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Opinion When was ‘Morning Joe’ planning to drop its National Enquirer bombshell?

Insults, it turns out, trigger transparency.

On Thursday, President Trump tweeted out some nasty remarks about Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

In response, Brzezinski and Scarborough blasted the president Friday morning on their show for lying, for being sexist, for being thin-skinned — the usual knocks. Along the way, they uncorked an absolute monster of a political-media story. Here’s how they put it in an op-ed for The Post: “This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas,” they wrote.

More detail came out of Friday morning’s show. “We got a call that, ‘Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys.’ And … the president is friends with the guy that runs the National Enquirer. And they said, ‘If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike this story,’ ” Scarborough said. “I had … three people at the very top of the administration calling me. The calls kept coming,” he continued, emphasizing that the Trump aides were imploring him to “please” call. Donny Deutsch, a “Morning Joe” staple, called the arrangement “blackmail.” The story derives some plausibility on account of the coziness between Trump and the National Enquirer’s publisher, David Pecker. Both men have spent years assisting each other, notes Jeffrey Toobin in a just-published New Yorker profile on this relationship. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the National Enquirer was a reliable pro-Trump voice.

There’s more: Brzezinski claimed that the National Enquirer was pestering her children in pursuit of its story on the couple. “These calls persisted for quite some time and then Joe had the conversations that he had with the White House,” said Brzezinski.

Here’s how the president responded to the allegations:

And Scarborough’s reply:

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman posted this version of events:

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

Whatever the precise chain of events, this is an event of considerable newsworthiness. First is the implication that Trump was seeking to accomplish some bizarre media-shaming coup by leveraging his friendship with the National Enquirer boss. Second is the notion that multiple Trump officials were involved in seeking this end. Third is the ultimate confirmation of Trump’s media derangement. To judge from Scarborough’s account, Trump cares so much about a cable host’s coverage that he’s willing to ensnare his aides in an unethical (at best) scheme to secure some forced apology from him.

This extraordinary waste of taxpayer dollars took place weeks or months ago. It’s better to have the scoop later than never. But: Why do we have to wait for Trump to slander “Morning Joe” on Twitter before we find out about it all? The Erik Wemple Blog has lobbed the following questions at a representative of NBC News: “When was ‘Morning Joe’ planning to drop the Enquirer bombshell? Why not report it shortly after it happened? When DID it happen? And if it wasn’t publishable then, why is it now?”

We’re told we likely won’t get much detail on those today.