This is one reason close Trump-watchers, including my colleague Derek Thompson, have argued that the president can best be understood not as a political figure, but as a media company. When he is hit with bad headlines, his instinct is not to put out a carefully worded statement in response, and then keep his head down and slog through the news cycle. Instead, Trump immediately goes to work shaping a more favorable alternative reality, and then filing dispatches to his millions of fans.
The most elaborate example of this strategy played out late in the presidential election, when Trump’s campaign—facing a nonstop bombardment of bad press and damaging leaks—began producing its own low-tech version of a nightly news broadcast on Facebook, “Trump Tower Live.” The show featured campaign staffers playing TV anchors and political pundits, delivering a steady stream of reassuring headlines for supporters. A typical broadcast would rack up north of a million views.
“Trump Tower Live” was widely viewed in political circles as both innovative and deeply cynical. But the live-tweeting from @POTUS on Monday still seems like an escalation. This was not just campaign spin, or even presidential obfuscation. It was an official government communications arm of the executive branch with massive reach—something akin to a state-run media outlet—deliberately misreporting, in real time, what was happening on Capitol Hill. And the effort is only likely to get more elaborate, and more deliberate, the longer Russia remains in the headlines.