"The Art of the Lie": New Report Details Trump's Year Bereft of Integrity, Accountability

"President Trump has been unlike any previous president in his incessant, irresponsible attacks on the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, the media, members of Congress and judges, and private citizens, among others," says Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21.

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"Some of Trump's wrongful actions have been high-profile; others are more subtle. But President Trump's record must be preserved and documented," write Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn and Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer. (Caricature: DonkeyHotey/flickr/cc)

Entitled "The Art of the Lie," a new report offers damning assessment of President Donald Trump's first year in office, cataloguing what it describes as his presidency's massive miscarriage of government integrity and accountability.

Released Monday, a day before Trump delivers his State of the Union address, by a pair of watchdog organizations, the report (pdf) breaks up the failures into 20 categories, starting with "Trump Lies, False and Misleading Claims, Untruths," and ending with "Deregulatory Task Forces Operating in Secret."

"Some of Trump's wrongful actions have been high-profile; others are more subtle. But President Trump's record must be preserved and documented. That is the purpose of this report," Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn and Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer write in the introduction to the report.

Describing the president as "a nonstop, habitual, and compulsive liar," the report cites a Washington Post analysis that found Trump made an average of 5.9 false or misleading claims a day during his first year at the White House. With his year-long display of disregard for the truth, the report says, Trump "has undermined the right of citizens to know what their government is doing and to work from a common base of information. He has subverted our nation's credibility and effectiveness on the world stage."

Further, his "insistence on repeatedly telling lies and his inability to distinguish between truth and fiction has endangered our constitutional system of government," it adds.

Another example of failures in term of his administration's integrity and accountability are his web of conflicts of interests. "Because Trump remains the financial beneficiary of his business operations, his conflicts of interest as president are pervasive," the report notes. Problematic conflicts of interests extend also to Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom have White House positions. Like Donald, "Kushner and Ivanka Trump have also failed to fully divest from their respective business interests," the report states.

Such problems are manifested in the president's cabinet as well. In fact, it is "rife with ethics problems and conflicts of interests," the report says. It notes, for example, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's potential conflicts of interests from his continued role as president of Steven T. Mnuchin, Inc, which manages some of his investments. The public is in the dark because his investments have not been disclosed, the publication notes.

Another problem with the cabinet heads is that they "are methodically deconstructing the agencies" they run.

EPA head Scott Pruitt is a prime example, though Betsy DeVos seems to be on similar mission of government destruction, the report argues. Under her direction, "the Department of Education [has been] cutting back staff and offering buyouts." Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, meanwhile—who has no relevant experience—has been carrying out a similar role. The report cites recent reporting by The Economist, which noted, "it is hard not to conclude that the governing principle at HUD is to take whatever the Obama administration was doing, and do the opposite."

The documentation of failures on government integrity and accountability issues goes on.

Among the other noted problems: Trump's undermining an accurate 2020 Census by hobbling the count with underfunding, proposing adding a question about citizenship, and suggestions that he may appoint racial gerrymandering supporter Thomas Brunell to a senior position at the Census Bureau.

There have also been Trump's attacks on the rule of law, such as his false assertion that he has "absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department."

And there have, of course, been his egregious attacks on the press. The report notes:

While there is a long history of tensions between elected officials and journalists, President Trump's personal attacks on reporters and editors, his dismissal of accurate and carefully reported stories as "fake news," and his administration's efforts to control the flow of information are deeply disturbing.

Also of note:

Trump's meritless, nonstop attacks on government institutions and public officials [that] are doing great damage. The irrational and irresponsible attacks by President Trump undermine the public's confidence in government, demoralize public officials, demean the presidency, discredit the president, and diminish our global role and influence.

In addition, Trump's now-defunct so-called "voter fraud commission," the report says, "was a distraction from necessary solutions that will make our election systems more secure, accessible, and fair, including voting machines that use paper ballots, risk-limiting audits, and automatic voter registration."

"In his first year in office, President Trump has been an historic failure when it comes to ensuring the integrity and accountability of our government," Wertheimer said in a press statement.

"President Trump has been unlike any previous president in his incessant, irresponsible attacks on the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, the media, members of Congress and judges, and private citizens, among others."

The president, he continued, "appears to be the biggest spreader of false, misleading and untrue information we have seen in national office. By repeatedly undermining our democratic norms and constitutional principles, President Trump has failed the American people. However, the American people will not fail. Our fundamental values, democratic norms, and constitutional principles will endure, President Trump notwithstanding."

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