Nearly two weeks ago, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump was poised to make significant changes to his legal defense team. A day later, the president accused the newspaper of having “purposely” publishing “a false story.”
We now know that the president has reached out to two high-profile D.C. attorneys, neither of whom joined Trump’s team, while hiring two Fox News personalities to help with his legal defense. The latest head of his team of attorneys resigned yesterday.
In other words, the president’s denial wasn’t true.
The Trump administration batted down a new report on Thursday that national security adviser H.R. McMaster could be on his way out, with President Donald Trump telling a spokesman for the National Security Council that the article was “fake news.”
“I was just with President Trump and H.R. McMaster in the Oval Office,” the spokesman, Michael Anton, said in a statement provided to pool reporters. “President Trump said that the NBC News story is ‘fake news,’ and told McMaster that he is doing a great job.”
Raj Shah, the White House principal deputy press secretary, also cast doubt on reports of McMaster’s looming departure, telling pool reporters that the administration often dealt with “rumor and innuendo about senior administration officials.”
Just last week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added that she’d just spoken to Trump and McMaster, explaining, “[C]ontrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC.”
Yesterday, meanwhile, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stood at the White House podium and assured the nation that the president “looks forward to signing” the omnibus spending bill that passed Congress last night. This morning, Trump said the opposite – and threatened to veto the measure.
My point is not that one should necessarily ignore literally everything the White House says. When Trump and/or one of his spokespersons praise Vladimir Putin, for example, it matters. When they threaten war with a foreign rival, we have to pay attention. When they defend white supremacists, no one should just look the other way.
But Team Trump frequently reminds us of one unmistakable truth: the White House is not a reliable source of accurate information, even about its own positions and plans.