If you can judge a person by the company they keep, it speaks volumes that President Trump surrounds himself with people who want to undermine or destroy him. From the moment Trump stepped foot in the White House, there has been a continuous stream of media leaks from anonymous aides that were intended to harm his presidency. America has a commander-in-chief whose own hand-picked troops want him brought down.
One example is the January 25, 2018 New York Times story saying that Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire special counsel Robert Mueller but backed down after McGahn threatened to resign. The story cited four unnamed sources “told of the matter,” indicating that McGahn, or Trump, shared this highly sensitive information with colleagues who went and blabbed to the Times.
For the record, McGahn subsequently testified under oath that he’d shared the information with three people: Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus, presidential advisor Steve Bannon, and his own chief of staff. McGahn also testified that he let Trump believe he would carry out his directive but made no mention of threatening to resign. The White House leakers embellished the story to suit their own purposes.
There also is a book entitled “A Warning” that will be released in two weeks written by an anonymous White House official who last year penned an explosive Times op-ed saying there was a movement within the Trump Administration to derail the president’s agenda and keep his worse impulses in check. Judas would be so proud.
I offer this context in trying to make sense of Kellyanne Conway, “Counselor to the President” and one of the few remaining members of Trump’s original cabinet. A transcript of a conversation Conway had with a reporter at the Washington Examiner last week raises legitimate questions as to whose side she is really on.
That Conway still has a job in the Trump Administration is beyond belief given the president supposedly demands fierce loyalty. Here’s what “Morning Joe” co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski dished to New York magazine two years ago about Conway:
“This is a woman … who came on our show during the campaign and would shill for Trump in extensive fashion,” Brzezinski said. “And then she would get off the air, the camera would be turned off, the microphone would be taken off and she would say, ‘Blech, I need to take a shower,’ because she disliked her candidate so much.”
Scarborough added that Conway used to fantasize about the campaign ending. “[She used to say] ‘I’ll be off this soon,’” he said. “She said, ‘This is just my summer vacation, my summer in Europe and basically I’m just going to get through this.’” He noted that after a recording of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women was made public, Conway began to distance herself from him, referring to him as “my client.”
Then there’s the issue of hubby George Conway, who not only tweets his disdain for Trump, he’s declared him mentally “unfit” to hold office. George Conway also is on record saying that Trump aides should all resign unless they “have some moderating or blunting effect” on Trump. Kellyanne and George are proof positive that “politics makes for strange bedfellows.”
Conway last week tried bullying Caitlin Yilek, a twentysomething reporter at the Washington Examiner, a conservative newspaper whose views are in alignment with Trump’s on some major issues, including questioning climate change. Conway messed with the wrong journalist at the wrong newspaper; the Examiner made public a transcript of the conversation which provides considerable insight into how Conway conducts herself.
Conway reached out to Yilek to protest a story the reporter posted about Conway being under consideration to replace acting chief of staff Mike Mulvaney. Conway was outraged that Yilek mentioned her Trump-hating husband.
“So I just am wondering why in God’s earth you would need to mention anything about George Conway’s tweets in an article that talks about me as possibly being chief of staff. Other than it looks to me like there’s no original reporting here, you just read Twitter and other people’s stuff, which I guess is why you don’t pick up the phone when people call from the White House because if it’s not on Twitter or it’s not on cable TV, it’s not real.”
There is considerable merit to the criticism that reporters overly rely on Twitter and cable news in reporting their stories. However, the worldview of Conway’s boss is entirely shaped by Twitter and cable TV, so reporting on tweets from someone Trump has repeatedly disparaged is fair game.
Conway went on to attack Yilek professionally.
If you’re going to call yourself a reporter, let’s see some reporting. There’s no original reporting, and then, it’s just lazy. Respectfully, of course, it’s just lazy to talk about somebody’s Twitter feed. Do you talk about other people’s spouses in your pieces, ’cause I’ve been looking around, I haven’t learned a single thing from any of your pieces, and I’m just wondering if you routinely talk about people’s spouses.
Though her job is to counsel the president, Conway then volunteered some woman-to-woman mentoring advice.
Let me tell you something, from a powerful woman. Don’t pull the crap where you’re trying to undercut another woman based on who she’s married to. He gets his power through me, if you haven’t noticed. Not the other way around. And if these are the, quote, standards, unquote, at the Washington Examiner, then yes, I’d be happy to talk to your editor. But I’ve known your editor since before you were born. So, I can call your editor either way. I’m just trying to give you a chance to explain why you think what you wrote qualifies as breaking news or reporting.
Most alarming of all, Conway subtly threatened Yilek with retaliation.
If you’re going to cover my personal life, then we’re welcome to do the same around here. If it has nothing to do with my job, which it doesn’t, that’s obvious, then we’re either going to expect you to cover everybody’s personal life or we’re going to start covering them over here.
Conway’s behavior wouldn’t be tolerated at a publicly traded company or high-profile organization. Indeed, the Houston Astros fired its assistant general manager for making considerably less hostile comments to a reporter. But in a White House occupied by a president and a press secretary who deride critics as “human scum,” Conway fits right in.
To my surprise, Conway holds a law degree from George Washington University, whose distinguished graduates include under indictment lawyer Michael Avenatti and Chuck Colson, a top aide to President Nixon who served prison time after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges. Conway’s “alternative facts” defenses and other arguments are seemingly inconsistent with someone who had the smarts to get admitted and graduate from a quality law school.
( I took a cheap shot at George Washington University. It has a very distinguished law school alumnus, including Trump Attorney General William Barr. Colson became a minister and a leading justice reform advocate who owned up to his mistake.)
By all accounts, Trump doesn’t heed anyone’s counsel, so Conway’s job seems superfluous. What she excels at is unnecessarily antagonizing journalists and reflecting badly on Trump. It’s almost as if she secretly wants to bring him down – like most of the other people in the Trump Administration.