US President Donald Trump's recent statements and tweets on the Middle East have puzzled US friends and foes alike by threatening further escalation of regional conflicts.
Last year, he said that he would "seek harmony" in the Middle East as US commander-in-chief. But after his first visit to the region, tensions began to rise, especially in the Gulf. Now Trump's flip-flopping is threatening the stability of the area, which holds some 50 percent of the world's energy reserves.
On one hand, after long claiming that Saudi Arabia hated America and was behind 9/11, he now sees the kingdom as the bedrock of regional security and moderation, America's best friend and foremost ally in the "war on terror".
On the other hand, less than two weeks after calling Qatar a "crucial strategic partner" in his Riyadh speech, and boasting of selling it "beautiful" American weapons, he suddenly began to jeer against Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.
To add to the confusion, Trump then offered to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and asked his secretary of state to calm the situation and urge restraint, which he did rather tactfully in a carefully worded public statement.
But less than an hour later, Trump accused Qatar of historic, high-level support of terrorism and undermined his foreign policy establishment in the process.
All of which begs the question: Why? Why the dramatic u-turn on Saudi Arabia, the confusion on Qatar? And what are the implications for the region?
Puzzling foreign policy
Some blamed the administration's most recent flip-flop on the persistent foreign policy confusion in the Trump White House. Others detected complicity between the president and his secretary of state, suggesting that they have been playing "good cop-bad cop" with Qatar.
For his part, Trump claimed that he took the position against Qatar after his meetings in the region, where his counterparts told him of Qatar's support for terrorism.
But what could the Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians and Bahrainis say that the CIA, Department of State or the Pentagon didn't know or couldn't share with the president before his upbeat meeting with the emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani?
After all, Qatar has $30bn worth of investments in the United States and stands out as the host of the largest American military base in the Middle East, from which much of the "war on terror" is being fought in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, most of the trumped up charges against Qatar are either demonstrably thin, false or totally fake.
For example, the Band of Four accuses Qatar of supporting the Taliban because it opened an office for the Afghan insurgency, when in fact it did so at the behest of the US administration to facilitate peace talks.
Qatar has also been accused of supporting some of the anti-regime groups in Syria, but a number of its Gulf partners also did so. Moreover, General Joseph Vogel, chief of the US military's Central Command, wrote that Qatar is a "key and critical" ally that could be of much help in facilitating a sustainable deal in Syria.
Hamas' political presence in Doha was another item of complaint. But by allowing Hamas a political presence in their capital, the Qataris have had a moderating effect on the Palestinian resistance group. It's perhaps worth remembering that Hamas won the last legislative elections in Palestine, which the Bush administration helped facilitate a decade ago.
He that is without sin...
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has rightly claimed Qatar has "a history of supporting groups that span the spectrum of political expression from activism to violence". But who doesn't do that in the Middle East? Washington also has such a record, and it is a very long and extensive one. Besides, it's no vice to support those who seek freedom from occupation and oppression.
Unless the US and European foreign policy establishments restrain the Trump presidency from taking more reckless steps, we may be heading towards more regional chaos and conflict.
The same goes for accusations against Qatar "punching above its weight", especially when it does so in the realm of soft power, like media, philanthropy and sport. Don't tiny UAE and Israel, just like Saudi Arabia, punch above their weights in most controversial ways?
And then there's my favourite accusation of Qatar "having it both ways" by presumably financing Al Jazeera and providing platforms for persons and groups hostile to US and Israel, and at the same time hosting the biggest US military base in the region. Assuming that's a real issue, for that I say, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone."
It seems to me that's traditionally what countries do, for ill or good. Some call it statecraft or a balancing act. Others refer to it as pragmatism or opportunism. But it's certainly nothing abnormal in international relations, especially when it comes to smaller countries trying to stay afloat in stormy waters.
Also, which country involved in this whole mess doesn't try to "have it both ways"? Could it be the Egyptians, who condemned Hamas and opened an indirect channel to the Palestinian group in Gaza? The Emiratis, who accuse Qatar of interfering in other countries' affairs, while intervening militarily in Libya, Yemen and other countries? Could it be the Saudis, who speak of regional stability while waging a reckless war in Yemen? Or be it the US, which supports its NATO ally, Turkey, while simultaneously arming its nemesis within, the PYD/PKK?
How do any of these even begin to compare with what Qatar does?
To be sure, Qatar has made a few mistakes of its own in the early days of the Arab Spring, but it also seems to have learned from past mistakes, notably the idea that diplomacy trumps war, and mediation, openness and reform is the safest and best long-term bet in an evermore complicated region.
And Qatar is back at doing what it does best. Like a Geneva in the Gulf, it hosted mediation efforts among various conflicting parties, be they Palestinians, Lebanese, Sudanese, Afghans, Libyans or others; certainly more than any other state in the region. And whatever leverage it has over so-called extremist groups, it has used effectively to resolve, not inflame conflict.
Alas, some of Qatar's more hostile neighbours seem to have concluded the opposite after their adventures in Yemen as well as Libya and Syria. After decades of destructive wars, they're now advocating open confrontation with Tehran.
To be sure, Qatar has long sided with Saudi Arabia in opposing Iran's sectarian policies in the region, especially in Iraq and Syria. But like most other Arab and Western nations, it opposes an open showdown with Iran in the Gulf, and rejects the idea of regime change there - especially as the Iranians continue to show support for moderate governments that are frequently at odds with Iranian extremists and are more concerned with building up their country than with regional hegemony.
And yet, the US president has allowed Riyadh to take draconian measures against Qatar even after it became clear that their pretexts are false and their consequences, intended or otherwise, are leading to serious escalation and instability in the region.
So if it's not about Qatari behaviour, what is the crisis about and why has Trump inflamed it?
Bribed, duped or complicit?
One grudge Trump might have against Qatar lies in the fact that, unlike the Emiratis and the Saudis, who invested in his properties and gave him generous concessions, it didn't give Trump business incentives that would allow him to expand his brand in the country.
But such banality couldn't really be the reason why the US president was so prone to ride the anti-Qatar bandwagon, could it? Alas, and for the record, during his campaign, Trump did boast about liking the Saudis for buying $40 million apartments in his towers.
Considering his tendency to value money above principle, and everything else, the US president was clearly "bribed" by his Saudi hosts during his visit to the country. They offered the Trump administration hundreds of billions of dollars of lucrative arms purchases and promises of investment before asking their guest to support them against their nemesis, Qatar.
Indeed, the Saudis exploited Trump's short-sighted consent to outsource his campaign against "Islamic terrorism" in order to frame Qatar. They also used this opportunity to deflect any and all US accusations directed at the kingdom in the US Congress and media.
But Trump might've also had an agenda of his own that correlated with that of the Saudis and Emiratis. Trump made a strategic decision to reverse Obama's policy towards the Middle East and has committed his administration to support Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and the UAE against Sunni extremism and Iranian clerics.
This meant creating the right conditions for rapprochement between Israel, the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia; the so-called "outside-in" approach to resolving - or rather dissolving - the Palestinian issue. The fact that this effort is headed by Trump's inexperienced, radically Zionist son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who maintains close relations with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaks volumes. We are witnessing an "unholy trinity" that's bound to destroy any hope for regional stability.
Worse, instead of leading an already quite disastrous regional coalition against Iran, Trump lazily entrusted this new strategy to his reckless junior allies. This is exactly what his predecessor, President Barack Obama, rejected. Obama refused to be dragged into petty squabbles and regional confrontations. He may have been weak on Syria, but he was smart to decouple US strategy from that of its regional clients, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
In short, Obama refrained from leveraging US power to these unsavoury or inexperienced regional players, which would have been utterly dangerous, if not totally suicidal.
This might explain the reason why the experienced men and women at the US State Department and the Pentagon didn't go along with President Trump's unconditional embrace of Riyadh, and warned against drinking Abu Dhabi's Kool-Aid.
Indeed, Secretary Tillerson was "mystified" by the sudden escalation and took the initiative from the White House to lash out at Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their procrastination and lack of seriousness in articulating their grievances and presenting their demands to Qatar. He also questioned the motivations behind the crisis, arguing that they manufactured the crisis with Qatar to settle old grievances that have nothing to do with terrorism or security.
Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, who has ample experience in the Gulf region, insisted that the demands from Qatar must be "reasonable and actionable" in order to bring a swift end to the crisis and avoid compromising wider US interests.
Interestingly, since Tillerson publicly reprimanded Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their procrastination, President Trump has (thus far) kept quiet and allowed his more qualified foreign policy chiefs to handle the crisis with caution and maturity.
Indeed, the White House seemingly made another u-turn last week, saying that the Gulf crisis was a "family issue" rather than an international crisis about supporting terrorism.
Wait! What! A family feud? Really?! So what about accusing Qatar of "historic high-level support of terrorism" and giving the green light to the Emirati and Saudi leaders to behave recklessly? Is it really possible to classify this crisis as a "family issue" after the Band of Four exploited Trump's folly to besiege Qatar, split the GCC, and plunge the region into a downward spiral?
The damned demands
When a list of demands that the Band of Four say Qatar must comply with in order to end the crisis was finally released, it turned out to be neither reasonable nor actionable. Indeed, there's a general consensus that the demands in the 13-point list are anything but "measured and realistic", to quote UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
If anything, the wording, tone and sweeping nature of the document signal total ignorance of international law and the UN charter. The text underlines Saudi Arabia and the UAE's unmasked intention to take control of Qatar's sovereignty and independent foreign policy.
The assumptions in the list, such as Qatar's support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, known as ISIS) or al-Qaeda, are clearly baseless. And contrary to US insistence on evidence to support their accusations, there was absolutely nothing in the document to support these outrageous claims.
The Band of Four demands that Qatar downgrade diplomatic relations with Iran, even though the UAE is Iran's leading trading partner in the GCC, and the other GCC members, Oman and Kuwait, nurture stronger diplomatic relations with Tehran than Qatar.
And they demanded that Qatar round up all opposition figures from their countries in contravention to international humanitarian law, and demanded that Qatar treat the Muslims Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, not a mere opposition group, as seen by most countries of the world. Qatar, like most or all Western nations, has long warned of the dangers and implications of sweeping generalisations and the labelling of popular political opposition groups as "terrorist".
The Band of Four regimes also require Qatar to shut down a modest Turkish military base it has been hosting for over two years, while continuing to host a US base. How is this a logical demand given that the UAE is hosting a French military base and Bahrainan American naval base?
But the demand that smacks of total hypocrisy and, frankly, stupidity, is the one that calls for an immediate shutdown of Al Jazeera, its affiliates and all other media outlets that are presumably supported directly or indirectly by Qatar.
These demands reflect Saudi, Emirati, Egyptian and Bahraini intolerance for difference of opinion and press freedom. These countries are attempting to silence respectable media outlets when they themselves finance and support propaganda outlets that are infamous for their hate and sectarian speech.
Fortunately, this demand has been rejected and condemned by renowned media organisations, such as the New York Times and The Guardian, as well as international rights organisations.
Last but not least, the demand that Qatar complies with all 13 conditions in 10 days, and also consent to provide monthly compliance reports, underline the obvious fact that the Band of Four is not willing to resolve the crisis for anything short of the total surrender of Qatar's sovereignty.
All of this begs the question: Why is the Band of Four so eager to suppress Al Jazeera and Qatar's independent foreign policy?
Another major Gulf conflict?
When Tillerson finally weighed in on the list of demands this past weekend, he said some are difficult to meet and others may work as a base for long-term dialogue. But that's just a diplomatic way to say the demands are not actionable, measured or realistic.
Now the Band of Four is threatening Qatar with "divorce" if it doesn't swiftly and fully comply with its demands, which clearly demonstrates that this crisis is not a simple "family feud" or a rift caused by Qatar's alleged support for terrorism.
In reality, this quarrel has little or nothing to do with combatting terrorism. These four regimes are responsible for the death of tens of thousands, and hold tens of thousands of political prisoners. They will not stop until they erase any and all traces of the Arab Spring and the ideas it envisioned in the minds of Arabs; namely, justice and freedom of speech. These dreams may "contaminate" the peoples of the Gulf and the rest of the Arab world.
They insist on shutting down all forums that give voice to the ideas of the Arab Spring, including Al Jazeera, and on ending Qatar's assistance or support for anyone or any group that survived the counterrevolution in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.
Unfortunately, despite their dark, repressive and reactionary nature, these measures in effect complement the White House's embrace of Arab "thugs, dictators and strongmen" at the expense of their peoples in order to narrowly advance Trump's pro-Israeli, anti-Iranian and anti-Islamist agenda in the region.
Unless the US and European foreign policy establishments restrain the Trump presidency from taking more reckless steps, we may be heading towards more regional chaos and conflict.
After all, the blowbacks from another major showdown in the Gulf will worsen Western and Arab security alike. ALIKE.
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera. Follow him on Facebook.
نشرت مجلة الأعمال الأمريكية الشهيرة «فوربس» مقالا تحت عنوان «الحرب المقبلة بين السعودية وإيران ستجعل من أصحاب حقول النفط الصخري الأمريكية أغنياء جدا». تقوم فكرة المقالة إذن على الترويج للغنى الفاحش الذي سيحصل عليه رجال أعمال أمريكيون عندما تخرج المعارك بالوكالة بين البلدين الإسلاميين الجارين لتصبح حرباً مباشرة في تكرار لسيناريو الحرب العراقية ـ الإيرانية التي اندلعت عام 1980 وانتهت عام 1988 مخلفة قرابة مليون قتيل وتدمير هائل لاقتصاد البلدين. تقوم المجلة الشهيرة عمليّاً على ركنين متساندين، الأول يوضّح لماذا تتزايد احتمالات حصول «حادث عسكري» بين البلدين، والثاني يزيّد الفوائد التي ستنتج عن حصول هذا «الحادث» ويعتبر حصول ذلك سيناريو «الحلم» للشركات الأمريكية.
يزيّن الكاتب للفوائد التي ستهبط على الاقتصاد الأمريكي بالقول إن الأرباح التي سيتم جنيها ستقوم بتمويل العجز التجاري وتكرّس وضع واشنطن كمصدّر أساسي للنفط. «كلما طالت الأزمة المحتملة في الشرق الأوسط كلما زادت حصة الشركات الأمريكية».
لا تسوّق المقالة إذن للحرب وتقدم الدعاية التسويقية لنتائجها الإيجابية على الاقتصاد الأمريكي ككل، ولكنّها تقترح «الصدف» المناسبة لحصولها كما أنها تشير بوضوح إلى أن واشنطن وإدارة الرئيس دونالد ترامب يمكن ألا تفعل شيئا لتمنع حصول هذه الحرب بين الخصمين الأيديولوجيين الكبيرين! الأغرب من ذلك أن المقالة تزعم أن هذه الحرب ستفيد المملكة العربية السعودية أيضاً لأن ارتفاع أسعار النفط سيمهد الطريق لخطة جعل أسهم شركة أرامكو السعودية متاحة للبيع وسيعطي حقولها النفطية المستهلكة بكثافة بعض الراحة لكن هناك إشكالية صغيرة يمكن أن تحصل وهي أن هذه الحرب «يمكن أن تحمل مخاطر كبيرة للنظامين خصوصاً إذا كان هناك عدد كبير من الضحايا»!
تبدو المقالة موجّهة لحثّ إدارة ترامب في واشنطن (التي تحبّ الجمع بين البزنس والسياسة)وإلى رجال الأعمال الأمريكيين الطامحين لأرباح فاحشة على العمل على تطبيق «سيناريو الحلم» المذكور، ولعلّ ما شجّع هذا التوجّه ما لاحظه السياسيون ورجال الأعمال الأمريكيون من سطوة وأهميّة لترامب لدى السعودية وحلفائها، ومن دعوة شديدة إلى تدخّل الأمريكيين في شؤون دول الخليج السياسية. لا يبدو خافيا أيضاً علاقة هذه الخفّة الأمريكية في النظر إلى شؤون السعودية وأحوالها بالتوتّر المتصاعد في الخليج الذي تزايد مع الأزمة الحاصلة بين السعودية والإمارات والبحرين في قرارها المتهوّر بمحاصرة قطر وهو قرار يضيّق على الدوحة لكنّه يضيّق على محاصريها أيضاً ويفتح الباب لتحرّكات إقليمية وتموضعات إجبارية وإمكانيات غير محسوبة. لا يحتاج هذا «السيناريو» إلى أحلام رجال الأعمال وغطرسة ترامب وشطط بعض دول الخليج بل يحتاج أيضاً إلى مسح كامل لذكريات جيل كامل من العرب عن الحرب العراقية ـ الإيرانية التي وجدت وقتها تشجيعاً كبيراً من دول الخليج، ومرّت بتنكّرهم للجار العراقي الذي ورّطوه في الحرب المهولة ثم استهانوا بأحوال العراقيين الاقتصادية مما دفع قيادتهم لتهوّر تاريخي مشابه عبر احتلال الكويت لتنتهي الملحمة بإجهاز الأمريكيين والإيرانيين على العراق المهيض الجناح وبانفتاح الباب مصائب تتوالى على العرب منذ ذلك الحين.
Having both Qatar and Saudi Arabia trusting the US to be the honest broker in their latest dispute reminds me of the story of the two cats in the book of Kalila wa-Dimna. This is one of the most popular books every Arab grows up knowing.
The story of the two cats goes something like this:
Two cats found a piece of cheese and started fighting about who should have it. After a while they decided to go to the wise old monkey (aka Tillerson) to settle the dispute. Tillerson cut the cheese into two unequal pieces (wise old monkey). He then weighed them. Finding that one piece is a bit larger, he helped himself to a bite to supposedly make the pieces equal. Well, now the other piece was heavier so Tillerson took a bite from that one. This kept on going until Tillerson ate all the cheese and the foolish cats looked on in despair.
This is how the US is getting the most from both Qatar and SA. Hundreds of billions of dollars in arms' sales, and more exploitation from both sides. All along supposedly Tillerson and Trump issue contradictory statements about the dispute. There is nothing contradictory or confusing about that policy, it is the monkey getting all the cheese!
Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them. So we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.
JAN. 21 “I wasn't a fan of Iraq. I didn't want to go into Iraq.” (He was for an invasion before he was against it.)JAN. 21 “A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.” (Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times.)JAN. 23 “Between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused me to lose the popular vote.” (There's no evidence of illegal voting.)JAN. 25 “Now, the audience was the biggest ever. But this crowd was massive. Look how far back it goes. This crowd was massive.” (Official aerial photos show Obama's 2009 inauguration was much more heavily attended.)JAN. 25 “Take a look at the Pew reports (which show voter fraud.)” (The report never mentioned voter fraud.)JAN. 25 “You had millions of people that now aren't insured anymore.” (The real number is less than 1 million, according to the Urban Institute.)JAN. 25 “So, look, when President Obama was there two weeks ago making a speech, very nice speech. Two people were shot and killed during his speech. You can't have that.” (There were no gun homicide victims in Chicago that day.)JAN. 26 “We've taken in tens of thousands of people. We know nothing about them. They can say they vet them. They didn't vet them. They have no papers. How can you vet somebody when you don't know anything about them and you have no papers? How do you vet them? You can't.” (Vetting lasts up to two years.)JAN. 26 “I cut off hundreds of millions of dollars off one particular plane, hundreds of millions of dollars in a short period of time. It wasn't like I spent, like, weeks, hours, less than hours, and many, many hundreds of millions of dollars. And the plane's going to be better.” (Most of the cuts were already planned.)JAN. 28 “The coverage about me in the @nytimes and the @washingtonpost has been so false and angry that the Times actually apologized to its dwindling subscribers and readers.” (It never apologized.)JAN. 29 “The Cuban-Americans, I got 84 percent of that vote.” (There is no support for this.)JAN. 30 “Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage.” (At least 746 people were detained and processed, and the Delta outage happened two days later.)FEB. 3 “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” (There is no evidence of paid protesters.)FEB. 4 “After being forced to apologize for its bad and inaccurate coverage of me after winning the election, the FAKE NEWS @nytimes is still lost!” (It never apologized.)FEB. 5 “We had 109 people out of hundreds of thousands of travelers and all we did was vet those people very, very carefully.” (About 60,000 people were affected.)FEB. 6 “I have already saved more than $700 million when I got involved in the negotiation on the F-35.” (Much of the price drop was projected before Trump took office.)FEB. 6 “It's gotten to a point where it is not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it.” (Terrorism has been reported on, often in detail.)FEB. 6 “The failing @nytimes was forced to apologize to its subscribers for the poor reporting it did on my election win. Now they are worse!” (It didn't apologize.)FEB. 6 “And the previous administration allowed it to happen because we shouldn't have been in Iraq, but we shouldn't have gotten out the way we got out. It created a vacuum, ISIS was formed.” (The group’s origins date to 2004.)FEB. 7 “And yet the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years, right? Did you know that? Forty-seven years.” (It was higher in the 1980s and '90s.)FEB. 7 “I saved more than $600 million. I got involved in negotiation on a fighter jet, the F-35.” (The Defense Department projected this price drop before Trump took office.)FEB. 9 “Chris Cuomo, in his interview with Sen. Blumenthal, never asked him about his long-term lie about his brave ‘service’ in Vietnam. FAKE NEWS!” (It was part of Cuomo's first question.)FEB. 9 Sen. Richard Blumenthal “now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” (The Gorsuch comments were later corroborated.)FEB. 10 “I don’t know about it. I haven’t seen it. What report is that?” (Trump knew about Flynn's actions for weeks.)FEB. 12 “Just leaving Florida. Big crowds of enthusiastic supporters lining the road that the FAKE NEWS media refuses to mention. Very dishonest!” (The media did cover it.)FEB. 16 “We got 306 because people came out and voted like they've never seen before so that's the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.” (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all won bigger margins in the Electoral College.)FEB. 16 “That’s the other thing that was wrong with the travel ban. You had Delta with a massive problem with their computer system at the airports.” (Delta's problems happened two days later.)FEB. 16 “Walmart announced it will create 10,000 jobs in the United States just this year because of our various plans and initiatives.” (The jobs are a result of its investment plans announced in October 2016.)FEB. 16 “When WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they’re not giving classified information.” (Not always. They have released classified information in the past.)FEB. 16 “We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court. Got a bad decision.” (The rollout was chaotic.)FEB. 16 “They’re giving stuff — what was said at an office about Hillary cheating on the debates. Which, by the way, nobody mentions. Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates.” (It was widely covered.)FEB. 18 “And there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing.” (Refugees receive multiple background checks, taking up to two years.)FEB. 18 “You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?” (Trump implied there was a terror attack in Sweden, but there was no such attack.)FEB. 24 “By the way, you folks are in here — this place is packed, there are lines that go back six blocks.” (There was no evidence of long lines.)FEB. 24 “ICE came and endorsed me.”(Only its union did.)FEB. 24 “Obamacare covers very few people — and remember, deduct from the number all of the people that had great health care that they loved that was taken away from them — it was taken away from them.” (Obamacare increased coverage by a net of about 20 million.)FEB. 27 “Since Obamacare went into effect, nearly half of the insurers are stopped and have stopped from participating in the Obamacare exchanges.” (Many fewer pulled out.)FEB. 27 “On one plane, on a small order of one plane, I saved $725 million. And I would say I devoted about, if I added it up, all those calls, probably about an hour. So I think that might be my highest and best use.” (Much of the price cut was already projected.)FEB. 28 “And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.” (NATO countries agreed to meet defense spending requirements in 2014.)FEB. 28 “The E.P.A.’s regulators were putting people out of jobs by the hundreds of thousands.” (There's no evidence that the Waters of the United States rule caused severe job losses.)FEB. 28 “We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five-year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials.” (They can't lobby their former agency but can still become lobbyists.)MARCH 3 “It is so pathetic that the Dems have still not approved my full Cabinet.” (Paperwork for the last two candidates was still not submitted to the Senate.)MARCH 4 “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” (There's no evidence of a wiretap.)MARCH 4 “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”(There's no evidence of a wiretap.)MARCH 7 “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!” (113 of them were released by President George W. Bush.)MARCH 13 “I saved a lot of money on those jets, didn't I? Did I do a good job? More than $725 million on them.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 13 “First of all, it covers very few people.” (About 20 million people gained insurance under Obamacare.)MARCH 15 “On the airplanes, I saved $725 million. Probably took me a half an hour if you added up all of the times.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 17 “I was in Tennessee — I was just telling the folks — and half of the state has no insurance company, and the other half is going to lose the insurance company.” (There's at least one insurer in every Tennessee county.)MARCH 20 “With just one negotiation on one set of airplanes, I saved the taxpayers of our country over $700 million.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 21 “To save taxpayer dollars, I’ve already begun negotiating better contracts for the federal government — saving over $700 million on just one set of airplanes of which there are many sets.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 22 “I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems.” (Riots in Sweden broke out two days later and there were no deaths.)MARCH 22 “NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that.” (It has fought terrorism since the 1980s.)MARCH 22 “Well, now, if you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong — in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly and/or illegally. And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people.” (There's no evidence of widespread voter fraud.)MARCH 29 “Remember when the failing @nytimes apologized to its subscribers, right after the election, because their coverage was so wrong. Now worse!” (It didn't apologize.)MARCH 31 “We have a lot of plants going up now in Michigan that were never going to be there if I — if I didn’t win this election, those plants would never even think about going back. They were gone.” (These investments were already planned.)APRIL 2 “And I was totally opposed to the war in the Middle East which I think finally has been proven, people tried very hard to say I wasn’t but you’ve seen that it is now improving.” (He was for an invasion before he was against it.)APRIL 2 “Now, my last tweet — you know, the one that you are talking about, perhaps — was the one about being, in quotes, wiretapped, meaning surveilled. Guess what, it is turning out to be true.” (There is still no evidence.)APRIL 5 “You have many states coming up where they’re going to have no insurance company. O.K.? It’s already happened in Tennessee. It’s happening in Kentucky. Tennessee only has half coverage. Half the state is gone. They left.” (Every marketplace region in Tennessee had at least one insurer.)APRIL 6 “If you look at the kind of cost-cutting we’ve been able to achieve with the military and at the same time ordering vast amounts of equipment — saved hundreds of millions of dollars on airplanes, and really billions, because if you take that out over a period of years it’s many billions of dollars — I think we’ve had a tremendous success.” (Much of the price cuts were already projected.)APRIL 11 “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve.” (He knew Steve Bannon since 2011.)APRIL 12 “You can't do it faster, because they're obstructing. They're obstructionists. So I have people — hundreds of people that we're trying to get through. I mean you have — you see the backlog. We can't get them through.” (At this point, he had not nominated anyone for hundreds of positions.)APRIL 12 “The New York Times said the word wiretapped in the headline of the first edition. Then they took it out of there fast when they realized.” (There were separate headlines for print and web, but neither were altered.)APRIL 12 “The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism. I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism.” (NATO has been engaged in counterterrorism efforts since the 1980s.)APRIL 12 “Mosul was supposed to last for a week and now they’ve been fighting it for many months and so many more people died.” (The campaign was expected to take months.)APRIL 16 “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!” (There's no evidence of paid protesters.)APRIL 18 “The fake media goes, ‘Donald Trump changed his stance on China.’ I haven’t changed my stance.” (He did.)APRIL 21 “On 90 planes I saved $725 million. It's actually a little bit more than that, but it's $725 million.” (Much of the price cuts were already projected.)APRIL 21 “When WikiLeaks came out … never heard of WikiLeaks, never heard of it.” (He criticized it as early as 2010.)APRIL 27 “I want to help our miners while the Democrats are blocking their healthcare.” (The bill to extend health benefits for certain coal miners was introduced by a Democrat and was co-sponsored by mostly Democrats.)APRIL 28 “The trade deficit with Mexico is close to $70 billion, even with Canada it’s $17 billion trade deficit with Canada.” (The U.S. had an $8.1 billion trade surplus, not deficit, with Canada in 2016.)APRIL 28 “She's running against someone who's going to raise your taxes to the sky, destroy your health care, and he's for open borders — lots of crime.” (Those are not Jon Ossoff's positions.)APRIL 28 “The F-35 fighter jet program — it was way over budget. I’ve saved $725 million plus, just by getting involved in the negotiation.” (Much of the price cuts were planned before Trump.)APRIL 29 “They're incompetent, dishonest people who after an election had to apologize because they covered it, us, me, but all of us, they covered it so badly that they felt they were forced to apologize because their predictions were so bad.” (The Times did not apologize.)APRIL 29 “As you know, I've been a big critic of China, and I've been talking about currency manipulation for a long time. But I have to tell you that during the election, number one, they stopped.” (China stopped years ago.)APRIL 29 “I've already saved more than $725 million on a simple order of F-35 planes. I got involved in the negotiation.” (Much of the price cuts were planned before Trump.)APRIL 29 “We're also getting NATO countries to finally step up and contribute their fair share. They've begun to increase their contributions by billions of dollars, but we are not going to be satisfied until everyone pays what they owe.” (The deal was struck in 2014.)APRIL 29 “When they talk about currency manipulation, and I did say I would call China, if they were, a currency manipulator, early in my tenure. And then I get there. Number one, they — as soon as I got elected, they stopped.” (China stopped in 2014.)APRIL 29 “I was negotiating to reduce the price of the big fighter jet contract, the F-35, which was totally out of control. I will save billions and billions and billions of dollars.” (Most of the cuts were planned before Trump.)APRIL 29 “I think our side's been proven very strongly. And everybody's talking about it.” (There's still no evidence Trump's phones were tapped.)MAY 1 “Well, we are protecting pre-existing conditions. And it'll be every good — bit as good on pre-existing conditions as Obamacare.” (The bill weakens protections for people with pre-existing conditions.)MAY 1 “The F-35 fighter jet — I saved — I got involved in the negotiation. It's 2,500 jets. I negotiated for 90 planes, lot 10. I got $725 million off the price.” (Much of the price cuts were planned before Trump.)MAY 1 “First of all, since I started running, they haven't increased their — you know, they have not manipulated their currency. I think that was out of respect to me and the campaign.” (China stopped years ago.)MAY 2 “I love buying those planes at a reduced price. I have been really — I have cut billions — I have to tell you this, and they can check, right, Martha? I have cut billions and billions of dollars off plane contracts sitting here.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MAY 4 “Number two, they’re actually not a currency [manipulator]. You know, since I’ve been talking about currency manipulation with respect to them and other countries, they stopped.” (China stopped years ago.)MAY 4 “We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world.” (We're not.)MAY 4 “Nobody cares about my tax return except for the reporters.” (Polls show most Americans do care.)MAY 8 “You know we’ve gotten billions of dollars more in NATO than we’re getting. All because of me.” (The deal was struck in 2014.)MAY 8 “But when I did his show, which by the way was very highly rated. It was high — highest rating. The highest rating he’s ever had.” (Colbert's “Late Show” debut had nearly two million more viewers.)MAY 8 “Director Clapper reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows — there is ‘no evidence’ of collusion w/ Russia and Trump.” (Clapper only said he wasn't aware of an investigation.)MAY 12 “Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.” (The F.B.I. was investigating before the election.)MAY 12 “When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?” (Clapper said he wouldn't have been told of an investigation into collusion.)MAY 13 “I'm cutting the price of airplanes with Lockheed.” (The cost cuts were planned before he became president.)MAY 26 “Just arrived in Italy for the G7. Trip has been very successful. We made and saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of jobs.” (He's referencing an arms deal that's not enacted and other apparent deals that weren't announced on the trip.)JUNE 1 “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.” (The agreement doesn’t allow or disallow building coal plants.)JUNE 1 “I’ve just returned from a trip overseas where we concluded nearly $350 billion of military and economic development for the United States, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.” (Trump’s figures are inflated and premature.)JUNE 4 “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” (The mayor was specifically talking about the enlarged police presence on the streets.)JUNE 5 “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.” (Trump signed this version of the travel ban, not the Justice Department.)JUNE 21 “They all say it's 'nonbinding.' Like hell it's nonbinding.” (The Paris climate agreement is nonbinding — and Trump said so in his speech announcing the withdrawal.)JUNE 21 “Right now, we are one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.” (We're not.)
All the President’s Lies
Trump told a public lie
Didn’t tell a public lie
President Trump’s political rise was built on a lie (about Barack Obama's birthplace). His lack of truthfulness has also become central to the Russia investigation, with James Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., testifying under oath about Trump's “lies, plain and simple.”
There is simply no precedent for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths. Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers. No other president — of either party — has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.
We have set a conservative standard here, leaving out many dubious statements (like the claim that his travel ban is “similar” to Obama administration policy). Some people may still take issue with this standard, arguing that the president wasn't speaking literally. But we believe his long pattern of using untruths to serve his purposes, as a businessman and politician, means that his statements are not simply careless errors.
We are using the word “lie” deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump's part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying.
Trump Told Public Lies or Falsehoods Every Day for His First 40 Days
The list above uses the conservative standard of demonstrably false statements. By that standard, Trump told a public lie on at least 20 of his first 40 days as president. But based on a broader standard — one that includes his many misleading statements (like exaggerating military spending in the Middle East) — Trump achieved something remarkable: He said something untrue, in public, every day for the first 40 days of his presidency. The streak didn’t end until March 1.
Told a public lie
Told a public falsehood
Didn’t tell a public lie or falsehood
First day without
a public lie
Visited a Trump property
and told no public
lie or falsehood
Since then, he has said something untrue on at least 74 of 113 days. On days without an untrue statement, he is often absent from Twitter, vacationing at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, or busy golfing.
The end of May was another period of relative public veracity — or at least public quiet — for the president. He seems to have been otherwise occupied, dealing with internal discussions about the Russia investigation and then embarking on a trip through the Middle East and Europe.
Visited a Trump
property and told
no public lies
Washington Post reports Trump shared highly classified intelligence with Russians
New York Times reports Trump hoped Comey would “let this go,” referring to the Flynn investigation
Special counsel appointed in investigation of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign
Trump’s Public Lies Sometimes Changed With Repetition
Sometimes, Trump can’t even keep his untruths straight. After he reversed a campaign pledge and declined to label China a currency manipulator, he kept changing his description of when China had stopped the bad behavior. Initially, he said it stopped once he took office. He then changed the turning point to the election, then to since he started talking about it, and then to some uncertain point in the distant past.
When Trump said China stopped manipulating its currency
“from the time I took office”
“during the election”
“as soon as I got elected”
“since I started running”
“since I’ve been talking about
The Public’s Mistrust of Trump Grows
Trump has retained the support of most of his voters as well as the Republican leadership in Congress. But he has still paid some price for his lies. Nearly 60 percent of Americans say the president is not honest, polls show, up from about 53 percent when he took office.