It was a rough night for Jeffrey Lord, CNN’s preeminent surrogate for President Trump.
During a panel discussion on “Anderson Cooper 360” Monday evening, Lord and seven other commentators discussed the president’s baseless claims that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign. When the conversation turned to Trump’s credibility, Lord appeared to be the lone guest unwilling to call the president a liar.
On an average day, that might have been par for the course for Lord, who has established himself as a reliable Trump booster since joining CNN as a paid analyst in the summer of 2015.
But Lord’s interlocutors weren’t having it. Hours earlier, FBI Director James B. Comey had snuffed out Trump’s wiretapping allegations, testifying under oath that there was “no information” indicating Obama had spied on his campaign. Even Comey was calling Trump a liar, they argued.
Lord saw it differently, repeating the claim by some Trump backers that he didn’t mean what he said about wiretapping and therefore couldn’t be lying.
Trump, he said, was speaking “Americanese” when he tweeted that Obama had orchestrated a “Nixon/Watergate” plot against him. The president’s supporters knew what he meant, but Washington insiders didn’t and blew it out of proportion.
Cooper and other guests seemed baffled.
“What you’re arguing then is the FBI and the Justice Department are mistaken for taking the president literally because they don’t speak Americanese?” Cooper asked.
Other guests continued to press the issue.
“The whole world had a chance to watch this unfold, and it was a direct test of his credibility. And the whole world now knows he lied about it,” former White House aide David Gergen said of Trump.
“We’ve seen it again and again,” Gergen continued. “When we have a president who is a congenital liar, it really matters.”
Lord tried to jump back in with an attack on Obama, but Cooper cut him off.
“Do you believe this president of the United States is a congenital liar,” the host asked.
“No,” Lord replied.
At that point, tensions boiled over, with the obviously frustrated guests gesticulating and talking over each other.
Again shifting gears, Lord brought up a tweet from Trump’s White House Twitter account saying the FBI and the National Security Agency had found Russia “did not influence electoral process.” Asked about the tweet, Comey said it didn’t reflect his congressional testimony. The Washington Post rated the tweet false.
Not a lie, Lord responded. The tweet, like his wiretapping allegations, had been misinterpreted.
“You’re smarter than that,” an exasperated Cooper told Lord as others chimed in. “Oh, come on Jeffrey.”
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