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Trump's tantrum over leaks comes with a surprise ending

Donald Trump seems confused about what a "leak" is, and whether or not he likes it when they emanate from his White House.
During a campaign rally Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads a statement made by Michelle Fields, on March 29, 2016 in Janesville, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)
During a campaign rally Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads a statement made by Michelle Fields, on March 29, 2016 in Janesville, Wis.

During his trip abroad, the volume of Donald Trump's tweets slowed down considerably -- he was almost certainly watching a lot less television -- and some wondered whether the president might be turning over a new leaf, adopting a more disciplined communications posture.

Indeed, some of this may have been involuntary. The Wall Street Journal reported that "a team of lawyers" may soon review the president's social-media missives as Trump World grapples with the Russia scandal.

But we were quickly reminded that Trump is not easily changed. Over the weekend, in a series of tweets, the president renewed his interest in leaks emanating from his administration:

"It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media. Whenever you see the words 'sources say' in the fake news media, and they don't mention names, it is very possible that those sources don't exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!"

It's always entertaining when one example of presidential whining can be wrong in so many ways simultaneously.

1. The news is either leaked from the White House or it's made up by the media, but it can't be both. Words still have meaning and if Trump is confused about what a "leak" is, I'm sure someone on his staff can explain it to him (and then run to reporters to share the anecdote).

2. Team Trump routinely holds briefings with reporters in which officials are, at the White House's insistence, not to be identified by name. In this sense, the president is condemning his own team's communications strategy.

3. Given the fact that Trump recently leaked highly sensitive, classified information to Russian officials, perhaps he should steer clear of complaining about leaks for a while.

But as it turns out, this is a story with a twist ending.

This morning, Trump used Twitter to promote a Fox News piece that said Jared Kushner did not recommend a secret Russian communications channel during the presidential transition process, contradicting the Washington Post's reporting. Fox's report is based on an unnamed White House source, and the piece itself didn't even include a byline -- suggesting no one at the controversial network wanted to be directly associated with the piece.

We're left with a disjointed picture: Trump hates leaks, except the ones that say what he likes to hear. Trump wants Americans to discount news reports based on unnamed sources, except when those reports are published by his allies and reinforce his preferred narrative.

Presidential whining is unbecoming on its face, but incoherent and contradictory whining is that much more difficult to take seriously.