(CNN)On Wednesday, the Biden administration requested that all Trump appointees appointed to boards at the nation’s military academies — a group that includes longtime Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway — resign. Conway, in a letter rejecting Biden’s request, said that his call to resign would constitute a “break from presidential norms.”
Yes, she really said that. “A break from presidential norms.”This is, to be kind, a little rich coming from Conway, who spent years by then-President Donald Trump’s side as he smashed every presidential norm possible.There was the travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries.There was time he said that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the white nationalist riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.Read MoreThere was the time he pulled the United States from the Paris climate accord.There was the time he told the Proud Boys, a white supremacist organization, to “stand down and stand by.”There was the time he referred to some African nations as “s*** hole countries.”There was the time when he told four freshman Democratic lawmakers — three of whom were born in the United States — to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
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There was the time that he suggested to the president of Ukraine that America had done a lot for the country and all he was asking in return was that they investigate Joe Biden, his likely 2020 rival.There was the time he publicly scoffed at the need for mask-wearing to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic — and his ongoing refusal to make a clear call — without hedging — that every eligible American should be vaccinated.There was the time when he helped incite a riot at the US Capitol that left five people dead and more than 100 police officers wounded.And was the time post-presidency that he decided to offer ringside commentary for a fight on the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.There were a lot of other times, too, when Trump bent — or flat-out broke — “presidential norms.” And he reveled in it.”My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL,” Trump tweeted in July 2017. “Make America Great Again!”At a campaign rally in 2019, Trump expounded on his view of the presidency — and how he was changing it.”It’s much easier being presidential, it’s easy,” he said. “All you have to do is act like a stiff… And everybody would be out of here so fast! You wouldn’t come in in the first place!”Conway, like so many other political pros who had been in and around Washington long before Trump came to disrupt the presidency, went along with every last bit of this revolution. In fact, she coined the single most memorable — and telling — phrase of Trump’s entire presidency when in response to false claims made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration, Conway said this: “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our press secretary — gave alternative facts.”Alternative facts, indeed.Conway’s comments are part of a broader attempt by the former president and some of his closest advisers to gaslight the country into believing that how they remember the last four years is not, in fact, how the last four years actually were.Just last month, former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, straight-faced, that “when President Trump was president, you didn’t see crisis after crisis. You just didn’t see it.” And, in May, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to re-frame a phone call he had on January 6 with Trump. “What I talked to President Trump about, I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on, “McCarthy said, in a major flip flop from his previous comments on the riot and the President’s role in it. “He didn’t see it. What he ended the call was saying — telling me, he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did, he put a video out later.”This is all consistent with Trump’s infamous pledge to supporters that “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”The thing is, we remember what happened. We remember the norms that Trump gleefully smashed — and the damage done. And that means that the likes of Conway, McEnany and McCarthy can’t gaslight the country — no matter how hard they try.