President Trump on Thursday morning appeared before reporters in the White House briefing room to rattle off a bunch of numbers — unemployment numbers, stock-market numbers, consumer-confidence numbers. For much of the presentation, he was reading off of prepared materials. But this is a fellow who can’t resist ad-libbing.

And so at one point, he added, "It’s coming back faster, bigger and better than we ever thought possible,” said Trump of a bounce-back in economic indicators. “These are not numbers made up by me. These are numbers.”

Boldface added to highlight a classic case of Trump-style articulation, if you can call it that. The observation that “these are numbers” would appear to be an empty one. Situated alongside the assertion that Trump didn’t make them up, though, it acquires some meaning — as in, these are real numbers. Someone who lies as much as Trump needs a way to signal when he’s not lying.

Daniel Dale, the CNN reporter who fact-checks Trump in real time, tells the Erik Wemple Blog that while he hasn’t done a detailed look at Trump’s performance at the Thursday presser, “on the whole the numbers were more accurate than usual, since he was reading from prepared notes rather than just talking.”

When he’s just talking, Trump mangles economic facts and statistics, as laid out in the recent book by the Washington Post Fact Checker staff, “Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth.” A chapter written by Glenn Kessler rummages through Trump’s false and misleading claims about the economy he inherited (“it was crashing”; not); about how he then presided over the “greatest” economy in U.S. history (no, previous presidents have had better numbers, and anyway, presidents have only so much economic influence); about how he inflated the African American youth unemployment rate in previous years to exaggerate growth during his own tenure; about how he exaggerated U.S. trade deficits with key partners including China, the European Union and Mexico; about how he “oversells” the wonders of tariffs; about how he hypes his maneuvers to foster the “opening” of China (that happened decades ago); and about how he takes credit for the opening of plants whose planning predated his inauguration by years.

All the nonsense claims about the economy demonstrate just how deeply the urge to deceive rests in Trump’s bones. Until the novel coronavirus hit, after all, the economy performed well under his administration: Unemployment kept ticking downward, at about the same clip as Obama’s last years; growth, too, bumped along at decent rate. So why the need to mislead?

As the economy chugged along, Trump loved nothing more than bragging about it. Whether he was speaking at a rally, in an interview or at one of his hundreds of impromptu sessions with reporters at White House events, the president plowed through the same exaggerations and lies. Questions about trade and the economy were delicious, as Trump relished interacting with outlets focused on business, including Reuters and Bloomberg.

There were no questions on Thursday, however. After riffing on the economy and coronavirus with his patented slant, Trump declared that he was honored to serve as president. Then he exited the briefing room, leaving shouted questions hanging in the air, as well as a memorable apparent admission: Yes, he knows he fabricates half the stuff he says.

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