Imagine an alternate recent history. Imagine if, on Friday morning, Donald Trump were asked about the times he pretended to be his own publicist when talking to reporters, and he replied, “You know, ‘John Miller’ and ‘John Barron’ were jokes that went awry. This was years ago and I was just kidding around.”
The proof that Trump created a bizarre alter ego for himself still would have been a story – if you’re pretending to be someone else in order to feed praise about yourself to reporters, you probably have some issues – but it probably wouldn’t have been quite as captivating a story.
Except the Republican candidate just can’t help himself. Trump felt compelled to lie reflexively, denying what he’s already admitted, and pretending his voice on a recording isn’t really his.
The new challenge is coming up with a defense. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, for example, hasn’t quite figured out exactly what he wants to say on the subject. CBS’s John Dickerson asked Priebus about this yesterday on “Face the Nation.”
DICKERSON: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask you about a report that Donald Trump in the 1990s served as his own spokesman under another name. What do you make of that?
PRIEBUS: It’s just – it’s a little bit odd, but I will just tell you that I think, of all the things facing this country right now, and after being through this primary for a year, I can assure you that that particular issue is not going to move the electorate.
Maybe, maybe not. Trump has no record of public service, and no real policy platform, so voters are left to evaluate the presumptive Republican nominee on some of his more personal qualities. The fact that he pretended to be his own publicist, making up an alter ego to brag to reporters about his professed greatness in third person, only to lie about it years later, might very well move some of the electorate.
Paul Manafort, one of the Trump campaign’s top aides, tried a slightly different tack with CNN’s Jake Tapper:
TAPPER: In 1990, under oath, he testified that he did use the name John Barron. And in 1991, he told People magazine that he did use the name John Miller. So, this has already been admitted previously. I don’t understand why now.
MANAFORT: I don’t – I don’t know those facts to be true or not. I just know that he said it’s not him. I believe him. I don’t even know the relevance of this, frankly, other than it’s 25 years old…. Why the media is spending so much time going back 25 years old to talk about a People magazine interview – article – tape that may or may not be Trump, totally irrelevant.
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