Trump: It’s disgusting that the press is able to write whatever it wants
It’s clear from the context, as you’ll see, that he means it’s disgusting that the press is able to publish falsehoods with impunity. He’s talking about the NBC story claiming that he wanted to expand the nuclear arsenal by a factor of 10. Trump says it’s false, Mattis says it’s false. But under U.S. libel laws it’s almost impossible to defame a public figure, especially when that public figure is the president and you have sources inside the government telling you what they’ve heard. A couple of federal employees could make up a story about Trump whole cloth, whisper it to the press, and the outlet that published it would probably be libel-proof under the First Amendment. If it’s true that people lied to NBC to make Trump sound stupid, especially involving a natsec meeting involving his top advisors, you can understand why he’d feel disgust.
He reiterated afterward that it’s accuracy he’s after, not silencing his critics:
But if he’s not talking about bringing government power to bear against the media, what was that Twitter fart this morning about taking away NBC’s broadcast license about? I think Twitter’s where his authoritarian id vents itself and then later, when he’s on camera and knows people are scrutinizing him, he walks his rhetoric back a bit and says what he knows he’s supposed to say. On Twitter he’s a would-be caudillo. On camera he’s just exasperated with media bias and loose reporting.
Or maybe he’s simply unhinged, veering from “I want more honesty” to “CANCEL THEIR BROADCAST LICENSE” and back again over the course of the day. Toss “Vanity Fair” onto the prior-restraint pile too, I guess:
In recent days, I spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods. Trump’s ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary. “Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche,” a person close to Trump said. “He saw the cult of personality was broken.”…
Even before Corker’s remarks, some West Wing advisers were worried that Trump’s behavior could cause the Cabinet to take extraordinary Constitutional measures to remove him from office. Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment—the provision by which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove the president. When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, Trump said, “What’s that?” According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term.
“Vanity Fair” also reported a few days ago that John Kelly might soon be on his way out (that report set Trump off too), possibly to be replaced by POTUS pal Tom Barrack. I don’t know. Barrack gave an interview to WaPo this week in which he seemed dismayed at Trump’s behavior too, calling himself “shocked” and “stunned” at some of the president’s tweets. “In my opinion, he’s better than this,” said Barrack. Uh, if you say so, but does that mean Barrack also thinks the strain of the job is getting to Trump?
Either way, his comments about the press seem pretty well in tune with the times. Both parties are giving up on free speech. Why should the president be any different?