But it remains striking that Trump seems so uninterested in using the vast resources of the presidency to discover whether there’s any validity to the stories he broadcasts to his online audience of millions.
If Trump sincerely believes these stories, that ought to be cause for intense concern: We expect a president to rely on solid intelligence, not blogs and cable news, when making life-and-death national security decisions. But a more cynical interpretation is that the truth or falsehood of these claims is beside the point for Trump: His symbiotic relationship with right-wing media permits him to have it both ways in his public pronouncements.
Officially, the president proclaims “great faith” in his intelligence community, giving cover to Republican elected officials — who can point to Trump’s professed acceptance of the intelligence consensus — and Trump’s own appointees, who might feel compelled to resign if he made his distrust of their work more explicit. Yet his dog-whistle references clearly tell his base not to take this official faith seriously — and guarantee that his media allies will follow his lead with another round of stories reinforcing the narrative of deep-state perfidy.