I thought I’d noticed most of Donald Trump’s obvious rhetorical devices for lying and smearing people, but this one had escaped me. He has often tried to undermine the credibility of his critics, opponents and former employees with the “I could tell you some terrible things about them, but I won’t” strategy. His most recent target is former economic adviser Gary Cohn.
When Cohn stepped down in March from his position as head of Trump’s National Economic Council director, Trump called him a “rare talent” and praised him for doing a “superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again.”
But told by his friends at Fox News during his latest Fox & Friends phone call that Cohn might have been a source of recent negative stories about his administration, Trump had nothing nice to say.
“It could have been. A lot of people have said that, you know, Gary Cohn. And I could tell stories about him like you wouldn’t believe. Gary Cohn could have been.”
Some past examples where he’s used this same tactic:
Just last week, Trump repeatedly used this approach to attack Senate Democrats who criticized his Supreme Court pick. First he dangled blackmail material over the head of an unnamed Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying, “I’ve seen that person in very, very bad situations, somewhat compromising.” Then, at a Mississippi rally, he attacked the whole caucus. “They destroy people, they want to destroy people. These are really evil people and then you see the people who are doing it,” he claimed. “I could tell you things about every one of them.”…
But after the Arizona Republican’s dramatic vote killed Trump’s Obamacare, he attempted to smear McCain by implying knowing something the public did not. “And then, time goes by, and he voted. And then, of course, you know, John McCain came in, and he went thumbs down at 3 o’clock in the morning, and everybody—— Everybody. Oh, I know so much, folks, I could tell you,” he told a rally in Alabama. “It was sad.”After Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) helped sink the nomination of Trump’s personal doctor to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the president was livid. “What Jon Tester did to this man is a disgrace,” Trump said a Michigan rally. “Tester started throwing out things that he’s heard. Well I know things about Tester that I could say too,” he warned. “And if I said them, he’d never be elected again.”…
“I like to expose people. I mean, I expose Megyn Kelly as not being very good,” he told Don Lemon. “I could tell you other things about Megyn Kelly that would be very harsh but I won’t bother with that.”
Perhaps the most infamous example of this was during the 2016 election when he got into a nasty fight with Ted Cruz after accusing Cruz’ father of taking part in the Kennedy assassination. This is about the only time I’ve ever felt like Cruz was the more sympathetic person in a situation. Trump dragged Heidi Cruz, Ted’s wife, into it in a tweet in which he said, “Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!” Of course he never did, and he never does, reveal anything. It’s all just empty bluster. It’s the perfect con — his followers believe he has dirt on someone but is just too much of a gentleman to use it (yes, they are truly that delusional) and his opponent is left not being able to respond to an accusation that is never actually made.
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