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Opinion ‘Flatly untrue’: The courts again see through the Trump administration’s bogus claims

President Trump at the White House on Thursday.
President Trump at the White House on Thursday. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

WHEN THE Trump administration announced a new rule to give greater protection to health-care workers who refuse to be involved in certain procedures for religious or moral reasons, it cited a reason: The number of people complaining that they had been pressured to act against their faith had increased dramatically, officials said. For a decade, there had been on average just one complaint a year, so the administration’s assertion of a jump in complaints last year to 343 was startling.

And, as it turns out, bogus.

Given how President Trump and his administration regularly traffic in deceptions and untruths, maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise. Nonetheless, it remains shocking to see an administration submitting such falsehoods in court. A federal judge called it out this week as he voided a rule set to go into effect later this month. The broadly written rule, challenged by New York and nearly two dozen other, mostly Democratic states and municipalities, would have allowed medical providers to decline to participate in services to which they morally object, such as abortion or assisted death. In a 147-page decision, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan declared the regulation unconstitutional, ruling that the Department of Health and Human Services had exceeded its authority and “acted arbitrarily and capriciously.”

Flatly untrue” is the label he applied to the administration’s central justification of a supposed “significant increase” in complaints related to conscience violations. Nearly 80 percent of the complaints provided to the court were about vaccinations and would not have been affected by the regulation in question.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has relied on fiction in judicial proceedings. Notoriously, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Justice Department fudged the motivation for a new citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Thankfully, the courts saw through that lie as well, albeit by a 5-to-4 majority, with four conservative justices willing to overlook the falsehood.

Lies helped Mr. Trump get elected, and as of Oct. 9, his 993rd day in office, he had made more than 13,000 false and misleading claims, according to the latest count by The Post’s Fact Checker. So frequent are the lies, there is the danger of becoming inured to them, treating them just as business as usual and forgetting the real harm they can cause. Since Republicans in Congress refuse to be any kind of check on Mr. Trump and his dishonesty, let’s hope the courts continue to do their job.

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