Opinion writer

President Trump’s constant need for affirmation prompts him to exaggerate or lie about everything from his wealth to the economy to his North Korea diplomacy to the results of Robert S. Mueller III’ Russia report. The thirst to be the richest, the greatest diplomat and the exonerated victim compels him and his apologists to seek temporary applause from their base at the expense of later revelations that disprove his claimed accomplishment and reaffirm his compulsion to lie.

The Post reports, for example, that Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, may have been on to something when he accused Trump of lying about his wealth for financial benefit:

When Donald Trump wanted to make a good impression — on a lender, a business partner, or a journalist — he sometimes sent them official-looking documents called “Statements of Financial Condition.”

These documents sometimes ran up to 20 pages. They were full of numbers, laying out Trump’s properties, debts and multibillion-dollar net worth.

But, for someone trying to get a true picture of Trump’s net worth, the documents were deeply flawed. Some simply omitted properties that carried big debts. Some assets were overvalued. And some key numbers were wrong.

Trump’s allegedly misleading financial claims may or may not be illegal; but they confirm the portrait of him as a cheat, the epitome of the big guy who tries to break the rules little guys must follow. In the worst-case scenario either state prosecutors or federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York will find criminality. At the least, expect Democrats to push ethics reform and argue Trump represents the worst of Washington (and New York) corruption.

Trump also exaggerates his own economic success. How long has he been claiming to have presided over the best economy ever, the biggest growth ever? How many times did he promise his tax plan would bring more than 3 percent GDP growth for the foreseeable future? Well eventually the numbers come out. For all the big talk and trillions of dollars in tax cuts, Trump didn’t even clear 3 percent GDP growth in 2018. We may be going downhill from there. Trump’s exaggerated claims raised expectations that he could never meet. Now, and in 2020, he’ll have to pay the price if the economy slows. Then he would look not only incompetent but deceitful.

In the case of North Korea, Trump and his boot-licking secretary of state have continued to insist that Trump has made progress in getting North Korea to denuclearize. It turned out to be false after the first summit, and false again after the second. All Trump has done is suspend military exercises with South Korea, tried to nix sanctions and given Kim Jong Un two huge PR triumphs. Now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- like his boss -- won’t even say Kim is responsible for human rights horrors. This is appeasement of the worst kind, the sort of thing Republicans would have vilified President Obama for trying.

Then there’s the Mueller report. What a swell idea -- get Attorney General William Barr to defeat the entire purpose of a special counsel by weighing in to exonerate the president of any wrongdoing and to provide a scant summary of hundreds of pages of evidence! Well, most voters long ago learned not to buy his spin so the polls don’t show most voters think he has been exonerated. What’s more, when hundreds and hundreds of pages come out recounting all the Russian contacts with Trump campaign members, the false conspiracy theories, the efforts to interfere with the investigation and the uncontroverted evidence Russia helped Trump get reelected, Trump and Barr may well look like they tried to cover up an investigation into a coverup.

The New York Times explains:

The total of 300-plus pages suggests that Mr. Mueller went well beyond the kind of bare-bones summary required by the Justice Department regulation governing his appointment and detailed his conclusions at length. And it raises questions about what Mr. Barr might have left out of the four dense pages he sent Congress.

Democrats, who like all other lawmakers have not seen the report, have all but accused Mr. Barr of covering up damaging information it contains. They have specifically focused on an apparent difference between the views of Mr. Barr and Mr. Mueller on whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice. Democrats have demanded that the attorney general make the full report and evidence public.


And if Barr doesn’t provide the entire report, cries of “coverup!” will intensify. (“Mr. Mueller probably collected and generated hundreds of thousands if not millions of pages of paper in his investigation. Congress has made clear it would eventually like access to all of them, but the Justice Department could have good reason to block some of their release, leaving it once again to the courts to determine who sees what.”)

After the short-term relief and “Mission Accomplished" celebration, they will soon have to deal with facts -- lots of them that as Mueller said, do NOT exonerate Trump of obstruction and reflect evidence that, while perhaps not criminal (at least not indictable for a sitting president), confirm much of the reporting of misconduct, disloyalty to the United States and lying.

Trump’s neediness feeds an endless cycle of exaggeration and lying, revelation and underperformance. Indeed, that’s pretty much the story of Trump’s life -- the snake oil salesmen doesn’t really have the goods.

Read more:

Henry Olsen: So Trump wants to make the GOP the ‘party of health care’? Here’s how to do it.

John Kelly: When it comes to social media manipulation, we’re our own worst enemy

Paul Waldman: Republicans would love to ignore health care. Trump won’t let them.

Cartoon: Barr is sitting on the Mueller report

Michael Gerson: Trump may not be a Russian agent. He’s just a Russian stooge.