The more federal investigators turn their attention to Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, the more Team Trump would love to put some distance between the president and his former top aide. In the spring, for example, then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer twice tried to downplay the significance of Manafort's role in Trump's political operation.
Just how far would Trump World go to throw Manafort under the bus? The question took a curious turn yesterday.
The National Enquirer, the president's favorite supermarket tabloid, announced its latest scoop yesterday, insisting that Manafort has been caught up in some kind of sex scandal -- a story that ran just hours after we learned the FBI raided the former campaign chairman's home last month. The National Enquirer's piece went on to quote a "White House adviser" who said Manafort was guilty of "betraying ... his country."
This comes about a month after the president publicly suggested he has some influence over the tabloid's editorial decisions.
Slate summarized the larger context nicely:
So, six weeks after Trump seemingly admitted that he can use National Enquirer stories as leverage in personal disputes, the Enquirer has published a sensational attack on an individual who may (may!) possess incriminating information about Trump-Russia collusion.
Let's note for context that when former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's troubles grew more serious, he started receiving unflattering coverage in the National Enquirer, too.
Trump, you'll recall, has not only been the beneficiary of fawning coverage from the National Enquirer, he's also insisted that the tabloid "should be very respected" and deserves "Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting."
As Rachel explained on the show in March, "The president reads the National Enquirer; he is a booster of the National Enquirer; he is friends with the publisher of the National Enquirer; and so, even though it's the freaking National Enquirer, it's also a little bit of a Rosetta Stone now for decoding where this White House is going next."
And it's against this backdrop that the tabloid wants everyone to know about a new, personal controversy surrounding Paul Manafort, just as the world learns about FBI agents raiding his home.