We all know what Trump thinks about the press, but that apparently doesn’t stop him from voraciously devouring whatever articles come across his desk or whichever news anchors penetrate his beady, thousand-yard stare. A new piece from Politico draws upon a number of sources to get a sense of just how Trump receives news, absorbs it, and reacts to it.
Shane Goldmacher writes:
Trump may not be a fan of briefing books but he does devour the news. Most mornings, current and former aides say, Trump reads through a handful of newspapers in print, including the New York Times, New York Post, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal — all while watching cable news shows in the background.
He uses the Internet minimally, other than tweeting and tracking his mentions, so what other news stories he sees can be more haphazard. Trump does receive a daily binder of news clippings put together his [sic] communications team, but White House officials disagreed about how much he reads those. White House and former campaign aides have tried to make sure Trump’s media diet includes regular doses of praise and positive stories to keep his mood up – a tactic honed by staff during the campaign to keep him from tweeting angrily.
The most revealing part of the article, however, comes from the revelation that nearly everyone in Trump’s orbit has a habit of personally slipping him the bits of news they know will steer him in any given direction. This is apparently such a problem that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told senior staffers to stop it, presumably in the same manner one asks a child to stop slipping the family dog bits of steak under the table.
The article paints the White House as frantic and flimsy, with aides alternating between clandestine news-clip hand-offs and, once the information’s spurred the president to sweaty action, breathless hunts for who tipped our commander-in-chief off this time.
The consequences can be tremendous, according to a half-dozen White House officials and others with direct interactions with the president. A news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda. Current and former Trump officials say Trump can react volcanically to negative press clips, especially those with damaging leaks, becoming engrossed in finding out where they originated.
When Trump bellows about this or that story, his aides often scramble in a game of cat-and-mouse to figure out who alerted the president to the piece in the first place given that he rarely browses the Internet on his own. Some in the White House describe getting angry calls from the president and then hustling over to Trump’s personal secretary, Madeleine Westerhout, to ferret who exactly had just paid a visit to the Oval Office and possibly set Trump off.
Goldmacher shares stories of staffers slipping Trump internet hoaxes, dangerous op-eds, and, in one depressing instance, an unverified story from fake news propagator Charles C. Johnson that went on to consume Trump’s entire cabinet.
There might be a farcical comedy in here somewhere if it weren’t all so depressing.