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 families.
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.