Although President Trump denies it, I believe former White House Counsel Don McGahn’s sworn testimony that on multiple occasions the president ordered him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Nevertheless, there are some seeming discrepancies in McGahn’s testimony and a January 25, 2018 exclusive story in The New York Times.
According to McGahn’s testimony as referenced in The Wall Street Journal, Trump called him at home multiple times and demanded that he fire Mueller. McGahn said he refused the first time, and the second time he left Trump with the impression that he’d follow through when he in fact planned to resign. McGahn said he never told Trump directly he planned to resign.
McGahn testified that he advised Annie Donaldson, his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, and presidential advisor Steve Bannon of his resignation intent, but was careful not to disclose details of what Trump ordered him to do because he didn’t want to ensnare them in Mueller’s investigation. He simply said the president asked him to do some “crazy shit.”
Yet the Times reported that it had four sources who said they were told Trump ordered McGahn to fire Mueller but backed down after McGahn threatened to quit. If McGahn was truthful about not wanting to ensnare others by telling them the reason for his planned resignation, how did the Times find four individuals who claimed they were told of the matter? More bothersome is why the Times’ anonymous sources leaked the information.
White House staffers leaking information is a time-honored practice, but normally it’s to help advance the agenda of the president they serve or to discredit political opponents. In this instance, the leakers were seeking to undermine the leader of the free world.
It’s not clear whether Mueller’s investigators asked McGahn whether he leaked or confirmed the Times’ reporting, but it seems like a reasonable question. Staffers colluding with the media to discredit any president is pretty despicable. The four people who for certain knew of McGahn’s intent to resign (including McGahn) matches the number of sources the Times said it spoke with, so there is circumstantial evidence who leaked the story.
Last September, an anonymous White House staffer published an op-ed entitled, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” The staffer declared that he (or she) and “like-minded colleagues” have “vowed to thwart parts of (Trump’s) agenda and his worst inclinations.” One must wonder whether the author and his or her accomplices are the Gang of Four who spoke with the Times or are the Trump Administration traitors more widespread?
As a condition of service, military personnel must pledge to “obey the orders of the president of the United States.” Yet White House staffers can willfully ignore the president without consequence. Political appointees have the luxury of resigning in protest, so individuals who serve the president and secretly strive to undermine him, particularly to make themselves look good or to curry favor with the media, aren’t acting honorably.
When Trump is out of office, journalists will be writing books about the extent of the Trump Administration’s disloyalty. For now, the White House media colluders are a source of great scoops, which is the sustenance Washington reporters survive on.
Another great source of scoops are former Justice, FBI, and CIA high ranking officials who orchestrated the spying on Trump’s campaign. New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin has deftly outlined how the Times is looking to distract from the role the newspaper and its Deep State allies played in promoting the disproven criminal collusion conspiracy story. The Times and The Washington Post were awarded Pulitzer Prices for their Russian collusion coverage. (Goodwin was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for commentary and once worked at the Times.)
Trump promised to “drain the swamp.” After 27 months of his leadership, the water level has risen considerably.
(This post was revised an updated on May 6).
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I applaud the outrage of CNN’s Brian Stelter’s and other reporters about Trump press spokeswoman Sarah Sanders issuing erroneous statements to the media, but their selective piety cannot go unchallenged. Misleading statements and outright lying is as pervasive a practice in Washington as gambling is in Las Vegas.
Take Jennifer Palmieri, the communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, who persuaded The New York Times to issue multiple corrections on a front-page story that said Clinton “was the target of a criminal referral to federal law enforcement.” Former FBI director James Comey confirmed in his book the Times story was essentially correct.
Lanny Davis, attorney to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a Clinton crony, admitted he was the source of a false report that CNN aired and then lied about his role when asked.
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s foreign policy advisor, boasted to the New York Times that he misled reporters to sell the Iran nuclear deal. “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
Palmieri, Davis, and Carney weren’t subjected to the same media outrage for their dishonesty as Sanders. Carney went on to work for CNN and is now head of PR for Amazon. Rhodes is a commentator on NBC and MSNBC.
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Law professor Andrew Coan makes a compelling argument as to why President Trump is worse than Richard Nixon and warns about the dangerous precedent if Trump isn’t held accountable. Unfortunately, Coan doesn’t note the circumstances that are allowing Trump to maintain a sizeable loyal following.
Nixon was felled by two then-unknown reporters working at a time when the media still commanded considerable trust and respect. The stories by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were meticulously reported and edited and published by a newspaper widely perceived as accurate and credible. The media has lost its gravitas and Americans increasingly don’t believe what they report.
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Nice job by TheWashington Post’s Aaron Blake providing perspective on what Trump supporters call the Charlottesville hoax. “Good people” don’t attend and support marches with chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”