Even as Donald Trump dealt with a terror attack by vowing to shred American due process protections Wednesday, the molten-hot Trump-Russia investigation was top of mind for a guy whose former campaign chairman has just been indicted.
The reek of desperation that already covered the White House following the revelation of Paul Manafort's indictments and campaign adviser George Papadopoulos's guilty plea broke open like a rotten egg Wednesday afternoon in a call to The New York Times.
Based on the Times's report, the phone call could not have lasted more than a few minutes, and it was an absurdly transparent attempt at counterspin:
“I’m not under investigation, as you know,” Mr. Trump said in a brief telephone call late Wednesday afternoon. Pointing to the indictment of his former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, the president said, “And even if you look at that, there’s not even a mention of Trump in there.”
“It has nothing to do with us,” Mr. Trump said.
He also pushed back against a report published Monday night by The Washington Post, which the president said described him as “angry at everybody.”
“I’m actually not angry at anybody,” Mr. Trump told The Times.
Later in the conversation, Trump bragged about secret poll numbers he got from the Republican National Committee, listed his meager “accomplishments,” and again insisted he's having a ball:
“I’m in the office early and leave late; it’s very smooth,” Mr. Trump said. “Honestly,” he added, “I’m really enjoying it.”
The reporting itself doesn't amount to a hell of a lot, but the fact the Times was willing to swallow it is just the latest disgrace for the Gray Lady.
Printed under the ridiculous headline “In Call With Times Reporter, Trump Projects Air of Calm Over Charges,” the article also dutifully includes background “reporting” from administration officials whose obvious role it was to spin away from the actual adversarial journalism that other reporters are doing.
The Times regurgitated its spin without so much as a critical syllable, and it somehow managed to avoid talking with the dozens of White House staffers who weren't spoon-fed to them, and who form the basis for the reports this exercise was meant to refute.
No one is expecting The New York Times to run a headline like “Desperate Trump Calls Reporter to Insist He's Not Angry About Exploding Russia Investigation,” but surely it could have made that accurate sentiment more boring and added a few unnecessary clauses for style purposes.
And surely it could have bothered to point out the indictments and guilty plea do actually have something to do with Trump, and that normal people don't call reporters to insist how not angry they are about things.
In any case, the message was clear to this reader, if not to the reporters.