WILKES BARRE, PA - AUGUST 02: President Donald J. Trump speaks to a large crowd on August 2, 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes Barre,...
Rick Loomis

Trump has an awkward love/hate relationship with ‘anonymous sources’

Late yesterday, Donald Trump declared via Twitter that there was a “report just out” on China hacking into Hillary Clinton’s emails. The report in question was published by a conservative website that based its article on two unnamed sources who’d been “briefed on the matter.”

About 12 hours later, the president offered some advice to news consumers: “When you see ‘anonymous source,’ stop reading the story, it is fiction!” He added:

“The fact is that many anonymous sources don’t even exist. They are fiction made up by the Fake News reporters.”

In May 2017, USA Today  wrote, “Trump hates anonymous sources, unless they’re in stories favorable to him.” Very little has changed since then.

But this hardly makes the president’s nonsense more tolerable. After all, anonymous sources have been Trump’s stock and trade for quite a while. For example, it was six years ago this month that Trump wrote, “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”

If anything, his reliance on unnamed sources is more aggressive now than ever. Bloomberg News published a great piece two weeks ago on the president’s frequent references to “anonymous validators” – powerful, unnamed allies who, coincidentally, privately tell the president how right he is, even if we’re not allowed to know who these people are.

As for the idea that journalists “make up” quotes from people who “don’t even exist,” this is another classic example of Trump’s fondness for projection.

Because as regular readers know, no one in public life makes up conversations with non-existent people as frequently as the American president.

In June, for example, he described a chat with “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon that Trump made up. In August the president described a phone conversation with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that, in reality, never occurred. Before that, Trump was excited about a phone call he’d received from the head of the Boy Scouts, which also hadn’t happened.

In July 2017, he offered details of a phone conversation with the head of a large nation, with over 300 million people, who complained to the American president about the foreign country’s 9% GDP growth rate. There is no such country. Though Trump talked about the phone call more than once, he made it up.

A year later, he went into quite a bit of detail about the behind-the-scenes discussions he participated in over border-wall construction in California, despite the fact that those conversations apparently weren’t real.

What was that Trump was saying about “fiction”?