Trump Called An Unnamed WH Source ‘Phony.’ Lots Of Reporters Know Otherwise.

TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump addresses the US Naval Academy graduating class on May 25, 2018 in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
May 26, 2018 12:31 p.m.

President Donald Trump on Saturday accused the New York Times of inventing an unnamed source who, in reality, spoke to reporters at a background briefing Thursday that the President’s own press office scheduled.

Get TPM in your inbox, twice weekly.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Trump, who on Thursday morning cancelled his planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, appeared to be quoting a Friday New York Times article that carried the following paragraph:

As with so many issues involving this president, the views of his aides often have little effect on what he actually says. On Thursday, for example, a senior White House official told reporters that even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.

That information, multiple reporters said Saturday, came from what’s known as a “background briefing,” a briefing between a government official and members of the press in which the official remains nameless.

At least one reporter, Yashar Ali, even named the source. He said the official who gave the briefing on background was Matt Pottinger, a foreign policy aide to Trump.

The Daily Beast identified Pottinger as the source in an article Thursday, noting that while “[t]he call was conducted on an off-the-record condition. […] The Daily Beast was not a party to the call and was briefed by a source who recounted Pottinger’s comments.”

The briefing, according to an email TPM and other news organizations received Thursday from the White House press office, was held in the White House briefing room and scheduled by White House staff. Reporters from around the nation were invited to call in to the briefing on a White House-provided phone number, using a White House-provided access code.

Here’s the text of that email:

Background Briefing with Senior White House Official on North Korea

This afternoon, a senior White House official will hold an off-camera, not for broadcast, background briefing on North Korea. The briefing will be conducted in person and via conference call at 3:30PM EDT, and the information will be embargoed until the conclusion of the briefing. The number of lines are limited and available on a first-come-first-served basis, so please limit to one per outlet. Please find the updated dial-in information below.

In Person: White House Briefing Room

Participant Dial-In: [redacted]

Access Code: [redacted]

Trump has a long record of asserting that unnamed sources who provide inconvenient information don’t exist. His White House and others before it also have a long record of providing unnamed sources to the press corps in order to tell their side of the story in a more candid atmosphere.

Ronald Kessler reported in his recent book that Trump himself frequently acts as an unnamed source to news outlets. And as a New York City tabloid star before his political career began, Trump sometimes used fake personas when speaking to reporters.

This post has been updated.

Latest Livewire
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: