White House insiders: Trump ordered Sean Spicer to lie about crowd sizes because he was "demoralized"

"Nearly a dozen" White House staffers have told Washington Post reporters that Trump was "demoralized" by press reports that showed a poor turnout for his inauguration and a much larger turnout for the Women's March the next day, and overruled his advisors and aides' advice to let it go -- instead, he ordered press secretary Sean Spicer to tell a series of easily falsifiable lies to the media that misrepresented the turnout for the inauguration.

Spicer's poor performance at that press-conference -- shouting words from a prepared, printed statement while wearing an "ill-fitting suit" and looking uncomfortable -- further enraged Trump, and has highlighted the rift between Trump's family (notably, his son-in-law Jared Kushner), the staff that came with Trump from his campaign, and new hires like Spicer, with backstabbing and vicious whispers being the order of the first days of the Trump White House.

Ordering subordinates to lie is a well-understood political tactic. As Tyler Cowen writes on Bloomberg, it is a useful loyalty test and also a means of cementing underlings' dependence on dictators: by forcing spokespeople to tank their own credibility, autocrats ensure that their victims are totally dependent on them and their continued power for their livelihoods.

By requiring subordinates to speak untruths, a leader can undercut their independent standing, including their standing with the public, with the media and with other members of the administration. That makes those individuals grow more dependent on the leader and less likely to mount independent rebellions against the structure of command. Promoting such chains of lies is a classic tactic when a leader distrusts his subordinates and expects to continue to distrust them in the future.

Another reason for promoting lying is what economists sometimes call loyalty filters. If you want to ascertain if someone is truly loyal to you, ask them to do something outrageous or stupid. If they balk, then you know right away they aren’t fully with you. That too is a sign of incipient mistrust within the ruling clique, and it is part of the same worldview that leads Trump to rely so heavily on family members.

Why Trump's Staff Is Lying [Tyler Cowen/Bloomberg]

The first days inside Trump’s White House: Fury, tumult and a reboot [Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Matea Gold/Washington Post]

Notable Replies

  1. Such a snowflake!! He better go to his safe space at Trump Tower.

  2. So you're saying he's a talking head who stopped making sense?

  3. I believe the line I saw earlier about this was "Sean Spicer holds first press conference as hostage victim."

  4. If there's one bit of positive news out of the White House this week it's that Trump's administration has more leaks than a wiki boat.

  5. It has occurred to me that as a real estate promoter, Trump comes from a world where to a real extant, if you say it often enough, it becomes true. "This is the greatest most opulent most exclusive apartment building ever. Amazing." Once you convince enough of the right people to buy, more people who want to live in the same building as x or y or z celebrity, That creates "buzz" and demand and before you know it, it IS an exclusive building. The fact that the decorations are garish and noveau rich don't really detract that much.

    But of course he has actual engineers and architects doing the tough, fiddly bits. The problem is that for something like replacing the ACA, it's ALL tough fiddly bits. You can't just say "We have a great plan, it's going to be awsome, you'll love it." Well, you obviously can, but it the elevators only go up to the 5th floor, people will notice, no mater how much gold paint that you use. And there simply isn't all that much decoration and marketing on a health plan. If people get sick, and they can't pay the doctor bills, they'll notice no matter how flashy the brochures are.

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