The New York Times reports tonight that the White House has confirmed at least two telephone calls President Donald Trump claimed to have had in recent weeks—with the leadership of the Boy Scouts, and with the president of Mexico—never actually happened. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the calls’ non-existence today, although she pushed back against the idea that Trump was lying, saying that the conversations themselves actually occurred, just not over the phone. So, it’s not that Trump was lying about talking to President Enrique Peña Nieto about deportation statistics, or Scout leaders about their support of him—which would, at least, be rational, if evil, things for a world leader to lie to his citizens about—but about the apparently crucial distinction of whether he talked to them in person or they “called him up” on the phone.
Our brains can’t stop poking at the obvious question here: Why? Why lie about something so petty, so inconsequential? Just to keep in practice? Because his memory slipped? To cover up some other, bigger lie? Or does Trump just think phone calls are inherently impressive? Would he be happier if all of his communications came in through the phone? Is that why he’s so obsessed with Twitter?
The NYT piece has another theory, quoting Michael D’Antonio, who authored a biography of Trump: “He’s been lying his whole life, almost reflexively, and it’s almost as if he finds it more satisfying and easier than to speak with precision.” The difference, now, being that pretty much everything Trump says is suddenly being double-checked by the media he loathes. (For the record, reporters asked Sanders about the phone calls after fact-checking with the other parties, who’d said that they’d never occurred.)