Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal will issue a scathing editorial denouncing President Trump for refusing to retract his spurious claim on Twitter that former president Barack Obama wiretapped him.
The Journal is genuinely concerned about Trump’s habit of making false claims, which was exhibited profusely during the presidential campaign. The Journal commences its editorial thus:
If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.
After that searing introduction, the Journal references Trump’s claim about Obama, remarking, “Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims.” The Journal notes White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was given the job of repeating the claim by Fox News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano that perhaps the Obama Administration had subcontracted the wiretap to British intelligence.
The Journal outlines what happened next: the British Government Communications Headquarters denied the accusation; British news reports said the U.S. apologized, but then the White House insisted there was no apology.
The Journal writes Trump has a legitimate grievance about the leaking of information regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and is undermining his case by refusing to back down on the wiretapping claim.
Noting that FBI Director James Comey said on Monday that the FBI has no evidence to back up the wiretap accusation, and even went as far as acknowledging that the FBI is investigating ties between the Trump election campaign and Russia, the Journal speculates as to Comey’s motives, writing, “Could the wiretap tweet have made Mr. Comey angry because it implied the FBI was involved in illegal surveillance? Mr. Trump blundered in keeping Mr. Comey in the job after the election, but now the President can’t fire the man leading an investigation into his campaign even if he wants to.”
The Journal then terms Trump “his own worst political enemy,” adding, “He survived his many false claims as a candidate because his core supporters treated it as mere hyperbole and his opponent was untrustworthy Hillary Clinton. But now he’s President, and he needs support beyond the Breitbart cheering section that will excuse anything. As he is learning with the health-care bill, Mr. Trump needs partners in his own party to pass his agenda. He also needs friends abroad who are willing to trust him when he asks for support, not least in a crisis.”
The Journal concludes: “Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.”
There may be even more to the Journal’s editorial than its concern about the ripple effect of Trump’s many false claims; the fact that Trump deeply insulted the British is likely a major concern for the Murdoch family, which owns the Journal. The Murdochs are trying to purchase the 61 percent of the British broadcaster Sky that they don’t already own. In early March, Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox formally notified the European Commission that it is bidding roughly $15 billion for the European pay-TV company.
The Murdochs have waited roughly six years to make their bid, following the scandal in which the U.K. tabloids that were part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. were implicated in widespread hacking of voicemails and emails.