Donald Trump Is A Congenital Liar, But Will That Matter To Voters?

Donald Trump lies with the ease that the rest of us tie our shoes. Will that fact have an impact on voters?

President Trump recently passed his 928th day in office, and The Washington Post’s Fact Checker team marked the occasion by updating their running account of the President’s lies since taking office in January 2017. Needless to say, they found once again that the number of lies this President has told has reached astoundingly high levels. By their count, the number is now up to more than 12,000 lies since January 20, 2017:

President Trump’s proclivity for spouting exaggerated numbers, unwarranted boasts and outright falsehoods has continued at a remarkable pace. As of Aug. 5, his 928th day in office, he had made 12,019 false or misleading claims, according to the Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement the president has uttered.

Trump crossed the 10,000 mark on April 26, and he has been averaging about 20 fishy claims a day since then. From the start of his presidency, he has averaged about 13 such claims a day.

About one-fifth of these claims are about immigration, his signature issue — a percentage that has grown since the government shut down over funding for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, his most repeated claim — 190 times — is that his border wall is being built. Congress balked at funding the concrete barrier he envisioned, so he has tried to pitch bollard fencing and repairs of existing barriers as “a wall.”

False or misleading claims about trade, the economy and the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign each account for about 10 percent of the total. Claims on those subjects are also among his most repeated.

Trump has falsely claimed 186 times that the U.S. economy today is the best in history. He began making this claim in June 2018, and it quickly became one of his favorites. The president can certainly brag about the state of the economy, but he runs into trouble when he repeatedly makes a play for the history books. By just about any important measure, the economy today is not doing as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson or Bill Clinton — or Ulysses S. Grant. Moreover, the economy is beginning to hit the head winds caused by the president’s trade wars.

On 166 occasions, he has claimed the United States has “lost” money on trade deficits. This reflects a basic misunderstanding of economics. Countries do not “lose” money on trade deficits. A trade deficit simply means that people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country. Trade deficits are also affected by macroeconomic factors, such as currencies, economic growth, and savings and investment rates.

Trump has falsely said 162 times that he passed the biggest tax cut in history. Even before his tax cut was crafted, he promised that it would be the biggest in U.S. history — bigger than Ronald Reagan’s in 1981. Reagan’s tax cut amounted to 2.9 percent of the gross domestic product, and none of the proposals under consideration came close to that level.

Yet Trump persisted in this fiction even when the tax cut was eventually crafted to be the equivalent of 0.9 percent of GDP, making it the eighth-largest tax cut in 100 years. This continues to be an all-purpose applause line at the president’s rallies.

On the good side, it appears that Trump’s lies aren’t passing the smell test with most Americans:

Fewer than 3 in 10 Americans believe many of his most-common false statements, according to a Washington Post Fact Checker poll published in December. Only among a pool of strong Trump approvers — about 1 in 6 adults in the survey — did large majorities accept several, although not all, of his falsehoods as true.

This is all becoming part of a recurring theme, of course. There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by where, if the President speaks publicly or sends a message out via Twitter, he does not tell a lie, mislead, or simply invent things out of whole cloth. In many cases, of course, these lies are duplicative in the sense that they are things he has lied about before, and which he returns to on a regular basis even when it’s pointed out just how wrong he is.

Indeed, at times it seems like pointing out that a lie is a lie only causes the President and his supporters to double down and keep repeating the falsehoods time and time again until they become articles of faith on the right no matter how untrue they are. This is especially true with regard to many of the accusations he has made about Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation. Every now and then, though, something new enters his repertoire and, if he thinks that it works it gets added to the long and growing list of Presidential lies that, sadly, we all seem to have become all too used to over the past two years.

Based on the Post’s numbers as of August 5th, the President is averaging roughly 12.95 lies per day over the 928 days that the Post based its numbers on. If he maintains this average, he will have told an astounding 18,033 lies for the duration of his first term in office. If he maintains this average over the course of two terms, then he will have told just over 37,866 lies over the course of an eight-year Presidency.  IAs has been the case each time the Post fact-checkers have updated these numbers, this represents a fairly significant increase over where he stood the last time we looked at these numbers in March, in April when James Joyner did the same as Trump passed 10,000 lies, and again in June when the last set of numbers was released. As I said back then while I’m as cynical as the next person when it comes to the tendency of politicians to lie, this is an extraordinary number of lies coming from one person and it’s arguably consistent with the type of person who either does not believe he’s obligated to tell the truth or that he is simply so used to lying that it comes as easily to him as putting on a pair of shoes.

Indeed, each time we’ve looked at these numbers Trump’s average number of lies per day has increased, in some cases significantly. Some of the most significant increases took place while he was campaigning for Republicans in the 2018 midterms. Given that, we can assume that the pace will pick up as we get deeper and deeper into the 2020 re-election campaign. Philip Bump speculates that the total number of lies will be somewhere near 22,000 or 23,000 by Election Day on November 3rd, 2020, which would make for an average of between 15.9 and 16.6 lies per day. Personally, I think it will be even higher than that since Trump seems to pick up the pace of his lying and misrepresentation the more he is acting in campaign mode and that we’ll be closer to 25,000 by November 2020. 

 In his April post, James questioned whether the method that the Post is using here is a good or fair reflection of the extent of the problem here, pointing out, fairly, that many of the instances counted are ones where the President has made the same false claim on multiple occasions. As I noted in a comment at the time, I think this kind of “double counting” is entirely fair:

1. I would argue it does make sense to count multiple instances of the same lie as a new lie, especially when the media has repeatedly called Trump out on that lie. It shows the brazenness of his fabrication and reveals something important about his personality.

2. Obviously, some lies are bigger than others, but with Trump the fact that it’s a constant drumbeat of lies that are reinforced by his staff and by his supporters [argues in favor of the idea that] even the small ones important.

3. If Trump keeps this pace of lying up, which is likely, he will have told more than 17,600 lies in his first term alone. If he keeps it up through a second term that total will come to more than 34,000. Personally, I expect that pace of lying will continue and most likely accelerate as Democrats continue their investigations and as we get closer to the 2020 election.

The fact that Trump is a liar is hardly a surprise,of course. Even before he became a candidate for President, he had a habit of making things up out of whole cloth about himself, his businesses, and the people that opposed him. Sometimes, the media would point these things out but usually they just led it slide because, well, Trump was a celebrity and he made for what the news business calls “good copy.” Additionally, as long as he ws just some real estate developer in New York City pretending to be far more important and successful than he actually was he wasn’t really a threat to anyone. Indeed, I can say for a fact that most of the media coverage Trump got, especially from the New York City media that knew him so well, was tongue in cheek combined with some not-so-subtle mockery.

Once he became a candidate for office, though, the lying became more serious and more prevalent. In June 2016, for example, Politifact found that nearly 80% of the claims that candidate Trump had made on the campaign trail since entering the race the year before had been a lie of some form or another. That trend continued for the balance of the campaign, including even during Trump’s Presidential debates with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While there were several points during those debates that either one of the moderators or Clinton herself called these lies out, their sheer number was almost impossible for any one person to keep track of without losing their mind. More importantly, pointing out the fact that he was lying clearly didn’t matter to his supporters. Indeed, the more Trump lied the more these people loved him, mostly because he was telling them what they wanted to hear.

This trend continued after the election, of course, and Trump wasn’t even in office for twenty-four hours before he told the first of his many lies regarding the size of his Inauguration Day crowd. From that point forward, the trend was set and we’re now at the point where I’m sure that Glenn Kessler and the rest of the fact checkers at the Post and other similar outfits are glad to have access to a computer that can keep track of the numbers for them. Pretty soon, though, they may need to turn to Watson to help them keep track, especially if Trump manages to get re-elected.

The question that hangs over all of this. Does anyone care that we have a President who is a congenital liar to the point where one has to openly wonder whether he is consciously doing it or whether he living in a fantasy world where he only believes what he’s saying? If the first is true, then he would clearly be suffering from what most psychologists would clearly consider a personality disorder. If it’s the second, then the same would be true except it would be a more serious problem. Either way, we’re clearly dealing with a man who never should have been elected and who should not be President.

In response to that question, I suppose the only answer is that it depends on who you’re talking about.

For those of us who already oppose Trump, of course, the lying is basically baked in the cake at this point. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to keep pointing out that the President is a congenital liar. It does mean, however, that pointing this out isn’t going to impact how we vote and it isn’t going to affect our opinion of the man. 

If you’re talking about the average Trump supporter, or the average Republican voter for that matter, then it’s clear that those people clearly don’t care. Notwithstanding the lies, the racism, and the incompetence, these people remain loyal to Trump at levels unseen for most of the President’s Republican predecessors. Even President Reagan had doubters inside his own party during both the 1980 and 1984 election, and people inside his party who were willing to stand up and criticize Administration action and policies they disagreed. That isn’t true of the GOP under Trump, where his job approval ratings hover near 90% and the party itself has become the party of Trump fanatics, sycophants, sellouts, and cowards who are afraid to speak up because they’re afraid of the President and afraid of losing their jobs.

The last group of voters are the ones to raise the question about. Many of these are people who voted for Trump in 2016 because they were sick of the hypocrisy of the establishment, or because they didn’t like Hillary Clinton any more than they liked Trump. They’re also in many cases people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 who could be persuaded to vote for a Democrat again if that party chooses the right nominee. Will these people be influenced by the fact that this President has essentially spent an inordinate amount of time since becoming a candidate lying to them and to the nation? I suppose we’ll find out on Election Night.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. grumpy realist says:

    Not to his supporters, no. They’re just pissed off that they can’t lie and cheat the same way in their own lives and get away with it. That’s why they enshrine him so much. Wanna be “rich!”, cheat on your wife even if she is a supermodel, fail to honour contracts and promises? Then support Donald Trump, your alter-ego!

  2. CSK says:

    What Trump’s cultists fail to recognize is the utter contempt he has for them. The man is, first and foremost, a failed social climber. He’s spent his whole life trying to escape from Queens, and he can’t. He hates blue collar people. They remind him of himself and his origins.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    The lies? No. Politicians lie because voters insist on being lied to. So long as Trump is telling the lies his culties wish were true, he’ll be fine with them.

    No, I think what will catch up to him is the white supremacist racism and the climate change denial. That’s a feature not a bug for old farts, but suburban moms and dads have to face their children asking why they support a racist who doesn’t care about the future they’ll be living in.

  4. Kylopod says:

    I guess the question is whether the benefits that come from lying to voters (persuading them to believe you) outweigh the effect of being known as a liar. The notable thing about Trump isn’t that he’s a liar, it’s that he’s a bad liar. His lies are always painfully obvious, they always have the quality of a guy saying “I like Playboy for the articles.” The cult believes him, but that’s because they believe anything that comes out of his mouth. That doesn’t make him a good liar.

    More traditional politicians are able to mislead more people by being more subtle in their deception. The classic example is Bush’s “The enemy attacked us” as an answer to why we went into Iraq. He didn’t come out and say Saddam was behind 9/11, but he heavily implied it. But because there was plausible deniability, he was less likely to be called on it. If Trump had been in Bush’s shoes, he’d be loudly insisting to everyone who would hear that “people say” Saddam and Bin Laden were like best pals who conspired together to take down the towers, and that the notion that Iraq had no WMDs was “fake news.”

    As I’ve said before, Trump would make a terrible poker player unless all his opponents happened to be Fox News watchers.

  5. Kathy says:

    I rarely pay any attention to Dennison or read what he’s quoted as saying, because I know 99% of what he says is either wrong, stupid, misleading, ignorant, irrelevant, boastful, inconsequential, or false.

    BTW, It seems Obama has more followers on Tweeter than El Cheeto does. I wonder if someone has informed him of these Fake News.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    This is what would embarrass me if I were a Trump cultie: he’s just so bad at being a conman. He’s a 3-Card Monte hustler who never, ever fools 55% of the audience. Imagine a close-up magician working a room in Vegas who had 55% of the audience yelling, “It’s in your hand, you pathetic fraud!” He’s not lying to us, none of us fall for any of his childish tricks, he’s only lying to his culties and the fact that they believe him is proof that they occupy the left side of the IQ bell curve.

    What’s worrying is that Trump culties have so debased themselves that they can’t even fall back on, “Well, heh, lots of people fell for it, he was very convincing!” Because no, most people did not fall for it, because most people are not morons. They have no way to walk it back. They’re like Neanderthals, they’ve marched into an evolutionary cul-de-sac and lack the wit to escape.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: That. If GOP voters understood the contempt GOP pols, not just Trump, feel for them we’d have a permanent Democratic majority. But if they can’t see it, I don’t know how to show them. Many of them concede Trump sometimes lies, but that he might lie about his affection for them, no, not possible.

    As to the lies, some see them, most don’t. Conservatives don’t see the world the way we do. For them “true” means true to the faith.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    @Kathy: Wasn’t there another article somewhere that did an analysis and pointed out a high percentage of Trump’s Twitter “followers” are actually bots?

  9. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds: Well, Trump did say that he “love(s) the poorly educated,” didn’t he? What he meant by that was: “I find paranoid, gullible, rage-addled fools to be extremely useful in helping me attain my goals.”

  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    I think someone that has the support of 40ish percent of the country must be doing something right, even if I think he’s detestable.

    I think that a lot of Trump’s lies can be interpreted as expressions of feeling, and that’s probably how his supporters take them. For instance, the lies about the size of his inauguration. They are all about “I’m ok, and we’re doing ok! So up yours!” And that combative, hostile quality is exactly what they feel, and what they want.

    Let’s bear in mind that there are many people in this country that regret that they can no longer punch someone who says something disparaging to them, even if it happens to be true.

    I think it matters to some people, and maybe some are changing their minds.

  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I think someone that has the support of 40ish percent of the country must be doing something right, even if I think he’s detestable.

    45% of the people in this country believe in ghosts.
    63% of the people in this country are “absolutely certain” that there is an infinitely old, omipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, being…who created and preserves everything we see and know…and for which there is absolutely nothing but hearsay evidence.
    People in this country are dumb.

  12. Slugger says:

    This is intentional and out of the Karl Rove playbook. It turns opponents and non-commitments off, and they stay away from the polls. The base is fired up and votes. In 2016, about 40% of registered voters were no-shows. Trump has to keep the no-show numbers high to win in 2020. Every person too disgusted to participate is a positive for him. There is no downside to lying.

  13. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Short answer: No, it won’t matter.
    Slightly longer answer: I have painful family experience trying to point out his lies. The only response is “all politicians lie” so it doesn’t matter. Any evidence presented about how wide-ranging and extensive his lies are–even compared to other politicians–is simply ignored or turns into a furious argument. Did you know Snopes and Politifact are simply more liberal fake news?

    It’s depressingly hopeless.

  14. SenyorDave says:

    It certainly won’t matter to his supporters. But I still think the Democratic candidate has to call out the lying on a constant basis. And call out the egregious ones in the debates. Point out that the president is lar and cannot be trusted. Won’t sway the loyalists who want to be lied to, but most people don’t like liars.

  15. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    But I still think the Democratic candidate has to call out the lying on a constant basis.

    I think you have to go at more than just the lying.
    The trick is to portray him as the complete fraud he is. Everything about him is fraudulent. Hammer that. Convince the pursuadables of that. Make him defend that.
    His sycophants are convinced he is the real deal. Show everyone he is anything BUT the real deal.

  16. PJ says:

    Trump has falsely said 162 times that he passed the biggest tax cut in history. Even before his tax cut was crafted, he promised that it would be the biggest in U.S. history — bigger than Ronald Reagan’s in 1981. Reagan’s tax cut amounted to 2.9 percent of the gross domestic product, and none of the proposals under consideration came close to that level.

    One could argue that he passed one of the biggest, if not the biggest, tax increases in history. The tariffs from his trade war.

  17. SenyorDave says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I agree completely. This election has to be partly about character, and Trump’s complete lack of morals and values. It has to be reinforced that this is not normal. It is not normal for presidents to identify openly with racists, to spend his time re-tweeting people like Katie Hopkins. It is not normal fora president to openly brag about committing sexcual assault, be credibly accused of molesting more than a dozen women. IMO, this election has to ask people if they want to live in an America where the president thinks there are good people among the neo-nazis and the klan. As you said, people need to be constantly reminded just what you get with Trump – a fraud who plays to his base 100% of the time and is the only president in my lifetime who acts like he is the president of his supporters only.

  18. charon says:

    @michael reynolds:

    and the fact that they believe him is proof that they occupy the left side of the IQ bell curve.

    This is absolutely false. There are very high IQ people who put their intelligence to work believing nonsense that average IQ people would not fall for.

  19. Modulo Myself says:


    There’s the Salem Hypothesis, which says that “In any Evolution vs. Creation debate, A person who claims scientific credentials and sides with Creation will most likely have an Engineering degree.” I think you can take Creationism/ID and expand it to Climate Denialism and most of everything else the current GOP stands for, and you can take engineering and have it be an intelligent person with a specific set of skills concentrated in a specific type business or in building, but with no emotional IQ and very little worldliness and so little curiosity that it’s almost a crippling fear of learning.

    Look at all of these Republicans who have spent decades following politics on a daily basis, and yet to them the racism in the GOP is a total mystery. You can expect a person with no interest in politics not to know what Lee Atwater said about how to use the n-word. But not somebody who actually follows politics. Not being able to deal with race in America and then also being really interested in politics is a strange combo.

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Slugger: Voter turnout is relatively consistent in my adult lifetime–about 50-60% with a median that looks like about 55% (coincidentally, almost exactly the turnout for Trump/Clinton). According to Wikipedia, turnout was higher for Trump/Clinton than for Obama/Romney 4 years earlier. Lowest was 1996 at 49%. Highest was 68 at 60.7%.

    Over the span of my life, the trend has been slightly downward, but only because between 1952 (when I was born) and 1968, all elections were in a 59-62% range. Post Nixon, percentages of participation dropped back to the range that has persisted since the turn of the century in 1900.

    I’m not seeing the “Trump has to keep the no show numbers high” thesis here. ETA: The no-show numbers appear to be what they’ve consistently been.


    This is absolutely false. There are very high IQ people who put their intelligence to work believing nonsense that average IQ people would not fall for.

    Good point. 😀

  21. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder what kind of self-delusion it takes to overlook the incredible odiousness of the trash in the White House…to think that there are people who actually admire and look up to him? Good grief…

  22. charon says:

    @An Interested Party:

    to think that there are people who actually admire and look up to him?

    Not so much that as people terrified by GOP/Fox News/Limbaugh/etc. fearmongering that they fear the Democrats and settle for him. Plus, it’s taken on faith as a given that the MSM lies, so they really do believe Trump and FNC, will not accept that they lie.

  23. An Interested Party says:

    @charon: So, in other words, either way, they’re idiots…is it any wonder this country is so screwed…

  24. Matt says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    45% of the people in this country believe in ghosts

    I do wonder how that question was worded. Ask me if I believed in ghosts and I’d answer yes. We as a species have a very limited ability to observe and understand this universe. I am fine with calling an unexplained phenomenon a ghost just like I’m fine with using the term UFO for unidentified flying objects. Once the UFO is identified as a weather balloon (or whatever) then it can be properly labeled. We need something to define the unknown experience right up until it’s known and thus able to be better defined.

  25. Jim Brown 32 says:

    It’s not about lies or gaffes anymore. Trump says out loud the things they’d get their ass kicked or fired for saying. Anytime you position yourself as a public voice for people that have no outlet to the mass media, a connection and allegiance with that community will be formed. Voters demand very little accountability in terms of legislative and policy outcomes anymore…they do demand that you attack their perceived enemies. This is why the Squad gets all the news coverage while the real freshmen that delivered the Dems their house majority…toil away in anonymity.

    Add in the dynamic where everybody hates the media and its methods and you have an environment where no one will police theirs own ranks.

  26. de stijl says:

    It is motivated cognition / reasoning and tribalism and eff you D’s and cognitive adaptation. Also, it is actually subtle and nuanced.

    It’s totally effed, but it is complex and not “faked” in the sense that people who believe this b.s. know it’s b.s. They genuinely believe it whole heartedly.

    Humans are weird.

  27. mike shupp says:

    My own thought is that most of the country at some point has had a boss pretty much like Trump — a big blustering guy with a gut and a red face who likes to get close and shout off his mouth, a guy who watches a young woman walk out of his office and comment “Nice ass, that. Wouldn’t mind getting a piece of it, would ya”, a guy who never admits to mistakes because it’s always somebody else’s fault, and anyhow there’s Important Stuff Going On so let’s not harp over old business.

    Also, he owns the company. The thing is, most of us get used to him pretty quickly. And then we think about whether we got pay raises, and if it was okay to stay home when the kid came down with measles, and how he jumped on building maintenance so quickly when the ladies’ room toilet overflowed, and …. a lot of us say “Yeah, he was an okay boss, I didn’t mind working there.”

    Yeah also, the company didn’t have any Hispanics except on the night cleaning crew, and one of the boss’s kids didn’t do much to justify his pay, but another of his kid worked out alright, everybody got along with Pat, he’s still there.

    You get the idea? Trump’s got his flaws, but to a lot of people he’s familiar. And Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and that gay guy from South Bend and that Hispanic chick from the Bronx ,,,, you wouldn’t want them in your house!

    NOT MY OWN SENTIMENTS, let me point out. I’m just trying to suggest why a lot of Trump’s behavior which so annoys most of us here can get shrugged off by people who actually happen to be pretty decent souls themselves.

  28. wr says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “Add in the dynamic where everybody hates the media and its methods and you have an environment where no one will police theirs own ranks.”

    Except, of course, that the the Democratic caucus in the Congress has “policed” the squad, some might say excessively, especially for the crime of not agreeing with the Standard Political Opinion on Israel.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    I’m just trying to suggest why a lot of Trump’s behavior which so annoys most of us here can get shrugged off by people who actually happen to be pretty decent souls themselves.

    People who continue to support such an obviously racist and repulsive person can’t have souls that are all that decent…

  30. mike shupp says:

    @An Interested Party:

    [shrug] To a lot of people, Trump looks like just an ordinary boss Including his dislike of minorities and foreigners. He’s treated me okay, and Emily, and George, and the guys in the field are okay with him, so what more can we ask? Get the idea?

    Granted, most people disapprove strongly of racism, but precisely because racism has become so strongly tinged these days with the scent of evil, people are reluctant to call it out. They conflate it with deeds, rather words. Shoving Jews into a concentration camp “oven” is racism, donning a white hood and burning a cross is racism, whipping people up to a lynching is racism. Just approving of those things is … just talk. Can’t hold it against people, just talk y’know?

    Most people aren’t moral philosophers, or political scientists, or interested in legal niceties. Disappointing, I agree.

  31. Kylopod says:

    @mike shupp:

    They conflate it with deeds, rather [than] words.

    I actually disagree on this point. I get the sense that people tend to think of racism as reflecting a person’s internal thoughts–but once it’s defined that way it becomes impossible ever to prove, because we can’t read minds. As long as the person’s intentions are pure we can’t call that person racist, yet we’re expected to give the person the benefit of the doubt because racism is such a serious charge–even when the person’s actions have apparently racist consequences, whether they involve voter registration or criminal arrests and convictions. When a NH legislator recently argued that American slavery wasn’t racist, that was a direct application of this logic, brought to its absurd conclusions.

    I do agree with the general point that people try to dismiss charges of racism by straw-manning the concept to its most extreme examples. (How can you call me racist if I’m not wearing a white hood?) But I think part of the problem is that it’s too often thought of as merely a matter of beliefs and feelings, rather than acts with real-world consequences.