked if his campaign rhetoric went too far. Can he really cut Meals on Wheels? In WaPo's podcast "Can He Do That?", host Allison Michaels explores whether the president can make all of the BIGLY cuts to the federal budget he proposed this week — in addition to snipping 19 agencies, his critics have seized on the fact his budget would impact the money that helps provide Meals on Wheels for seniors and other immobile people. The short answer: No, he can't. Presidents don't set spending levels. Congress does. The not-as-short answer: Presidents' budgets often influence the spending decisions Congress makes, a phenomenon Michaels explores in her podcast. Boring but important glossary: The budget! (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Whether they agree with Trump or not, Congress will spend the next few months arguing about how much to fund the government. Let's decode the budget speak they'll use: Skinny budget: It's not just Trump's ideal federal government. It's actually what a president's first budget is called, given they don't have time in their first few months to write a full (fat?) one. Discretionary spending: All the spending that Congress can turn the dial up or down on year to year — things like housing assistance, foreign aid, law enforcement grants, military spending. This makes up just one-third of the federal budget, but a lot of the stuff we think of when we think of the government is discretionary. Mandatory spending: The expenses Congress MUST pay year after year and can't change unless they make major reforms, like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid payments. This is about two-thirds of the federal budget. Trump's budget doesn't even look at this bucket, which is why some nonpartisan budget experts dismissed it. Deficit: Each year's difference in spending vs. income. Not to be confused with the ... Debt: The total amount, of all the years, of debt the United States has. Nonpartisan budget experts say it's the highest share of the economy since World War II. Not boring and arguably not as important Trump hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday. From the outside looking in, the meeting appeared every bit as awkward as you'd expect, given one of the leaders thinks the other is "ruining Germany." Our top four photos from the day, complete with REAL thoughts from the people in them: 1. "Oh, hullo there. We're taking photos? No one told me there would be photos. Damnit, why are we taking photos?!" (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP) 2. "I'd rather be in line at the DMV, or on hold with the bank, or at a gas station —</em> anywhere — </em>than here" (PAT BENIC / POOL via European Pressphoto Agency) 3. "So ... about the weather?" (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters) 4. "Uh-huh." (Evan Vucci/AP)
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