Despite making a campaign appearance in what, apparently, has become President Donald Trump’s favorite state (last month marked his sixth visit to West Virginia in less than two years), it had to be a lousy day otherwise for the nation’s chief executive.

The president’s “fixer” and longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, turned himself over to the FBI, admitted guilt and confessed that he had paid hush money to two women — a porn star and a Playboy bunny with whom the president is alleged to have had sexual relations — “at the direction of the candidate ... for the principal purpose of influencing” the 2016 presidential election. That, in short, is breaking campaign finance law — as directed by the president of the United States.

And if that were not distressing and damaging enough, then came the news — in the very same hour on the very same day — that Paul Manafort, the president’s one-time campaign chief, had been convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account.

The “witch hunt” that the president has labeled special counsel Robert Muller’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia? Lots of witches out there, Mr. President. Lots of witches circling your affairs.

Let’s be clear — and fair. While the verdicts in the Manafort trial represented affirmation of Mueller’s Russia probe, the case did not involve allegations of Russian election interference or collusion on the part of the Trump campaign.

But here are the layers to the onion that Mueller is peeling back: Five guilty pleas, 32 indicted individuals — Americans and Russians — and 187 charges revealing specific and startling evidence of Russia’s 2016 attack on our democracy.

On Tuesday’s conviction alone, Manafort could spend the rest of his life in jail. In September, he is scheduled for yet another trial, facing charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent, money laundering, witness tampering and making false statements.

Lying in other words — the very behavior that has dogged the president from the beginning. Whether talking about why he fired former FBI Director James Comey (with evidence suggesting a conspiracy to mislead the American people) or his involvement with a Trump Tower meeting with Russian agents offering political dirt on Hillary Clinton (therein lies collusion), the president has stumbled through multiple and conflicting accounts. If you hadn’t noticed, the president has a difficult relationship with and only a passing interest in the truth.

The Washington Post, which has been fact checking the president’s statements, has counted 4,229 false or misleading claims by the president since he took office — before his appearance in Charleston Tuesday night.

That’s a lot of lying — by anyone, let alone the president of the United States.

And therein lies the president’s problem with the majority of Americans in the court of public opinion: His credibility is shot. While we expect the president to push back against Cohen and stand in defense of Manafort, we also expect him to lie, to attempt to bend the narrative to his liking, to his favor. Clearly, the truth is not the truth with this administration. It is what Trump says it is — and that can change multiple times each day.

Losing trust in our elected officials is a terrible thing for our democracy.

Certainly, Trump is not the first politician to lie. But he is so dang persistently bad at it — day and night every day — damn the consequences.

Is this the way we want our president to behave?

No. No, it is not.

Should we expect more from the resident of the Oval Office? Yes, we should.

Can we? No, we cannot.

No, President Trump will not be sitting for an interview with Mueller because he can’t afford to further implicate himself. The president and his lawyers — those not under federal indictment — are pitching it as a “perjury trap.”

Well, if the president could bring himself to tell the truth, if he didn’t have anything to hide, why wouldn’t he submit to questioning?

We all know the truth on that. The president has something — lots of somethings — to hide.

We’re guessing that Mueller already knows the truth of the matter.

Soon, so shall we all. And that, too, will be a terrible, no-good day for the president.

— The Register-Herald

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