The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Why Trump lies

President Trump speaks to reporters at the White House on Friday. (Evan Vucci/AP)
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Vladimir Putin may not be President Trump’s favorite Russian after all. Or even his favorite Vladimir.

If you are looking for an explanation for why the president says things over and over again that he knows are false, consider this quote that is often attributed to Vladimir Lenin: “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” (The fact that one of Lenin’s most famous quotes may itself be apocryphal only proves the point, in an odd way.)

There are many reasons people lie. They do it to cover up bad behavior, for personal gain or because of some personality disorder. All of these things may be factors with Trump.

But Trump also lies as a strategy — as evidenced by his latest whopper, which he keeps repeating, that Democrats are to blame for the administration’s horrific new policy of ripping children of undocumented immigrants away from their parents.

On Saturday — the beginning, ironically enough, of Father’s Day weekend — he was at it again:

Never mind that fact checkers and other journalists have been diligent at calling him out on his efforts to shift the blame for the “zero tolerance” policy that has created this horror. Never mind that his attorney general not only takes ownership of it but also claims it is biblically based. Or that just a word from the president himself could end it.

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Why doesn’t Trump act to stop something he created? And why does he keep lying about why this is happening? My colleagues Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey explained it in a front-page story in Saturday’s Post:

President Trump has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate — separating immigrant parents from their young children at the southern border, according to White House officials.
On Friday, Trump suggested he would not change the policy unless Democrats agreed to his other immigration demands, which include funding a border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry. He also is intent on pushing members of his party to vote for a compromise measure that would achieve those long-standing priorities.
Trump’s public acknowledgment that he was willing to let the policy continue as he pursued his political goals came as the president once again blamed Democrats for a policy enacted and touted by his own administration.
“The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda,” he tweeted. After listing his demands in any immigration bill, he added, “Go for it! WIN!”

In other words, Trump is literally holding children hostage to get his unpopular border wall. He may think of it as leverage, but the rest of us should recognize it for what it is. It is a tragedy, born of a lie. He may refuse to take responsibility for what he has done, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t see a lie for what it is, no matter how often he tells it.

Columnist Eugene Robinson says President Trump's frenzied tweets about a "caravan" of migrants are really about his fear of losing his base. (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

Read more:

The Post’s View: Message at the border: ‘No vacancy’

James A. Coan: The Trump administration is committing violence against children

Paul Waldman: The Trump administration owns its cruel policy of separating families

Jennifer Rubin: Leave the Bible out of it, child separation is not ‘Christian’

Kathleen Parker: I don’t recognize this country anymore