US president Donald Trump has a long list of conflicting claims about his relations with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin—from claims in 2013 that he has “a relationship” with and has “met” Putin, to hyperbolizing in 2016 that he doesn’t “know who Putin is.”
He went a step further today, telling healthcare executives, “I haven’t called Russia in 10 years,” according to a White House press pool report.
That’s unlikely. First, he did actually speak to Russia just a few weeks ago, on Jan. 28, in a call the Kremlin described as having “substance and sense.” Trump may not have personally dialed Putin’s number, but the call would have been arranged through aides on his say-so.
Second, Trump actually held a Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013 (it was before, during and after this pageant that he made most of the statements about his relationship with Putin). As anyone who’s ever done any work with Russia and its tear-inducing bureaucracy will attest, it’s unthinkable that the mogul could have arranged an event of that size without a host of phone calls. “Will [Putin] become my new best friend?” Trump tweeted about the event.
Why does this matter? It’s the latest in a list of untruths about the president’s murky relations with the Kremlin that already saw his national security advisor Mike Flynn fired. Flynn allegedly lied to the vice president about discussing sanctions with Russia’s ambassador, and there is pressure to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
The context for the statement? Trump spoke for about 5 minutes to healthcare executives, and at the end, journalists were ushered out of the room. A reporter on the way out asked if Trump “supports a special prosecutor on Russia,” at which point the president reportedly mouthed “no,” and then made his ludicrous phone call claim. Such blatant falsehoods can only embolden US Democrats’ insistence on the need for an independent investigation into his Russia ties.