Donald Trump Only Lied a Tiny Bit on Monday!

And now for something completely different: I’m going to defend Donald Trump. Sort of. This is a high-wire act, but I think I can pull it off.

Trump is getting flak for lying about a phone call from the president of Mexico. “As you know, the border was a tremendous problem and they’re close to 80 percent stoppage,” he said earlier this week. “Even the president of Mexico called me — They said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”

There was no phone call. However, this is from the original account in the Miami Herald:

Mexican officials, including Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, reached out to American counterparts and noted the presidents spoke about migration at the G20 in Hamburg last month. Pena Nieto spoke cited statistics about migration from Central American to Mexico declining significantly, according to the official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

Trump turned a face-to-face meeting into a phone call, because Trump is addicted to the proposition that other people always call him, not the other way around. But that’s it. By the standards of ordinary lies this rates about a 3, and by the standards of Trump lies it rates around 0.1. This is as close to the truth as he ever gets.

I guess that was a pretty meager defense, wasn’t it? In the end, I couldn’t quite do it. But I came close.

POSTSCRIPT: The only reason this matters is that Trump’s casual fib caused the Mexican president a lot of trouble. According to the Herald, “Mexican opposition legislators jumped on Trump’s account and complained about what sounded like a ‘secret phone call’ between the pair, and the idea of Pena Nieto praising Trump on migration.”

But I don’t imagine Trump cares about that.