We have been here before.

The semantics game, a favorite of the Trump administration from the start, went to a whole new level last week, both because of what was said and what was left unsaid. Although there was nothing new in terms of style, the administration may have pushed the boundaries a bit too far, even for them.

It began, as it often does, with a tweet. Specifically, the president of the United States said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “should” end a probe into whether or not Americans colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential elections. Next came a refusal by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to categorically refute the notion that the press is “the enemy of the people.”

Then, last Sunday, Trump once again took to Twitter, this time to declare that the meeting held at Trump Tower involving his son, Don Jr., and Russian informants concerning information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was “totally legal and done all the time in politics.”

Taken in total, there is more than a strong suggestion that this administration feels that it is not only above the social norms of etiquette, but above the law itself.

Consider the first tweet, the one directed at Sessions. It references an investigation led by Robert Mueller into whether anyone, including then-candidate Donald Trump or someone connected with his campaign, such as his eldest son, worked directly with Russia to have an impact on a U.S. election. Consider that Trump essentially asked his own top law enforcement officer to end an investigation that may affect him directly. If you think this sounds strangely reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s directive to the FBI concerning the Watergate break-ins, you are not alone.

Then there is Sanders. There is no question that Sanders has faced harsh scrutiny by much of the established Washington press corps. Certainly, no one envies Sanders her job with the current administration, and the press, in general, understands that she cannot always be completely forthcoming with the full truth of what is going on inside the White House. In fact, prior press secretaries have often deflected questions, given partial answers, or sometimes pretended not to hear what a reporter was asking.

But the difference here is that Sanders often lies on behalf the administration, offering up misstatements about information to which she should be privy, and if she is not, then she has little business being the mouthpiece for the administration. Some in the press, including Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, have suggested that reporting on Sanders’ press briefings is the equivalent of using a source that routinely lies, and that allowing her unfettered access to the American people amounts to a dereliction of duty on the part of reporters.

So when Sanders this past week was given the opportunity to set the record straight and say that she did not think the press was the enemy of the people – a phrase her boss is fond of using – it provided her with a no-win dilemma: she could either break with Trump and risk losing her job, or she could once again attack the same people she ostensibly works with each day. She chose the latter path, and instead went on to list all the ways in which the press, in her view, is responsible for lowering the bar when it comes to political conversation.

Finally, last Sunday, Trump managed to abandon all pretext about whether or not a meeting between his son and Russian operatives occurred in Trump Tower, saying it merely represented politics as usual. It is worth noting that the president has repeatedly denied having any prior knowledge about this meeting, and if you are Donald Trump, that is a good thing because working directly with Russian operatives to influence an American election does not represent politics as usual in any shape, manner, or form. In fact, it represents collusion, something the president has vociferously and repeatedly argued never happened.

It would be easy to dismiss these ramblings as nothing more than just that, but that would set a disastrous precedent. When the leader of the free world and those who are charged with representing his administration feel they can manipulate both words and the truth to further their own ends, there must be consequences. When those who call them on their lies are vilified and then misidentified as the problem – the “fake news” media – it sends a dangerous message to those already inclined to believe such twisted messages.

The survival of this country depends on Americans recognizing that statements are either true or false – and that those who repeatedly fail to acknowledge those facts, even when they are pointed out, undermine the basic tenets of who we are as a people.