If you believe what President Trump tweets, you’ll learn that his abrupt announcement of White House counsel Don McGahn’s upcoming departure had nothing to do with the Russia investigation, with pressure from his daughter and son-in-law, or with any White House infighting—and the only reason you might think so is because you heard it from media organizations led by lying, corrupt bosses who will soon be fired.
After Trump tweeted Wednesday, apparently to the surprise of senior Republicans in the Senate and McGahn himself, that McGahn would leave this fall, stories quickly emerged that daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared had been campaigning against McGahn and that Trump had been frustrated with McGahn for not stopping Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
In the course of complaining Thursday about the stories , Trump seemed to imply that McGahn’s departure plan was not voluntary. The New York Times had earlier reported that Trump tweeted in order “to take away any wiggle room [McGahn] might have” in deciding when to leave.
But there is (at least) one problem with this narrative: It makes it seem like Trump didn’t announce McGahn’s departure so much as …. terminate his employment at the White House. NBC later reported that a White House official clarified Trump’s “decision” tweet.
Before Trump went off about McGahn coverage Thursday, he was airing his grievances—and dishing—about media organizations and their executives. The two lines of thought apparently converge in the president’s mind. Since his Justice Department was unable to prevent AT&T from buying CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, Trump instead suggested that the telecom company fire CNN head Jeff Zucker because “Little Z has done a terrible job, [and] his ratings suck.”
He then moved onto NBC News’ Andy Lack, who, Trump said, “is about to be fired(?)”
The accusation that NBC’s Lester Holt was “fudging my tape on Russia” is a new one for Trump, who was presumably referring to his 2017 interview with Holt in which, days after firing James Comey, Trump told the NBC anchor, “And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’ “
This is not the first time Trump has, well after the fact, intimated that a damning tape of his comments may not actually be real. The New York Times reported that three months after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced, Trump told a Republican senator in January 2017, “We don’t think that was my voice.”
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus