WASHINGTON — Watching Fox News ahead of Wednesday’s impeachment vote, President Trump gave a Twitter call out to one of his most combative allies in the House.
In his tweet, Mr. Trump quoted approvingly from what Representative Doug Collins, Republican of Georgia, had said on “Fox & Friends” about the two impeachment articles passed by the House — that they were the product of Democrats who “couldn’t find any crimes so they did a vague abuse of power and abuse of Congress, which every administration from the beginning has done.”
But in fact, Mr. Collins never made the claim that “abuse of power and abuse of Congress” were common practices of past administrations.
“They simply wanted to get at the president,” Mr. Collins had actually said. “So they said at the end of the day, we can’t form any crimes. We’re going to have a vague abuse of power. And while we’re at it, let’s just throw in abuse of — obstruction of Congress because we didn’t get our way.”
The Wednesday morning post was just the latest example of Mr. Trump, who rails against the “Fake News,” doing his own kind of editing of comments made by top administration officials and other prominent allies.
Mr. Trump has made a habit of injecting his own words into the comments of people he sees on television and then publishing them as direct quotes on Twitter, where he has more than 67 million followers. In some instances, he simply omits a part of the quote he doesn’t like.
When Ken Starr, the former independent counsel, appeared on Fox News last month, he noted that Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, had testified that efforts to pressure the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Mr. Trump’s rivals did amount to a quid pro quo.
But when Mr. Trump quoted Mr. Starr on his Twitter feed, he replaced that part with a phrase suggesting just the opposite.
“Ambassador Sondland’s testimony stated that President Trump said the Ukraine President should just do the right thing (No Quid Pro Quo),” Mr. Trump wrote.
Mr. Starr did not respond to a request for comment about Mr. Trump’s tweet.
Another time in November, Mr. Trump heard Jason D. Meister, an adviser to his campaign, tick off a list of his accomplishments on Fox News. “He’s done so many great things,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, purporting to quote Mr. Meister. “He’s devastated ISIS & killed AlBaghdadi, building Wall.’”
While Mr. Meister did talk about the Islamic State and the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, its leader, he never mentioned the president’s efforts to build a wall across the southwestern border.
More often than not, the allies who Mr. Trump misquotes do little to publicly contradict him. Sometimes a lawmaker’s office will simply point reporters to the transcript when asked about the disconnect. They rarely call out Mr. Trump for spreading falsehoods or altering the meaning of their words.
“I have regularly tried to reach out to Fox News guests that he has misquoted,” said Daniel Dale, a reporter assigned to CNN’s fact-checking team who, along with his colleague Tara Subramaniam, has compared all of Mr. Trump’s tweets against video clips of the people he quotes. “I can’t recall someone ever responding. In general, Trump allies just let the creative additions stand.”
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian at New York University who studies authoritarianism and propaganda, called the tactic a “power play.”
“He’s challenging them to correct him,” she said. “This is how a cult of personality works. The leader will say something that everyone knows is wrong, and no one will correct him.”
Not all of Mr. Trump’s misrepresentations come from watching TV. Sometimes he attributes something to a private conversation that may not have ever occurred.
That happened in October when the president was defending the contents of a reconstructed transcript of his July 25 conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. The call prompted a whistle-blower complaint that led to the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Trump told reporters that Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, had told him after he read the transcript that it “was the most innocent phone call that I’ve read.”
Mr. McConnell later denied making the comment, saying at a news conference that he had “not had any conversations on that subject” with Mr. Trump.
But other Republicans have said nothing when Mr. Trump appeared to have wrongly quoted them. The president said, for example, that Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, had described the call as “perfect” — a word the president uses repeatedly to describe his own conduct.
If Mr. Scott also used that word, it wasn’t in public.
“We’ve all seen it. We saw the transcript, we saw what the whistle-blower put out. I don’t see what they’re talking about,” Mr. Scott had said on Fox News, defending the president but not using his chosen word, “perfect.”
Mr. Scott’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The White House also did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Trump’s habit of putting words in the mouths of others are not just limited to impeachment.
In a tweet on October 20, Mr. Trump quoted his defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, as saying that the cease-fire in Turkey was “holding up very nicely. There are some minor skirmishes that have ended quickly. New areas being resettled with Kurds. U.S. soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zone. We have secured the Oil.”
While Mr. Esper said similar things at the time, he never uttered those exact words privately or publicly, according to administration officials.
Mr. Esper’s spokeswoman, Alyssa Farah, declined to comment about the presidential tweet.
In June, Mr. Trump quoted Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the House minority leader, in a tweet, writing: “‘House Republicans support the President on Tariffs with Mexico all the way, & that makes any measure the President takes on the Border totally Veto proof. Why wouldn’t you as Republicans support him when that will allow our President to make a better deal.’”
“Thank you @GOPLeader,” Mr. Trump added, using Mr. McCarthy’s Twitter handle.
While the comments were similar to something Mr. McCarthy said in an appearance on Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News, he never said anything on the show about Republicans supporting tariffs “all the way,” or holding a “veto-proof” level of support.
His spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about the disconnect. At the time, a McCarthy spokesman simply referred Politico to the transcript of Mr. McCarthy’s remarks, which did not match up with Mr. Trump’s tweet.
The false quotes attributed to those who generally go on television to praise the president and his policies are particularly jarring given Mr. Trump’s recent weekslong attack on Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat from California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, over a statement in which he mocked Mr. Trump’s July 25 conversation with Mr. Zelensky.
In his remarks during a committee hearing, Mr. Schiff said he would be laying out the “essence of what the president communicates,” and made it clear his reading was not an “exact transcribed version of the call.” But Mr. Trump has repeatedly accused Mr. Schiff of inventing the conversation, going so far as to claim he committed “treason” for how he presented it. Mr. Trump has also suggested that he only released a reconstructed transcript of the call in response to Mr. Schiff’s comments about it. In fact, Mr. Schiff’s comments came after the White House had released the transcript.
Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Schiff was another way the president bends the facts to fit his own narrative, according to Jennifer R. Mercieca, a historian at Texas A&M University who specializes in American political rhetoric and has studied Mr. Trump’s use of language.
“It represents his will to market, to frame reality, to make the world appear as he wishes, despite reality,” she said. “He counts on his followers being so gullible and so cynical that they won’t doubt the reality that he has constructed for them.”
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