The Slatest

Donald Trump, Media Genius, Without Prompting Drags His Links to Russia Back Into the Spotlight

Donald Trump giving his “I just nailed it” look.

Olivier Douliery—Pool/Getty Images

Perhaps it’s time to reconsider President Trump’s alleged media chops. Often praised for, if nothing else, his ability to direct the conversation and coverage, Trump also is pathologically incapable of strategic thinking and talking. Exhibit Z came this weekend when Donald Trump appeared on CBS News’ Face the Nation. At one point during the interview, marketing genius Donald Trump had this to say to host (and Slate podcast host) John Dickerson: “I love your show. I call it Deface the Nation. But, you know, your show is sometimes not exactly correct.” Good one, Don. More importantly, at the very end of the interview, Dickerson moved on to this: “You said yesterday on Fox that Russia is a phony story. Which part of it is phony?”

Trump’s answer wasn’t particularly compelling (obviously): “The concept of Russia with respect to us is a total phony story.” It also wasn’t particularly new. He rambled on blaming Obama and Hillary Clinton saying, essentially: I’m not guilty, you’re guilty! He also said it could have been China:

Number two, knowing something about hacking, if you don’t catch a hacker, OK, in the act, it’s very hard to say who did the hacking. With that being said, I’ll go along with Russia. Could’ve been China, could’ve been a lot of different groups.

What’s so absurd about Trump’s comments—in a world where everything is now absurd—is that dredging up the Russia story is totally self-inflicted. Investigations are still going on, but more quietly than in the early days of the administration, and coverage has been subsumed by the actual news of governing (or bombing really). That, you would think, would be good for Trump. But Trump brought up Russia during a Fox News interview, which Dickerson references, again, totally unprompted, as fodder for why he’s getting a raw deal from the press.

DONALD TRUMP: Let me tell you something. So, I have approvals is in the high 40s, every network that you see, with the exception of Fox—Fox has been fair, but every network you you see hits me on every topic, made up stories like Russia.

They do the Russia, the faux Russia, I call it “the fake Russia story,” Russia story was made up because the embarrassed—they were embarrassed by their loss. They had this tremendous loss, a loss like nobody has ever seen before.

The Democrats should never lose the electoral college because they automatically start with New York, California, and Illinois. It’s impossible for a Republican to win, and not only did I won, I won easily.

So, they made up this Russia thing to try and deflect, because they’re embarrassed by what happened. The Russia is a phony story, all you see is the Russia story, the Russia story. You see all of these other phony stories. It’s so bad, and for me to have a great approval records in light of all the faux press and the fake press I think is amazing.

The question by Fox News host Martha MacCallum was about getting Republicans in Congress to go along with his agenda and whether low approval ratings made that more difficult. Trump responded with Russia and, like clockwork, he was asked to follow up about it. And now we’re talking about it again.

A real master of the modern media.