How very Putin-like.
Donald Trump apparently has at his disposal a “loose network
of conservative operatives” who are collecting and compiling damaging personal
information on journalists deemed unsympathetic to the regime, as well as their
The New York Times reported
on the operatives on Sunday, saying the purpose of the network was to further
discredit news organizations and their staff among Trump’s base. It sounds
like v2.0 of Trump’s nonstop “Fake News” gaslighting campaign, in which he and
his enablers call members of the news media the “enemy
of the people,” a term often used by authoritarian regimes including
Stalin’s Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
The Times said
this group of political bullies has compiled “dossiers” on journalists that
include “potentially embarrassing information” dating back to more than a
decade. It already has used some of the information to attack journalists at
CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, which are frequent
targets of Trump’s hostility during the
president’s hate rallies in various cities across the nation.
Per the Times:
It is not possible to independently assess the claims about the quantity or potential significance of the material the pro-Trump network has assembled. Some involved in the operation have histories of bluster and exaggeration. And those willing to describe its techniques and goals may be trying to intimidate journalists or their employers.
But the material publicized so far, while in some cases stripped of context or presented in misleading ways, has proved authentic, and much of it has been professionally harmful to its targets.
Unsurprisingly, one of the key players in this operation is
a friend of Donald Trump Jr., 47-year-old Arthur Schwartz, who apparently
pals around with Steve
Bannon. Schwartz also appears to be friends with Richard Grenell, the U.S.
ambassador to Germany, who managed to offend the German people only hours after
assuming that post.
Coincidentally, Grenell’s first faux pas—tweeting a demand for German companies to cease operating
in Iran—was similar to a Trump
fuckup this weekend.
On Friday, Trump “hereby ordered” U.S. companies to begin
pulling out of China over the president’s suicidal trade war with the East
Asian nation, a country of 1.4 billion consumers. Trump quickly backtracked less than two days later after his comments were widely condemned, particularly in conservative circles.
Following the Times’
publication of the smear story, Schwartz tweeted that the newspaper had
“profoundly exaggerated” his role in the efforts. In the same tweet, Schwartz
criticized CNN, right on schedule.
The information the group compiles apparently gets fed into
the feedback loop that is Trump’s inner circle, which includes people at the
White House, his son and other family members, people working for Trump’s
reelection campaign, and right-wing media outlets like Breitbart.
Spokespeople at the White House and in Trump’s campaign
denied knowledge of the operation, but nevertheless praised it.
“We know nothing about this, but it’s clear that the media
has a lot of work to do to clean up its own house,” Tim Murtaugh,
communications director for the Trump campaign, told the Times.