Scoop. Denial. Scoop confirmed. That’s business as usual for writers covering the Trump White House.
The New York Times had what appeared to be a big scoop earlier this month.President Trump, it reported, was considering shaking up the legal team advising him on the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Within hours of the story’s publication, however, Trump himself threw cold water on the Times. He tweeted, “The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job. . . . The writer of the story, Maggie Haberman, a Hillary flunky, knows nothing about me and is not given access.”
.. Last week, too, The Washington Post broke some news about a forthcoming shake-up among White House advisers. Trump had decided to remove national security adviser H.R. McMaster, the paper reported.
Within hours, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders rejected that very idea. “Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster — contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes” at the National Security Council, she tweeted.
.. “Unfortunately, this happens often enough that reporters have learned that we can’t trust the denials,” said Peter Baker
.. It all stems from him. People can focus on staff and I certainly have, but at the end of the day it’s the president who runs things this way and makes the choices to deny true stories and attempt to confuse people.”
During the post-election transition, for example, a spokesman denied a Washington Post report that Gen. Jim Mattis would be his nominee for secretary of defense; Trump confirmed it hours later at a public appearance.
In October, the White House denied a Post story that Trump would decertify the Iran nuclear agreement as not in the national interest. He ended up doing so.
.. Reporters say they believe Trump sometimes employs denials to maintain an image of orderly calm until it’s no longer possible to do so.
It could also be a delaying tactic, aimed at holding off a news report until the White House is ready to announce it.
.. “Even introducing something that turns out to be false into our information system means that it’s out there, and the vast majority of people will never hear the correction,”
.. It is the best tactic, actually, to introduce false information into the news ecosystem because most people will never notice that it has been corrected. If they do, they’ll find reasons to dismiss the correction as insignificant, leaving their underlying support intact.”