Does Trump really believe his own lies?
Donald Trump (AFP / SAUL LOEB)

As we all know, Donald Trump is the sociopathic liar of our time and, just possibly, of any time. It’s not only that he lies so frequently, but that he lies so brazenly. But knowing that he lies doesn’t solve one the great puzzles of the Trump era — whether the guy himself actually believes anything that comes out of his mouth. 

This week — a tumultuous one even by Trump standards — we were given an important clue. We have go back to the beginning to understand it, back to the down-the-Trump-Tower-escalator announcement speech in which Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers and worse. It set the tone for the entire Trump campaign.

At the time, though — granted, a more innocent time — the Trump lie sounded to me less like Steve-King-style bigotry than simple demagoguery meant to exploit anti-immigrant feeling. Whatever your views on Trump’s level of bigotry — and mine have changed — it doesn’t explain Trump’s latest proposal to dump ICE detainees onto the streets of so-called sanctuary cities. By the way, I think “dump” is the correct word. 

The idea is, of course, insane — sending the detainees to cities they’d probably like to live in anyway, on buses that may or may not come to a full stop before dumping them. And it’s probably illegal —or at least that’s what the people from ICE and Department of Homeland Security have been telling Trump, which is why the president is busily firing so many of them. Trump reportedly even considered sending agents into Mexico to arrest people marching in the caravans and sending them to sanctuary cities. I don’t know if Trump knows the briar patch story, but this is briar patch territory. Where does he think the marchers want to go?

And more than insane, the plan — if you can call it that— rests on the belief that Democratic leaders in San Francisco and LA and New York and Denver secretly oppose immigration into their already diverse communities and that, like Trump himself, they believe the families escaping the violence of Central America are rapists and drug dealers and MS-13 members sent here to destroy civil society. He must not believe sanctuary cities are sanctuary cities, with, in many cases, their teeming numbers of immigrants. He thinks it’s a con which is, I guess, how con men think.

What big-city mayors do fear is that this would all be done without any planning. We don’t know whether Trump talking about asylum seekers or illegally-crossed-the-border detainees or both or if he knows the difference. But, in any case, it fits in with the expected line of Trump cruelty and indifference to the fate of those crossing the border. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says Trump shouldn’t use the immigrants, including their kids, as “pawns.” The mayor of Seattle writes an op-ed in The Washington Post welcoming refugees and pointing to how past immigrants have helped build Seattle into a great city.

You may remember that The Washington Post broke this story, saying that Trump had twice proposed dumping the detainees, but that it was rejected. When the White House was asked about the story, they called it old news, which is, I guess, a step up from fake news. But Trump didn’t see it that way. He’s desperate, of course, to do something to distract from the issues at the border, which he has personally turned into a crisis, shutting off aid from Central American counties, threatening to close the border, sending in the Army to roll wire, and on and on. One of his more unbelievable lies was that terrorists were marching with the caravans. I am thinking that for your average terrorist, that’s a hell of a lot of walking.

The thing is, Trump apparently loves this plan, and when it got roundly ripped after breaking in the papers, that only encouraged him to breathe new life into it. And so he tells us:  If Democrats don’t change immigration laws, “we’ll bring the illegals — I call them the illegals — we’ll bring them to sanctuary cities & let that particular area take care of it … California certainly is always saying, ‘Oh we want more people,’ and they want more people in their sanctuary cities. Well, we’ll give them more people. We can give them a lot. We can give them an unlimited supply — and let’s see if they’re so happy.”

Certainly, Trump is desperate. A court just ruled that Trump couldn’t leave asylum seekers trapped in Mexico. It seems that seeking asylum in America is legal and one of the basic tenets of American democracy. CNN just broke the story, though, that Trump had told Border Protection Commmissioner Kevin McAleenan he would pardon him if he were sent to jail for blocking asylum seekers from entering the United States. The story then goes on to say that Trump might have been joking.

Whether or not he was joking, it is a joke, if a bad one. You could add it to the list of Trump’s possible impeachable offenses and of Trump’s disrespect for the rule of law.

And when the White House denied Trump ever said it, jokingly or not, you can add that to the list of Trump-related lies. I’m pretty sure Trump knows not to believe that one.