Lying Has Consequences

Commentary
By Jim Wallis 10-31-2017
Former Trump 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign official Rick Gates appear in front of U.S. Magistrate Deborah A. Robinson in U.S. Federal Court Oct. 30, 2017. REUTERS/Bill Hennessey
 

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. —Proverbs 12:22

Yesterday, we saw the first wave of what is expected to be a much longer investigation into possible Russian collusion. And while reporters and pundits dig into the timeline, what struck me the most about the revelation is that the downfall of those named was lying — lying to federal agents about money and lying about contacts between representatives of the Russian government and representatives of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

Of course, hearing falsehoods and outright lies from those associated with the president has become so commonplace as to not warrant much surprise in the press or the general public. But for those of us who claim faith in a God of truth and/or hold sacred the moral value of honesty, these individual lies — lies that have led us to a fact-less society — must be denounced at every turn, each time we hear them, across political ideologies.

The highest profile name in the new indictments was Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. He and his aide, Rick Gates, were charged with laundering money, evading taxes, and hiding their unregistered lobbying with foreign governments for millions of dollars — and lying about it to federal officials. But the issue of Russia’s relationship to the Trump campaign and their possible collusion in the U.S. election on behalf of Trump and against Hillary Clinton came in the plea agreement of George Papadopolous — one of the foreign policy campaign advisors that Trump himself had named. He was found guilty of lying to federal agents about his contacts and meetings with people he believed had connections to the Russian government, which was interfering in an American election.

Manafort is the bigger name, but ultimately the bigger story to emerge from yesterday is striking: A Trump campaign advisor, Papadopolous, was in touch with people he believed had close connections to the Russian government and who told him they had compromising information on Hillary Clinton via thousands of obtained emails. So he tried to set up meetings between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

With the hope of a better relationship between the United States and Russia, Papadopolous even suggested the prospect of a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladamir Putin. Papadopolous put himself forward as a pipeline to Russia. But yesterday we learned of his plea agreement and cooperation with the office of the Special Counsel.

Ultimately, it was all the lies that brought indictments against Manafort, Gates, and Papadopolous. Our nation must understand the consequences of lying, that public lying has personal consequences. Those in the highest level of political power in this nation — where lying has become commonplace — need to understand that. The president of the United States was a perpetual liar in his political campaign and has shown himself to be one in the first 10 months of his presidency.

For the sake of the nation’s soul, we must now see clear consequences to lying. We need to acknowledge how the normalization of lying is creating a society for ourselves and for our children in which truth no longer matters — and we must correct course. We should pray for the investigators and all those they are investigating — that they will find and speak the truth. God help us.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, is available now. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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