Why fake news in the White House is different than the campaign trail
Millions of people voted illegally, Donald Trump says. Will he do something about it?
The media reset lasted less than six hours. After press secretary Sean Spicer recovered from his Saturday exchange with journalists, President Donald Trump brought up his favorite lie: That more than 3 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. In fact, that number grew Monday to between 3 and 5 million. Trump's comment in a private meeting with congressional leaders is patently false; first spread by Trump on Twitter, it has been repeatedly proven false. But Monday night, Trump felt the need to brag about his victory and argue a popular vote win was stolen from him.
Trump's insistence on this popular vote lie raised eyebrows during the transition. But now that the president has questioned American democracy in the White House, a new host of questions arise.
• Will Trump push for a national voter ID law because he believes undocumented immigrants vote by the millions?
• Will he push for greater federal control over the decentralized election process?
• Will he use this claim as justification for stricter immigration policies?
• Will Republicans go along? This we have the most reason to anticipate: The GOP has long supported voter ID laws and other restrictions on electoral participation across the country.
Because Trump made this statement in the White House, Spicer will be forced to comment on it. How he chooses to defend Trump will be important — and will send a message to Congress about how seriously they need to take these comments from a policy perspective. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a vague, deflecting statement about Trump's comments — suggesting Republicans are not willing to tell the president he is lying. But to that point, do most Americans even care anymore that Trump lies?
Yes, this is a trend. Mashable has cataloged a number of false statements on the issues sections of the Trump administration's White House website. These false claims — including inflated murder rates and the economic impact of Barack Obama's energy policies — are linked to a new Wired report on the false information spread by networks of seemingly legitimate think tanks. Trump's attraction to these "alternative facts" comes from his sense of being wronged by the media and establishment over the past 18 months. As detailed by a new inside-the-White-House Washington Post exposé, questions about crowd size cut to the core of Trump's feelings — and will bring a fiery response every time.
The takeaway: Facts have never been under such forceful attack.
This is Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America — and how it affects you. Welcome to your daily fact check. Want to receive this as a daily email in your inbox? Subscribe here.
• Today: He did it again — this time, in the White House. Donald Trump is still repeating the lie that millions of votes were cast illegally on Nov. 8, 2016.
• Confirmation updates: Tuesday will be busy. Several Trump Cabinet nominees will be on Capitol Hill for expected confirmation votes. The Senate confirmed Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo as the new CIA director on Monday night. Rex Tillerson, Trump's nominee for secretary of state who has close ties to Russia, received the support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
• More: The president hits the ground running with his "America First" theme.
• Even More: Trump will reverse Barack Obama's policy and allow the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines to move forward.
• Where's Trump? Washington, D.C.
What Trump did on his first working day
The White House is working to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead, a move Trump called "great thing for the American worker." (What that could mean for you.) But that claim could turn out to be more fake news. Mic's James Dennin has a detailed explanation of how limiting free trade could hurt people at the bottom of the income scale. "Loads of evidence suggests that protectionism can backfire by making cheap goods more expensive," Dennin writes. "Lower-income and middle-class Americans, who rely on cheap goods disproportionately, will feel these side effects most acutely."
Instead of trade deals between multiple countries, Trump will negotiate one by one with each nation to deliver the best trade deal for the U.S. Only time will tell if that strategy succeeds.
Beyond trade, Monday offered a focus on jobs. Trump met with technology and manufacturing sector leaders in the morning, and union leaders, typically close allies of Democrats, came to the White House in the afternoon. Spicer said Tuesday the president is focused squarely on the lives of people who attended his rallies, and that even by working two jobs, they cannot get by. This theme continues Tuesday, when Trump will meet with the heads of American auto companies.
The theme Trump is using to give himself momentum among the lowest post-inauguration approval ratings in history: "America First."
News and insight you cannot miss:
• Breaking morning news from Trump: It's not exactly a surprise, but Trump will keep James Comey as head of the FBI. The FBI director serves a ten-year term and was appointed by Obama in 2013. (New York Times)
• More news: Trump will allow the Dakota Access and Keystone pipeline projects to move forward. This is a major reversal of policy from the Obama administration. Shares for the companies involved in those projects shot up on Tuesday morning. (Bloomberg Politics)
• Trump may have used Monday to focus on the economy, but the president also issued a hiring freeze in the executive branch. Who could that hurt the most? Veterans, because they are given preference in hiring for federal jobs. (Washington Post)
• The Trump Organization no longer has any affiliation with its namesake. The president reportedly removed himself from his company and 400 affiliated entities as of Jan. 19. (NBC News) But that does not mean Trump is clear of conflict-of-interest concerns: A lawsuit filed Monday claims Trump is violating the Constitution by benefitting from foreign payments to properties where he maintains a financial interest. Trump called the lawsuit "totally without merit" in the Oval Office. (Mic)
• Monday brought another executive order: action to limit abortion. Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule, which bans federal funds from going to nongovernmental organizations that provide abortion services or information about abortion to people seeing reproductive health care overseas. (Mic) The optics of the signing were not good, with no women standing alongside Trump when he signed the order. (Mic) This move came after West Virginia became the latest state to have only one abortion clinic. It joins at least four other states, including geographically large states like North Dakota and Wyoming, in having a singular option for abortion providers. (Mic)
• Some immigration news: The White House is not itching to overturn Obama's policy that allows "dreamers" to remain in the U.S. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protects some people brought into the U.S. as children from deportation. Trump said during the campaign it was an "illegal executive amnesty." But Monday, Spicer said Trump is more focused on building a border wall and deporting violent undocumented immigrants. (Wall Street Journal)
• Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign staffers and progressive journalists are joining forces in a bid to take over the Democratic party. (Mic)
• Mic is monitoring the potential challengers to Trump in 2020, from both sides of the aisle. No, it's not too early to be thinking about it.
Tuesday brings a packed schedule to Capitol Hill. By the end of the day, a sizable portion of Trump's Cabinet will be confirmed or nearly over the finish line. Senate committees will again consider Tom Price for secretary of health and human services. The Georgia congressman is a staunch critic of the Affordable Care Act. His testimony last week was marked by heated criticism from Democrats about how he would reform American health insurance and stock trades he made in a company that would have benefitted from a bill he introduced in the House. Price's confirmation still seems likely, but Tuesday will likely bring a closer critique.
Mick Mulvaney will appear in front of two congressional committees to make his case as Trump's nominee for head of the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney would be responsible for the federal budget — a role that is expected to bring his history of not paying taxes under close scrutiny. Linda McMahon, co-founder of the World Wrestling Federation who has tried to enter Washington politics for years, will appear before senators as Trump's nominee to become director of the Small Business Administration.
The latest Trump tweets have been tamer: