President Donald Trump is flooding the news cycle with conspiracy theories about fraudulent mail-in voting and antifa agents flying around on an airplane -- and longtime observers of the president say that he's weaponized such distortions of reality for decades.
As the New York Times reports, Trump began honing his talents at fabricating earlier in his business career, when he testified on Capitol Hill against granting licenses to Native American casinos by claiming, without any evidence, that they had been compromised by the mob.
"It will be the biggest scandal ever, the biggest since Al Capone," Trump told lawmakers.
The future president at the time got into heated debates with lawmakers who hammered him for making unsubstantiated charges -- but Trump still refused to back down, which became a pattern that would continue into his political career.
"For decades, President Trump has sown distrust in almost everything he touches," the paper writes. "From Native Americans and business competition in New York to President Barack Obama’s birthplace to America’s intelligence agencies to the special counsel investigation he calls the 'Russia hoax,' Mr. Trump’s goal has been to undermine the opposition, rely on conspiracy theories to discount any evidence that might discredit him — and, above all, leave people uncertain about what to believe."
Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist from New York who has been watching Trump for decades, said that the president was successful because he is exploiting many Americans' innate distrust of expertise.
"Americans have had a paranoid streak throughout their history, which this guy understands better than anybody," he said.