This isn’t hard.

Trump categorically was lying when he said he misspoke in Helsinki.

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According to Trump, he meant to say “wouldn’t” when he actually said “would” in the following passage.

I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.

If you believe Trump, that simple change would convert the statement from expressing skepticism of Russian interference in the 2016 election, to not seeing any other possible culprits (you know, like China, or the 400 pound guy on his bed to whom Trump has referred, or whoever he had in his mind when he wrapped up his “clarification” Tuesday by saying “Could be other people also. There’s a lot of people out there.”).

The trouble with Trump’s reconciliation is that it’s flat-out irreconcilable with the remainder of his remarks. 

Here’s what Trump said a few sentences later on in that same paragraph:

So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

Let’s parse that sentence, okay?

First, “strong and powerful” is a subjective determination by Trump, not a statement of fact. It means that Trump himself found Putin’s denial strong and powerful.

Second, the terms “strong” and “powerful”. when used to describe a denial, go to the credibility of the denial. A denial can’t be strong and powerful without being credible.

Which means that Trump said in no uncertain terms that he found Putin credible. There’s no other way to interpret it.

Third, for Putin’s denial to be credible requires that it contain at least one (and likely more than one) “reason why it wouldn’t be” Russia that interfered.

Which means that to label Putin’s denial “strong and powerful” Trump had to “see” at least one “reason why it wouldn’t be” Russia that interfered in the 2016 election.

Or, taking the logic in the opposite direction, if Trump, as now claims, didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t have been Russia, he could not have made the subjective determination that Putin’s denial was “strong and powerful.” Rather, he would have considered nothing in Putin’s to be credible and, therefore, would have determined the denial to be weak and specious.

Now, go back to the corrected passage itself, with Trump’s correction incorporated into it:

I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be, but I really do want to see the server.

Focus on that third sentence, “I will say this.” If Trump didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia, he would have included a word in that third sentence to draw a contrast from the prior sentence. He might have said “But I will say this.” or “I will say this, however.” But he wouldn’t have worded the third sentence as he did.

The bottom line: It’s just not possible to reconcile Trump’s clarification with the remainder of his remarks. The clarification was a complete fabrication. That’s no surprise, given Trump’s record for lying. But it’s a provable fabrication on a subject of immense importance.

And those in the media who are calling out this fabrication should be a lot more forceful in doing so.

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