According to President Trump, The New York Times is a “failing” newspaper functioning in a “fake news” industry. But for all the slander Trump has leveled towards the publication, he sure values their opinion of him.
In the wake of reports about Trump’s displeasure with Jared Kushner’s political advice — and the indictments of three former members of his campaign (one who is reportedly cooperating with investigators), Trump rang up the Times and seemed eager to dispel the notion that he’s a guy who thinks the walls are closing in on him.
“I’m not under investigation, as you know,” Mr. Trump told the Times during the phone call. “And even if you look at that, there’s not even a mention of Trump in there.”
“It has nothing to do with us,” he added, presumably referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.
He also wanted to quell a report from The Washington Post which characterized him as being “angry at everybody.”
“I’m actually not angry at anybody.”
“I just got fantastic poll numbers,” Trump said. In the most recent Gallup poll, his approval rating is at 33 percent, which is the lowest yet of his presidency. An astounding 62 percent don’t like the job he’s doing. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found similar numbers. Of course, Trump didn’t provide where he got his glowing assessment.
“I’m in the office early and leave late; it’s very smooth,” Mr. Trump said. “Honestly, I’m really enjoying it.”
Other advisers who anonymously spoke to the Times say that reports of White House pandemonium are over blown.
But Trump and his aides’ assessments are a stark contrast to recent reports suggesting a resurgence of White House infighting. In a piece for Vanity Fair this Wednesday, Gabriel Sherman describes how a phone call with former chief adviser Steve Bannon has Trump second-guessing his trust in Jared Kushner as a political adviser. According to sources close to the matter, Trump reportedly “blamed Jared Kushner for his role” in certain decisions, specifically the firings of Mike Flynn and James Comey, which ultimately led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
When Roger Stone recently told Trump that Kushner was giving him bad political advice, Trump agreed, according to someone familiar with the conversation. “Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.”
Bannon, who is now back at his top role of heading Breitbart News, believes Trump’s grip on power is slipping.
The collapse of Obamacare repeal, and the dimming chances that tax reform will pass soon—many Trump allies are deeply pessimistic about its prospects—have created the political climate for establishment Republicans to turn on Trump.
Either way, Trump’s call to the Times is illustrative of the fact that he truly fears the news outlets he slanders as fake. Although his war against the press will undoubtedly continue, it’s an encouraging sign that outlets with a deference to the truth still have more power over him than he wants to admit.
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