Column: Factual leaks infuriate a president who tweets nonsense

Donald Trump is drenched by leaks.
Top of the Ticket cartoon.
(David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

It’s no fun to live in a house with a leaky roof, so it must be a major pain to live in a house — the White House — that leaks from every crack and corner.

Leaks appear to be tremendously infuriating to the new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. On Wednesday, during a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when he wasn’t recalling the mythic proportions (and I do mean mythic in the fictional sense) of his electoral victory, President Trump was complaining about the leaks that brought down his national security advisor, retired Gen. Michael Flynn.

Characterizing leaks from intelligence and law enforcement agencies, as well as his own White House, as “criminal acts,” Trump expressed sympathy for his departed aide and blasted the recipients of the leaked information, the news media.

“Gen. Flynn is a wonderful man,” Trump said. “I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the fake media — in many cases.”


The tone of Trump’s latest tirade undermined the official version of events surrounding Flynn’s departure. On Tuesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump had acted decisively to oust Flynn once he learned the general had lied about the content of his meetings with Russian officials. Judging by the president’s remarks, he was not really all that upset with Flynn and would not have let him go if details of Flynn’s actions had not been made public.

Trump is discovering what he should have known when he first decided to become a candidate for president: running the country is not at all like running a real estate business or playing the part of a brilliant businessman on TV. He cannot just spit out orders and make everyone do his bidding. He cannot hide the unsavory side of his activities. And he cannot avoid accountability and tough questions.

In response to Trump’s latest attack on the “fake media,” CNN’s Jake Tapper attempted to school the fledgling commander in chief.

“The media, of course, did not fire Gen. Flynn. President Trump did,” Tapper said on his program Wednesday. “Now, what the media did do was reveal to the nation that Gen. Flynn had lied to the Trump team — including Vice President Pence — when he claimed he never discussed Obama’s sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador. President Trump knew this at least as early as Jan. 26. But he did not act on this until media revealed the truth to you [the public], and, as it turns out, Vice President Pence.”


Tapper went on to explain the difference between conspiracy theories and real news to Trump. The stories about Flynn were news because they were based on facts provided — yes, leaked — by officials with real information.

“Conspiracy theories are different. They’re false, they’re crackpot, they’re nonsense,” Tapper said, going on to give two examples: the falsehood that President Obama was born in Kenya and the bogus claim that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the plot to kill President Kennedy.

Trump should be familiar with those two crackpot theories since he was the one pushing them. It is not likely the president is going to gain a new appreciation for facts, though. That is not how his mind works. He perceives the world in starkly simple terms in which only one thing matters: who is with him and who is against him. Any other truth is irrelevant.

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter




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