Trump gets twisted up in his own weird Russia logic

Story highlights

  • Trump is once again knocking the media for using anonymous sources
  • But the President recently cited a story from Fox News built on unnamed sourcing

(CNN)After wrapping up a nine-day blitz of the Middle East and Europe, President Donald Trump settled back into the swamp this weekend, returning first to the scene of his grudges and then, as typically follows, his Twitter account.

In a rapid-fire series of angry messages about the Russia investigation and reporting on its assorted twists and turns, Trump again accused the media and disloyal officials of conspiring against him. If the baseline argument was familiar — that the whole mess was purpose-built to delegitimize his presidency and excuse the Democrats’ shortcomings — his looping logic has never been more plain.
It hinges on a fundamental contradiction, parallel untruths the President has repeatedly used to deflect from negative developments:
1. Stories citing anonymous sources are made up.
2. Anonymous leaks are the real scandal.
Trump wants to have it both ways. He wants the public to dismiss unflattering stories as simple fabrications by a hostile press. But then, after a breath, he also wants to discredit or eliminate the very real sources that provide the information that colors those reports.
The sum result is confounding. Either leakers are purposefully and possibly illegally undermining Trump in their conversations with reporters — or the press is dreaming up these stories in a separate plot against him. If it’s the latter, then the former sure seems unnecessary, or redundant.
Trump put this fun-house logic on neat display over the last few days.
“It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media,” he tweeted on Sunday morning, adding minutes later: “Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names … it is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!”
In this construction, “the leaks coming out of the White House” are both real things to be scorned and “fabricated lies” crafted by the press. Adding to that, he offered an equally ridiculous but not immediately self-contradictory assertion that any story citing anonymous sources is to be dismissed.
The capper, however, was not far off.
On Tuesday morning, Trump retweeted a “Fox and Friends” link to a FoxNews.com story. The headline: “Jared Kushner didn’t suggest Russian communications channel in meeting, source says.”
The disparity might be shocking if it weren’t so familiar. It’s happened so often now that most observers simply roll their eyes or move on to or wait for the next, more dramatic twist. But it bears a mention. As does the President’s own habitual use of unnamed or discredited sources to back up some of his more dubious arguments. (See: “Jim” the distressed former Parisian tourist.)
The Fox report, which was published without a byline, cited a single anonymous source.
And Trump promoted it days after issuing a blanket indictment of precisely that.
But again, the particulars of the Fox News story are of secondary concern here — the issue is that Trump blatantly defied his own broken logic, or the one he’d like the public to embrace, in order to advance a more favorable account of a story his White House never wholly rejected.
Trump’s embattled press secretary, Sean Spicer, might have summed up the situation best when he answered a question back in March about new positive jobs report numbers. During the campaign, Trump routinely dismissed unemployment statistics as intentionally misleading. Asked by what logic the administration now touted the same figures, Spicer said this:
“I talked to the President prior to this [news briefing] and he said to quote him very clearly: ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”
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