WASHINGTON -- "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive," Sir Walter Scott wrote in his epic poem "Marmion."
This legendary admonition applies to the sticky troubles President Trump has gotten himself into as a result of his revised retelling of the disturbing conversation he had with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
According to the U.S. intelligence whistleblower's report, Trump asked Zelensky to do him "a favor" by digging up political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden to use in the 2020 presidential election, if Biden is his opponent.
Trump flatly denied that he ever suggested that in any way, shape or manner.
In remarks to reporters on Oct. 2, Trump said, "Well, the whistleblower was very inaccurate. The whistleblower started this whole thing by writing a report on the conversation I had with the president of Ukraine. And the conversation was perfect; it couldn't have been nicer."
Then, a week later on Oct. 9, Trump tweeted this: "The Whistleblower's facts have been so incorrect about my 'no pressure' conversation with the Ukrainian President."
Well, not exactly. Here's what The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" Glenn Kessler found out:
"Despite Trump's repeated claim that the whistleblower was 'very inaccurate' or 'so incorrect,' many of the details of the whistleblower complaint have already been confirmed by additional information, documents and reporting."
"In his July 25 phone call to Zelensky, Trump asked the Ukrainian president to 'initiate or continue an investigation' into Joe Biden," Kessler confirmed this week.
Furthermore, he writes, "The rough transcript released by the White House shows Trump telling Zelensky: 'There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general [William P. Barr] would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. ... It sounds horrible to me.'"
Kessler notes that the ellipsis in the above "appears in the White House document, suggesting something may have been removed before release."
"As we have documented, Trump's claim that Biden stopped the prosecution of his son Hunter is false," he adds.
What's not gotten much attention is the White House's efforts "to restrict access to records related to the call," Kessler adds.
"The whistleblower said that 'the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature,'" Kessler reports.
Notably, the White House "has confirmed this is true," the whistleblower wrote, adding it "underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call."
Meantime, CNN has reported that "at least one National Security Council official alerted the White House's national security lawyers about the concerns," according to the whistleblower's account.
This resulted in the White House's national security lawyers ordering the transcript to be moved "to prevent more people from seeing it," Kessler reported.
At the same time, he cautions that the "rough transcript released by the White House has a warning note that it is not verbatim." There are a number of ellipses in the document, not common in official White House summaries; it's unclear whether there is a more complete version available.
Well, it is very likely that there is in the whistleblower's possession, and of course in his testimony, if and when he or she appears before the House's impeachment inquiry.
The case against the president, as Kessler has detailed in his fact-checking column, is that he has used "the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign power in the 2020 U.S. election."
With the exception of "some minor details, virtually all of the specific points of the complaint have held up and been confirmed," he writes. "Trump has no basis to claim the whistleblower complaint is 'very inaccurate,' he says.
Kessler awards Pinocchios for not telling the truth. In this case, he says, the president earns four of them.