I Will Be Treated Fairly Or Else: Lesley Stahl Explains The Application Of The Trump Doctrine To The News Media

The President has had a long and largely unpleasant relationship with the news media since he declared his candidacy. As in he’s been unpleasant to the news media. A good chunk of this was set early on with his penning of reporters in at his campaigns and using them as foils, as well as his successful attempts to roll the cable, network, and print news media into treating him “fairly” or receiving an “or else”. He pulled this early and successfully in the primary season with Fox News when he demanded that Megyn Kelly be pulled from her moderator duties. When Fox refused, he scheduled a competing event.

At last night’s Deadline Club awards dinner, Lesley Stahl provided a very detailed explanation of how the President has applied the Trump Doctrine of “I will be treated fairly or else” to the news media. Talking Points Memo has the transcript:

“At one point he started to attack the press. And it’s just me and my boss and him, in— He has a huge office. And he’s attacking the press. And there were no cameras. There was nothing going on, and I said, ‘You know, that is getting tired. Why are you doing this? You’re doing it over and over, and it’s boring, and it’s time to end that. You’ve won the nomination (sic). Why do you keep hammering at this?’

“And he said, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.”

Here’s the video, which is set to start at the 21:23 mark with her stating what the President told her regarding how he treats the media and why:

Whether the Trump Doctrine is the result of just gut instinct or forethought doesn’t matter. Here we have a first person recounting of the President explaining it in regard to how he deals with the news media. Eventually his supporters are going to get tired of screaming “lugenpresse” at the penned in reporters at his rallies. Or telling them to get out of their country like the lovely gentleman below. Eventually one or more will actually attack and most likely kill a reporter. I certainly hope the news media has thought out how it is going to respond when that happens. Hope, however, is not a strategy.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.


Editing Trump

Blake Hounshell, editor in chief of Politico magazine, provided a good example this morning of a problem with media. Here’s his tweet in a screenshot, because I hope he deletes it.

The link in the Blumenthal tweet is to an article in which Vice President Mike Pence is quoted.

“There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal,” Pence said Monday.

When it was noted that the comparison could be interpreted as a threat, Pence told Fox News: “Well, I think it’s more of a fact.”

The talk about a Libyan model came from National Security Advisor John Bolton and from President Donald Trump. But they were talking about two different Libyan models. Bolton said that he expected North Korea to hand over their entire nuclear program as Libya did in 2003. Trump said that if they didn’t, the United States would “decimate” them, as was done to Libya in 2011.

It’s often hard to understand what Trump is saying. This clip is more difficult than usual, but it’s pretty clear that Trump says the word “decimate” and talks about “the Libya model” in a different way than Bolton has. Before that, he said something about providing security to North Korea.

The Washington Post headline emphasized that part of the statement, even though, to my ears, the threat of “the Libya model” was more emphatic, with Trump spending more time on it.

Trump offers reassurance that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un would remain in power under nuclear deal

Acton may be right; David Nakamura and Philip Rucker may have been steered in that direction by White House aides telling them what it was that Trump was supposed to say.

Hounshell may have been subject to the same explaining, or perhaps the idea that the President is threatening war against North Korea in plain words is too uncomfortable for reporters to convey to the public.

Trump spouts word salad, a toss-up of ignorance, shaky sentence structure, vague referents, complaints, accusations, and threats. It is not the job of reporters to impose coherence on that word salad. It’s perfectly acceptable (to me, perhaps not to Trump) for them to report “In a windy set of impressions and inaccurate references, Trump contradicted Bolton and seems to have threatened war against North Korea, while putting forth a conditional security guarantee.”

Part of what they say should recognize the difficulty in knowing what Trump means. Trying to pin him down in his short press availabilities is difficult, but should be attempted. Yes, his words flow freely, unhinged from meaning, and he often refuses to answer requests for clarification.

Blake Hounshell didn’t respond to any of the comments and questions about his tweet, nor did he back up his conclusion. That conclusion will shape how he and Politico cover Trump’s actions toward North Korea. Hounshell believes, according to the tweet, “The U.S. won’t attack North Korea.” Apparently he doesn’t believe Trump’s own words. He should tell us why.

Update: Here’s a much more thoughtful and critical analysis of Trump’s words.


Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

Today In Rudys Giuliani! Or Is That Rudy Giulianis? Either Way…

Earlier today CNN viewers got to witness Rudy Giuliani attempting to explain and clarify to Chris Cuomo that what Rudy Giuliani had said to someone else was not what Rudy Giuliani actually said. Then Cuomo played a clip of Rudy Giuliani telling Charlie Rose something different and then another clip of Rudy Giuliani contradicting what Rudy Giuliani told Charlie Rose in an interview with George Stephanapolous. At which point Rudy Giuliani start screaming at Chris Cuomo. So that was a quatro-Guiliani appearance!

Just to make sure everyone is tracking:

  1. Rudy Giuliani is on Chris Cuomo’s CNN show explaining that what Cuomo understands Rudy Giuliani said on a different cable show is not accurate.
  2. Chris Cuomo then plays a clip of Rudy Giuliani explaining to Charlie Rose in 1998 that a sitting president, in this case President Clinton, is not above the law and is subject to a Federal grand jury subpoena.
  3. Chris Cuomo then plays a clip of Rudy Giuliani contradicting Rudy Giuliani by explaining to George Stephanapolous that a sitting president, in this case the current President, is above the law and not subject to a Federal grand jury subpoena.
  4. Rudy Giuliani then freaks out and starts screaming at Chris Cuomo that it is unfair to ambush Rudy Giuliani with one video of Rudy Giuliani contradicting Rudy Giuliani and then a second video of Rudy Giuliani contradicting Rudy Giuliani.

I’m still working the theoretical explanation out in this brave new world and emerging area of inquiry into multiple Rudys Giuliani or Rudy Giulianis (Rudys Giulianis?). I’m not sure if this is a purely infinite number of Rudy sort of thing – the InfiniRudy – or if there us a hard limit. Say DC Comics 52 parallel universes in the multiverse. That, of course, would include the Earth-3 universe where Rudy would be a quiet, pleasant, highly competent individual and Special Counsel Mueller would be an obnoxious, ignorant, raving blowhard.

I need to order more white boards from Amazon!

Play nice or a Rudy Giuliani will come over to your house and explain to you that what Rudy Giuliani said on a cable news show or to a reporter doesn’t mean what you think Rudy Giuliani meant when Rudy Giuliani said it.

Open thread!

Rudy Giuliani Needs To Sit Down With Rudy Giuliani So They Can Get Rudy Giuliani’s Story Straight!

The Mayor of 9-11 has some major issues. First among them is his mouth appears to be disconnected from his short and long term memory! Yesterday NBC reported that Rudy Giuliani told them that Special Counsel Mueller told him that the President can’t be indicted because of the 1970s DOJ Office of Legal Counsel guidance.*

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has told President Donald Trump’s legal team that he won’t indict a sitting president, according to Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers.

“They (the special counsel’s office) acknowledge the fact that they can’t indict us,” Giuliani told NBC News on Wednesday, indicating that the information had been conveyed to Trump’s lawyers. “They know they don’t have that power. So their function is to write a report. We would like it to be the fairest report possible. But even if it isn’t, we’re prepared to rebut it in great detail, so we’d like them to do it.”

He added: “It’s as clear as can be that they don’t have the right to indict under the Justice Department rules. And I know they’re not going to indict.”

Unfortunately for Rudy Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani then told the Washington Post that Rudy Giuliani wasn’t actually at the meeting.

Let’s just emphasize the important news that Rudy Giuliani broke about Rudy Giuliani to Robert Costa in the transcripts that Costa posted in his tweet above – click it to embiggen the top right side of the transcript, which I’ve transcribed below for your convenience (emphasis mine):

The Washington Post: Did Mueller explicitly say he would not charge the President?

Giuliani: “He didn’t say that. One of his – I have to check with Jay, he’s in Israel right now. One of his top people told him that.

So according to Rudy Giuliani, who was clarifying to The Washington Post what Rudy Giuliani told NBC News, one of Mueller’s top people told Jay Sekulow, whose currently in Israel, that Special Counsel Mueller would not charge the President. Rudy Giuliani has now further muddied Rudy Giuliani’s messaging up by explaining that Rudy Giuliani doesn’t actually know what was specifically said because it was said to Jay Sekulow who is in Israel, but whatever it was it wasn’t said by Special Counsel Mueller himself.

Unfortunately, Rudy Giuliani who has now explained that Rudy Giuliani does not actually know what happened at this meeting between the Special Counsel and some of his personnel and Jay Sekulow because Jay Sekulow is in Israel and Rudy Giuliani was not there did not get with Rudy Giuliani who decided to further clarify Rudy Giuliani’s clarification of Rudy Giuliani’s statement that the Special Counsel told Rudy Giuliani directly that he couldn’t prosecute the President. Take it away Talking Points Memo!

He didn’t seem to want to give the answer,” Giuliani told the Post. “It reminded me of that scene in ‘The Godfather,’ with Sonny and the Godfather, where he said, ‘Oh, you’re going to take care of us? We can take care of ourselves.’ One of his assistants broke in and said, ‘Well of course, we’re bound by Justice Department policies.’ Mueller looked at him like, ‘Don’t interrupt me.’”

In case everyone has, like the various Rudy Giulianis, lost the plot here, let me summarize:

  1. Rudy Giuliani told NBC News that Special Counsel Mueller told him directly that he could not prosecute the President because of the 1970s guidance from the Office of Legal Counsel.
  2. Rudy Giuliani, in an attempt to clarify what Rudy Giuliani told NBC News, told The Washington Post that he doesn’t actually know what Special Counsel Mueller or his personnel told Jay Sekulow and he can’t find out because Jay is in Israel.
  3. Rudy Giuliani, in an attempt to sound tough and make Special Counsel Mueller look bad, as well as further clarify Rudy Giuliani’s clarification to The Washington Post of Rudy Giuliani’s (who comes from a family that was mobbed up) statement to NBC News, stated that Bob Mueller (who brought down John Gotti) is like an Italian mafioso from a movie.

According to The Washington Post:

A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.

Everybody clear?

Open thread!

* Neal Katyal who wrote the existing guidelines for DOJ Special Counsels had this to say about the 1970s Office of Legal Counsel guidance:

“This old opinion from 20 years ago does preclude, in general, the Justice Department from indicting a sitting president for constitutional reasons,” Katyal said. “But an exception can be given.”

Katyal repeated Wednesday that the rules “permit Mueller to depart from DOJ policy.”

Referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein, who is acting as attorney general in the context of the Russia investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, Katyal said on MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes”: “The way to do this is to ask the acting attorney general, so he does have a way forward.”

While I’m sure everyone will have fun with this in the comments, there really is no settled law on this. As a political scientist and criminologist I understand all three of the major legal theories/positions on this, and definitely have my own view on which is right, as well as why the OLC memo was written the way it was written during Watergate. That said, I expect that Special Counsel Mueller will play everything straight based on his career as a Federal prosecutor and Director of the FBI. Regardless, we will just have to wait and see.

Totally gonna kill that nonexistent thing…

Today in WTF:

Also, Trump’s wife had surgery this morning and will be hospitalized for the rest of the week. About half an hour ago, Trump tweeted that he was headed over to visit her at Walter Reed.

Can you imagine the media meltdown if any other president had loafed around the White House live-tweeting Fox News all day while his wife went under the knife? Especially if said president was in the middle of a massive sex scandal?

I get that everyone pretty much assumes the Trumps hate each other’s guts and that we all knew he was a gross philanderer from way back. Still, it’s amazing how quickly the Beltway press acclimated themselves to these circumstances, and yet they struggle to adjust to the fact that the president is a mind-blowingly corrupt, incompetent liar.

They are still covering the JOB aspect of Trump’s presidency as if he were a normal president, but the personal life angle — they were able to skippidy-doo-dah right over that. Hmmm. Not sure if I should be grateful or annoyed. (About being spared media hand-wringing about the Trumps’ fucked up family dynamics, I mean.)

Storm’s a’ coming, baby!

This is remarkable:

The video ends with the real Stormy Daniels conversing with Alec Baldwin’s Trump. The Post’s account:

“So, what up girl?” Trump says, before finally asking, “Just tell me, what do you need for this all to go away?”

“A resignation,” Daniels shoots back, eventually saying, “I know you don’t believe in climate change, but a storm’s a’ coming, baby.”

In the 900 years or so since Trump’s inauguration, there have been so many incidents that seemed like turning points that I hesitate to point yet another one out, but I’ll do it anyway: This business with Giuliani contradicting Trump’s original story about the Stormy payoff seems significant.

There’s no reason on earth why a lie about paying off Daniels should be any kind of turning point. It’s such a small incident in the scheme of things. Trump lies all the time — the official WaPo tally tops 3,000 lies he has told as president.

Trump is prolifically and openly corrupt, and his cabinet and adviser ranks are filled with crooks, crackpots and incompetents. Trump is appalling on every level as a person — trashy, vulgar, dishonest, self-aggrandizing and small.

But my sense from following media coverage across the spectrum is that this lie about Stormy Daniels is a final straw for some of the folks in the media who drive the narrative. There’s hand-wringing about Huckabee-Sanders’ loss of credibility — as if she ever had any. And the true believers seem even more bug-shit deranged than usual, as if they too sense that they’re losing control of the narrative. A sample:

What the actual fucking fuck? Anyway, maybe it’s just a blip. But it feels like something has shifted. What do you think?

Useful Idiot, a Picture Story Featuring Chris Cillizza

Michelle Wolf is not the problem.