President Trump likes to boast about how, as president, he’s in an exquisite position to judge the value of news reports coming out of the White House. “Here’s the thing: The public isn’t — you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don’t know if it’s true or false because they’re not involved,” said Trump at that memorable Feb. 16 news conference. “I’m involved. I’ve been involved with this stuff all my life. But I’m involved. So I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things.”
Based on this bird’s eye view, Trump has found CNN’s coverage wanting. Check out the tweets:
Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
While on FAKE NEWS @CNN, Bernie Sanders was cut off for using the term fake news to describe the network. They said technical difficulties!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2017
So, in other words: Please don’t believe this CNN story. It comes under the bylines of Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne under the headline, “US tries to ID hundreds of al Qaeda contacts thanks to Yemen raid.” “Several US officials” have told these CNNers that a controversial January raid in Yemen has yielded a “terabyte’s worth of intelligence.” With that information, report the CNN pair, the United States is now undertaking an effort to track down “hundreds” of individuals, or “contacts,” as they say in the intelligence business.
This would be big news for the White House, if only it believed it. After all, this Yemen raid was the controversial Trump decision that ended in the death of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL. Civilians were also killed in the action. Critics have questioned whether the operation was prudent, and whether it netted any meaningful intelligence. Despite contentions from the White House press secretary and the president himself that the raid was a success, NBC News reported earlier this week, based on work by four network reporters, that the operation had turned up “no significant intelligence.”
On Tuesday night, President Trump addressed a joint session of Congress that included Carryn Owens, the widow of the fallen SEAL. Citing a conversation with his defense secretary, Trump said, “I quote, ‘Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.'” Even after that highly on-the-record statement, NBC News cited 10 “current U.S. officials” who told the same story — “no truly significant intelligence has emerged from the haul.”
This blog, it should be noted, has no independent evidence or reporting to judge the relative merits of the NBC News and CNN reports. Surely White House officials, who don’t believe a word of what’s broadcast on CNN, are siding with NBC News on this one.