The Lie Of The Year
This article is a couple weeks old, but will always be timely.
President Donald Trump started the morning of Sept. 20 dismissing headlines about someone who blew the whistle on a phone call he had with the president of Ukraine. The call, he tweeted , was "pitch perfect."
Later that morning, Trump and first lady Melania opened the White House for a day of ceremony with Australia’s prime minister and his wife. Before their dinner of sunchoke ravioli and Dover sole, the four sat in the Oval Office as reporters asked Trump about the whistleblower’s account.
"It’s a ridiculous story. It’s a partisan whistleblower," Trump said, though he added he didn’t know who it was and hadn’t read the complaint.
Since the Sept. 26 release of the whistleblower complaint about his call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump has insisted more than 80 times that the whistleblower’s account is fake, fraudulent, incorrect, "total fiction," "made up," and "sooo wrong."
On Oct. 5 he tweeted that the "second hand information ‘Whistleblower’ got my phone conversation almost completely wrong."
"Everything he wrote in that report, almost, was a lie," Trump told reporters Nov. 8.
"The whistleblower defrauded our country, because the whistleblower wrote something that was totally untrue," he said to the approval of supporters at a rally Dec. 10 in Hershey, Pa.
Despite what Trump claims, the whistleblower got the call "almost completely" right.
We know this from the very record of the call the president released. We know this from testimony under oath from career diplomats and other officials. And the president and his allies have told reporters that Trump did what the whistleblower suggested — urged the Ukrainian president to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Their argument is that there was nothing inappropriate or unreasonable about it. Trump on Oct. 3 asked China to look at Biden and his son, Hunter, too.
Every year, PolitiFact editors review the year’s most flagrant inaccuracies in search of a significant false claim that can be elevated to Lie of the Year.
The distinction is awarded to a statement that is more than ridiculous and wrong. The Lie of the Year — the only time PolitiFact uses the word "lie" — speaks to a falsehood that proves to be of real consequence and gets repeated in a virtual campaign to undermine an accurate narrative.
The whistleblower, who to Trump’s consternation remains unidentified, raised the concern that the president’s actions leading up to and on that phone call amount to interference in the coming presidential election. Agree or disagree with the conclusion, or whether the president’s conduct warrants impeachment, the actions described in the complaint stand up to factual scrutiny.
The claim that the whistleblower got his phone call "almost completely wrong" is PolitiFact’s 2019 Lie of the Year.
The whistleblower filed the now famous complaint on Aug. 12. It is nine pages long. The description of a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky takes up two pages. That section is the backbone (though not the entirety) of the impeachment inquiry of the president.
Trump started the call after 9 a.m. from the residence of the White House. The purpose for the leaders’ phone call, as suggested by the National Security Council, was for Trump to congratulate Zelensky on his political party winning control of Ukraine’s parliament.
The call started with pleasantries and lasted half an hour. The whistleblower was not listening in but cited "multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of the call." The complaint says Trump "pressured" Zelensky to:
• investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden;
• look into allegations that interference in the 2016 election, attributed to Russia, originated with Ukraine and a Democratic server; and,
• speak with Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr about those issues.
The day before the whistleblower’s complaint was public, the White House released a memo about the conversation that serves as a rough transcript of the call. Over the ensuing 80 days, the nation has watched Trump and his allies dispute the meaning of the core concerns, even as three officials who were listening have confirmed and elaborated on what was said in congressional testimony.
Those officials are Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman of the National Security Council; Jennifer Williams, adviser on Russia and Europe for Vice President Mike Pence; and Tim Morrison, who resigned his post as the top Russia expert on the National Security Council in October.
While Joe Biden was vice president, his son, Hunter, accepted a directorship on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.
The whistleblower said Trump wanted Zelensky to "initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter Biden."
Confirmed. Page 4 of the White House partial transcript quotes Trump as saying, "The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me."