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Analysis of Trump Answers from Press Conference 16 Feb 2017

My bona fides – I used to be an Interrogator in the Army. At one point in my life, I was a professional ‘lie detector’ I suppose you could say. Analysis of a written transcript of a verbal exchange does not exactly line up with my training and experiences, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

I’ve been out for a long time so take my analysis with a grain of salt.

This Q & A patterns falls into three types-

  1. A direct answer: yes, no, or I don’t know. I would say that when he gives a direct answer to the question that it is probably factual.
  2. Deflection: A question is asked and Trump goes on a tangent about something unrelated. This is probably a prevarication or a lie.
  3. Ignoring: A question is asked and Trump simply ignores it. Not clear what this means. Could be covering a lie, it could be an attempt to steer the conversation away from a topic he is not sure about or that he is covering up for something. It could be dementia. Maybe he didn’t hear the question. I have not evaluated these questions. What the reporters should do in this case is ask the question until an answer is received.

The reporters asking the questions do it very poorly. Really, really poorly. Perhaps there is a decorum or a culture that you use when interacting with the President that I’m not aware of. However, because they ask such terrible questions its more difficult to evaluate the answers.

Transcript and Analysis

Q1. During the campaign, did anyone from your team (inaudible) Russian government or Russian intelligence? Q2 And if so, what was the nature of those conversations (inaudible)?

A. The failing New York Times wrote a big, long front-page story yesterday. (Q1 and Q2 Deflection. He is avoiding answering the questions.)

Q3. (Off mike) said today that you have big intellectual margins (inaudible) 300 or more, or 350 electoral votes. President Obama about 365 (off mike).

A.  Yeah. (Q3 Truth. This is in fact, what he said today)

Q4. (Off-mike) why should Americans trust you (off mike) the information (off-mike)?

A. Well, I don’t know. I was given the information. (Q4 Truth. Asked about why Americans should trust him he answered that he doesn’t know why they should trust him)

Q5. Can you tell us in determining that Lt. Gen. Flynn did – whether there was no wrongdoing in your mind, what evidence was weighted? Q6. Did you ask for transcripts of these telephone intercepts with Russian officials, particularly the Ambassador Kislayk, who he was communicating with? Q7. What evidence did you weigh to determine that there was no wrongdoing? Q8. Further to that, you said you are going to aggressively pursue the source of these leaks.

A. We are. (Q8 Truth. He is going to aggressively pursue the source of the leaks. The following questions were not answered – Q5 Was their wrongdoing in your mind about Flynn, Q7 what evidence did you use to come to that conclusion, Q6 and did you ask for a transcript of the intercept)

Q9. Can we ask what you’re going to do and also, we’ve heard about a – a review of the intelligence community headed up by Steven Feinberg, Q10. what can you tell us about that?

A.  Well, first of all about that, we now have Dan Coats, hopefully soon, Mike Pompeo and James Comey and they’re in position so I hope that we’ll be able to straighten that out without using anybody else. (Q9 True. There were talks of Seven Feinberg, a billionaire private equity magnate conducting a review of the intel community. I am assuming that he would rather a review be conducted by Comey and Pompeo).

Trump goes on to say- (Q10 True.) The gentleman you mentioned is a very talented man, very successful man and he’s offered his services and you know, it’s something we may take advantage of. But I don’t think we’re need that at all because of the fact that you know, I think that we are gonna be able to straighten it out very easily on its own.

And then- As far as the general’s concerned, when I first heard about it, I said huh, that doesn’t sound wrong.

Then Trump goes back and answers the question about Flynn (Which was – Q5 Can you tell us in determining that Lt. Gen. Flynn did – whether there was no wrongdoing in your mind).  As far as the general’s concerned, when I first heard about it, I said huh, that doesn’t sound wrong. My counsel came, Don McGahn, White House Counsel, and he told me and I asked him, he can speak very well for himself. He said he doesn’t think anything is wrong, you know, really didn’t think. It was really what happened after that but he didn’t think anything was done wrong. I didn’t either because I waited a period of time and I started to think about it, I said “well I don’t see” – to me, he was doing the job. (To reiterate, the question was – did Flynn did anything wrong? Trump’s answer was “…that doesn’t sound wrong”. Trump’s wordy explanation follows a pattern where when he is prevaricating or lying he says a lot of words that don’t mean anything. I believe that the more incoherent his answers are the more he is lying. I would evaluate this as being False and that Trump indeed knew what Flynn did was wrong.)

Q11. What will you do on the leaks?

A.  Yes, we’re looking at them very – very serious (Q 11 True they will look into them.). I’ve gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies and we’re – I’ve actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. (Q 11 True.)

Q12. Can you say definitively that nobody on your campaign had any contacts with the Russians during the campaign? Q13. And on the leaks, is it fake news or are these real leaks?

A.  Well the leaks are real. (Q 13 True. As we have seen his pattern for telling truth is simply to answer the question.) The news is fake because so much of the news is fake. So one thing that I felt it was very important to do – and I hope we can correct it. Because there’s nobody I have more respect for – well, maybe a little bit but the reporters, good reporters. (Q 13 also False. The news is not fake. His answer drifts off into incoherency, following the pattern we have discovered for his answers. Truth is answered, lies are deflected and incoherent. Q 12 is not answered.)

Q14. Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador?

A.  No, I didn’t. (Q14 Direct answer. True.)

Q15. It sounds as though you do not have much credibility here when it comes to leaking if that is something that you encouraged during the campaign –

A.  All right. So, in one case, you’re talking about highly classified information. In the other case, you are talking about John Podesta saying bad things about the boss. I will say this, if John Podesta said that about me and he was working for me, I would have fired him so fast your head would have spun. (Q 15 Trump deflects here. The question is “can Americans believe you with regards to government leaks given your past statements”. Trump’s actual answer is ‘all right’ which is not actually an answer to this question. He then proceeds to talk about Podesta reinforcing his pattern for lying.)

Q16. You said the leaks are real, but the news is fake. I guess I don’t understand. It seems that there’s a disconnect there. If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?

A.  The reporting is fake. Look, look….You know what that is? Here is the thing. The public isn’t — you know, they read newspapers., they see television, they watch. They don’t know if it’s true or false because they’re not involved. I’m involved. I’ve been involved with this stuff all my life. But I’m involved. So I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things. (Q16 False. Trump is maintaining his pattern. When he lies he deflects and the answer meanders into unrelated territory. The question – How can the leaks be real and the stories be fake. Trump’s answer – The reporting is fake.)

Q17. Aren’t you concerned, sir, that you are undermining the people’s faith in the First Amendment, freedom of the press, the press in this country, when you call stories you don’t like “fake news”? Q18. Why not just say it’s a story I don’t like?

A.  I do that. (Q17 Here he is ignoring the first, and much more important question about undermining the First Amendment, and Q18 answers the second question.)

Q19. When you call it “fake news”, you’re undermining confidence in our news media (inaudible) important?

A.  No, no. I do that. (Q19 Strange answer here. I think he is telling the truth – he believes that calling the news “fake” is indeed undermining confidence.) The answer continues – Here’s the thing. Ok. I understand what you’re – and you’re right about that, except this. See, I know when I should get good and when I should get bad. And sometimes I’ll say, “wow, that’s’ going to be a great story.” And I’ll get killed. (More meandering incoherence.)

Q20. For those who believe that there is something to it, is there anything that you have learned over the last few weeks that you might be able to reveal that might ease their concerns that this isn’t fake news?

A.  I think they don’t believe it. I don’t think the public – that’s why the Rasmussen poll just has me through the roof. I don’t think they believe it. Well, I guess one of the reasons I’m here today is to tell you the whole Russian thing is a ruse. That’s a ruse. And by the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia, just so you understand that. (Q20 Honestly I don’t know what Trump is answering here, nor am I sure what the reporter is asking. I don’t know if the reporter is talking about accusations of news being fake in general, of if it is about a specific incident. There was banter across a variety of topics to include Russia, fake news, the press in general, CNN, the fact that he won the presidency, Reince Prebus, and how the media hates him. As near as I can tell, whatever Trump thinks he is answering, I think he is falsifying.)

Q21. Is tax reform on the line?

A.  Tax reform is going to happen fairly quickly. (True) We’re doing Obamacare. We’re in the final stages.

Q22. You mentioned Russia. Let’s talk about some serious issues that have come up in the last week that you have had to deal with as President of the United States.

A.  Ok. (Q22 This isn’t really much of a question)

Q23. You mentioned the vessel – the spy vessel off the coast of the United States.

A.  Not good. (Q23 Direct answer. True)

Q24. There was a ballistic missile test that many interpret as a violation of an agreement between the two countries; and a Russian plane buzzed a US destroyer.

A.  Not good. (Q24 Direct answer. True)

Q25. I’m just trying to find out your orientation to those….

A.  All of those things you mentioned are very recent, because probably Putin assumes that he’s not going to be able to make a deal with me because it’s politically not popular for me to make a deal. So Hillary Clinton tries a re-set. It failed. They all tried. But I’m different than those people. (Q25 The question was basically what’s going on with these Russian provocations. Trump’s answer “Those things happened recently”. Deflection. He is lying or prevaricating. Even more damning is that he interjects Clinton. As an aside, I have noticed this is a common tactic used by the Right when they don’t want to talk about Trump.)

Q26. How are you interpreting those moves? Q27. And what do you intend to do about them? Q28. Have you given Rex Tillerson any advice or counsel on how to deal?

A.  I have. I have. (Q28 True. He has given Tillerson advice or counsel. Q26 and Q27 Trump ignores the first two questions.)

Q29. Is Putin testing you, do you believe sir?

A.  No, I don’t think so. (Q29 True. Trump doesn’t not believe that Putin is testing him. I find this to be one of the most shocking truths in the interview.)

Q30. So when you say they’re not good, do you mean that they are….

A.  Who did I say is not good? (Q30 Answering a question with a question. Deflection)

Q31. No, I read off the three things that have recently happened. Each one of them you said they’re not good.

A.  Not it’s not good, but they happened. (Q31 Repeating the question. Deflection.)

Q32. But do they damage the relationship? Do they undermine….

A.  They all happened recently. (Q32 Deflection.)

Q33. Do they undermine this countries ability to work with Russia?

A.  No. (Q33 True.) They all happened recently. (More Deflection). And I understand what they’re doing because they’re doing the same thing. Now again, maybe I’m not going to be able to deal with Russia, but at least I will have tried. (An interesting confession. True. He believes that he may not be able to pull off his deal with Russia, whatever that is). And if I don’t, does anybody really think that Hillary Clinton would be tougher on Russia than Donald Trump? Does anybody in the room believe that? Ok? (Deflection, incoherence, bringing in Clinton)

Q34. Can we conclude there will be no response to these particular provocations?

A.  I’m not going to tell you anything about what response I do, I don’t talk about military response. I don’t say I’m going into Mosul is four months. “We are going to attack Mosul in four months”. Then three months later, “We are going to attack Mosul in one month.” Next week, we are going to attack Mosul.” In the meantime Mosul is very, very, difficult. Do you know why? Because I don’t talk about military, and I don’t talk about certain other things, you’re going to be surprised to hear that. And by the way, my whole campaign, I’d say that. So I don’t have to tell you. (Q34 Deflection. I don’t know what to make of this. The question was about a response to Russian provocation. The answer was “I’m not going to tell you.” Which is True. The breakdown into Mosul doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the question except to move the conversation away from Russia.)

Q35. On the travel ban would you accept that that was a good example of the smooth running of government?

A.  Yeah I do. I do. (Q35 True. He believes that it was a good example of a smooth running of government.)

Q36. Were there any mistakes?

A.  Wait. Wait. I know who you are. Just wait. (Q36 Deflection. He believes there were mistakes. He goes on to describe that the rollout was smooth but that the courts were bad.)

Q37. I was just hoping that we cold get a yes or no answer on one of these questions involving Russia. Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

A.  Well I told you, Gen. Flynn obviously was dealing. So that’s one person. (Q37 Deflection, asked again specifically to answer yes or no, he deflected. He gives Flynn’s name presumably because his dealings were already made public.)

Q38. During the election?

A.  No. Nobody that I know of. Nobody…. (Q38 If he had left this answer just as ‘no’ and would say that he was telling the truth. He continues by deflecting- )

Q39. So you’re not aware of any contact during the course…

A.  Look, look, look….How many times do I have to answer this question? (Q39 Deflection. Answering a question with a question.)

Q40. Can you just say yes or no?

A.  Russia is a ruse. I know you have to get up and ask a question. It’s so important. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. (Q40 Deflection. I would say that this exchange indicates falsehood).

Q41. But in his capacity as your campaign manager (Manafort), was he in touch with Russian officials during the election?

A.  You know what? He said no. I could only tell you what he – now he was replaced long before the election. You know that, right? (Q41 Answering a question with a question, deflecting.)

Q42. On national security and immigration, can you give us more details on the executive order you plan for next week? Even its broad outlines?

A.  Yeah. (Q42 True. He can provide more details)

Q43. Will it be focused on specific ….

A.  It’s a very fair question. (Q43 Deflection)

Q44. Countries? And in addition, on the DACA program for immigration?

A.  Right. (Q44 True)

Q45. What is your plan, do you plan to continue that program or to end it?

A.  We’re gonna show great heart. (Q45 Deflection. This is not a plan nor is it an answer). DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. (Trump has not answered the question)

Q46. Can you talk a little bit about what’s first for Melania Trump does for the country and (inaudible) so opening White House Visitors Office, what does that mean?

A.  Now that’s what I call a nice question. That is very – who are you with? Good I’m gonna start watching, all right? Thank you very much. Melania’s terrific, she was here last night, we had dinner with Senator Rubio and his wife who is by the way, lovely. This goes on for a long time. Word after word but he never answers the question except to say that Melania is outstanding and that the visitors center has something to do with giving tours of the White House. (Q46 Deflection, incoherent. There is no particular answer here)

Q47. You said something as it related to the inner cities?

A.  Fix the inner cities. (Q47 True. Trump mentioned fixing the inner cities)

Q48. What will be that fix and your urban agenda as well as your HBCU Executive Order that’s coming out this afternoon?

A.  That was very professional and very good. We’ll be announcing the order in a little while and I’d rather let the order speak for itself. But it could be something that I think that will be very good for everybody concerned. (Q48 This answer continues, but it is unrelated to the question, rambles, talks about inner cities being hell etc.)

Q49. When you say the inner cities, are you going – are you going to include CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your – your urban agenda, your inner city agenda as …

A.  Am I going to include who? (Q49 Requesting clarification to the question)

Q50. Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional –

A.  Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? (Q50 Answering a question with a question. This answer seems to suggest that Trump is not aware of the CBC, nor is he aware that reporters to not set up meetings for the president.)

Q. (The last question was garbled and hard to understand.)

Summary

50 Questions asked.

6 Questions ignored completely. (Can not evaluate.)

20 Questions answered by deflecting. (Indicates that he is lying or prevaricating)

4 Question that I don’t know how to evaluate, or that Trump himself tried to get clarification on.

20 Questions answered truthfully

This is what was true-

  • He did talk about the electoral college earlier that day.
  • He does not know why Americans should trust him.
  • He is going to aggressively pursue the leaks.
  • There were talks about Feinberg reviewing the intel community.
  • They don’t want Feinberg to review the intel community.
  • They are going to look into the leaks, and they have asked the DOJ to get involved.
  • There are real leaks.
  • He did not direct Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador.
  • He does say when he doesn’t like a news story.
  • He believes that calling the news “fake” is indeed undermining confidence.
  • They are going to implement tax reform.
  • Trump believes the Russian spy vessel sitting off the coast, the missile test and the Russian bomber  buzzing US warships are “not good”
  • True. He has given Tillerson advice.
  • True. Trump doesn’t not believe that Putin is testing him
  • True. The provocations don’t damage relations.
  • Trump believes the rollout was good.
  • He can provide details about his EO.
  • The EO will contain DACA provisions.
  • He has mentioned fixing inner cities.

These are the lies-

  • People on his team interacted with Russians, during the campaign and Trump knew about it.
  • Trump does believe that Flynn did something wrong.
  • Trump is covering up something about Russia.

Q1. Deflection. (Did anyone on your team interact with Russia)

Q2. Deflection. (What did your team talk to Russia about)
Q3. True. (He did talk about electoral college margins earlier in the day)

Q4. True. (He doesn’t know why Americans should trust him)

Q5. Initially he doesn’t answer the question. Later in the press conference he says that Flynn didn’t do anything wrong, but I believe his statement show that Trump does believe that Flynn did something wrong.

Q6. Not answered.

Q7. Not answered.

Q8. True. He is going to aggressively pursue the leaks.

Q9. True. There were talks about Feinberg reviewing the intel community.

Q10. True. They are going to try to not use him to do that.

Q11. True. They are going to look into the leaks and they have asked the DOJ to do it.

Q12. Not answered.

Q13. True. There are real leaks. But also, false, the stories are not fake.

Q14. True. He did not direct Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador.

Q15. Deflection. Americans can not believe him with regard to the story about government leaks.

Q16. False. The leaks are real and the stories are real.

Q17. Ignored. He ignores the question about undermining the First Amendment

Q18. True. He does say when he doesn’t like a news story.

Q19. True. He believes that calling the news “fake” is indeed undermining confidence.

Q20. I don’t know what to analyze here.

Q21. True. They are going to implement tax reform.

Q22. Not really a question.

Q23. Russian spy vessel – “not good”. True.

Q24. Missile test and Russian bomber buzzing US war ships. “not good”. True.

Q25. Deflection. The question – what’s going on with these Russian provocations. Trump’s answer “Those things happened recently”.

Q26. Not answered.

Q27. Not answered.

Q28. True. He has given Tillerson advice.

Q29. True. Trump doesn’t not believe that Putin is testing him

Q30. Deflection. Answering question with a question.

Q31. Deflection.

Q32. Deflection (Do the Russian provocations damage relations with the US – Answer “They happened recently”)

Q33. True. The provocations don’t damage relations. Trumps answer to this one goes in some interesting directions.

Q34. The question was about a response to Russian provocation. The answer was “I’m not going to tell you.” Which is True, but leaves the question unanswered.

Q35. True. Trump believes the rollout was good.

Q36. Deflection.  He believes there were mistakes.

Q37. Deflection, asked again specifically to answer yes or no, he deflected. He gives Flynn’s name presumably because his dealings were already made public.

Q38. Deflection. If he had left this answer just as ‘no’ I would say that he was telling the truth.

Q39. Deflection.

Q40. Deflection.

Q41. Deflection.

Q42. True. He can provide details about his EO.

Q43. Deflection.

Q44. True. The EO will contain DACA provisions.

Q45. Deflection. “We’re gonna show heart” is not an answer.

Q46. Deflection and incoherent.

Q47. True. he did mention fixing inner cities.

Q48. Unknown. Mostly incoherent.

Q49. Requests clarification about the question.

Q50. Deflection. Answering a question with a question.

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