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Sorry, Trump campaign. You can’t gaslight your way out of plagiarizing Michelle Obama. It’ll only make things worse.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

After sleeping on it for a few hours, Donald Trump’s top aide Paul Manafort decided he would address the media firestorm over the lifted text in Melania Trump’s convention speech by denying it happened.  

Lying when caught redhanded is what the Trump campaign does, but this is crazy. As a rule of thumb, Trump has a harder and harder time getting away with the “nothing to see here” move as evidence becomes more unassailable, and the insult to the press’ intelligence becomes too great to bear. That’s how it’s worked with his elusive charitable donations; how it worked with “the Star of David is actually a Sheriff’s Badge”-gate; how it worked when his old campaign manager Corey Lewandowski denied battering a reporter in front of eye witnesses, and kept denying it until surveillance footage left no doubt. Here there’s no doubt from the starting line. 

I think the press is inclined to be generous toward Melania and would have been more or less satisfied with a more standard excuse. A copy/paste error, or sloppy staff work. But telling reporters they’re imagining things, (when they know all too well what would happen to them if they did what Trump did) isn’t going to fly. It’ll draw the story out for more news cycles. And for all the reasons I mentioned here, it’ll be more devastating and defining than any of the passing outrages that came before.