Almost immediately after Donald Trump's inauguration, newly installed White House officials seemed eager to share their bizarre experiences with the press. The president's outrage about the leaks from his own team was obvious.
He did not, however, know quite what to say about them. In February 2017, during an appearance at CPAC, Trump told conservative activists that the leaks aren't real; they're just made-up quotes from unethical and dishonest journalists. In the same speech, the president went on to say that he was furious that officials from his own team leaked real, sensitive information.
How did Trump reconcile the contradiction? By all appearances, he didn't seem to understand that the contradiction existed.
More than a year later, the president is still struggling, as a tweet from yesterday afternoon helped prove.
"The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!"
So, the leaks are not a problem, and they are a problem. They are invented, and they are real. The leakers don't really exist, and they very much exist.
Trump's had a year and a half to figure this out, and as of yesterday afternoon, those efforts don't appear to be going well.
Of course, we know the impetus for this latest Trump World anxiety. Last week, during a meeting on Gina Haspel's nomination to lead the CIA, a White House official mocked Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) failing health, deeming his concerns about Haspel irrelevant because "he's dying anyway." Kelly Sadler, the White House's director of surrogate and coalitions outreach, has not yet issued any kind of public apology.
But as the controversy grew over the incident, Trump World decided the real problem wasn't Sadler's comment, but rather, the fact that the public learned about Sadler's comment. What was leaked, the president's aides said, was less important than the fact that the quote was leaked at all.