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Trump liar

It's over two years now that I've been waiting. But I still haven't seen it.

I have watched the news conferences, the Oval Office videos, the impromptu responses to reporters' questions on the tarmac.

Studying his face. Ignoring the fleshy neck folds and jowls in order to zero in on the tiny eyes. Looking for a sudden flicker of self-awareness that spreads, perhaps, into an ironic smile. An indication, finally, of authenticity. Of the slightest sign of acknowledgment by President Donald Trump that he's aware of the con.

I have no doubt it will appear one of these days because I saw it before, several years prior to his becoming president, and before he felt the need to always be “on” 24/7.

It was back in 2012 when he was just citizen Trump, a silver-spoon heir and TV personality. While a guest on David Letterman's show, he was criticizing the U.S. government for allowing China, in his view, to get the upper hand economically, when the host suddenly hauled out a couple of shirts and ties from Trump's clothing line and read from the label that they were made in China.

First Trump got quiet. Then he flashed a sheepish smile at Letterman, and then at the audience. He raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders, cocked and pointed his head toward the host two times in succession, conceding the point to Letterman, good naturedly acknowledging his own hypocrisy.

That was seven years ago, and it is truly fascinating today to watch Trump's once-upon-a-time display of credibility, humility and honesty. You can watch it yourself, what today amounts to a “historic” moment on Youtube. It was the last time that the man we now know as president of the United States came clean with the American public.

Since his inauguration in 2016, he's been a nonstop lying machine, according to fact-checkers and The New York Times, which has thus far documented close to 7,000 false or misleading claims made by the president, generally averaging 10 a day, and almost 30 a day in the several weeks leading to the mid-term elections.

Beginning with a ridiculous and provable lie about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, Trump was just warming up, lying daily about everything from climate change to the Twin Towers disaster. According to Politifact, some of his biggest (Pants on Fire) lies have been about Mexicans and the border wall, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, African-Americans and crime, voter fraud in elections, taxes and employment statistics, and special investigator Robert Mueller and his staff.

His whoppers about his mistresses, his former White House staff members, his financial dealings with Russia, and about James Comey and the FBI are serious enough to potentially lead to impeachment and indictment.

But through it all, Trump has maintained his poker face. Unlike Letterman, his other interrogators have not been able to rattle him, whether they are CNN reporters or leaders of Congress. They try, but Trump interrupts them, drowns them out, insults them.

Not even Robert Mueller has been able to make him flinch, since Trump refused to submit to a presidential interview.

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But, what we have seen is Trump protesting too much, with his repeated claims of “no collusion” and “witch hunt.” And we have seen some panic, with him pulling a "St. Peter" in denying or minimizing his association with those already indicted.

But we've seen no talk show-style concession.

All of which is why I still await the moment of unraveling. It may not be for months, but it is inevitable. It will come at a press conference, or during a statement read in the oval office, or in an unscripted moment on the tarmac, after the findings of the Mueller investigation are submitted, and the seven (and counting) other separate state and federal investigations and lawsuits ultimately overwhelm his defenses.

We may not get the sheepish grin or shrug from late night TV, or even a Nixonian scowl with downcast eyes.

But we will know it when we see it.

Contributing columnist for Hayward's Sawyer County Record, David McGrath is author of "The Territory" and emeritus English professor, College of DuPage.

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