Yet, Trump's swift decision came with an ironic twist: ProPublica based its report on information provided by unnamed sources. Trump claims to hate anonymous sources with a passion, and his White House often casts reports that cite them as inherently unreliable.
“They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name,” Trump said of the press, during a lengthy tirade against the media at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. “Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out.”
In the same address, he also said this:
A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources. They just make 'em up when there are none. I saw one story recently where they said, “Nine people have confirmed.” There're no nine people. I don't believe there was one or two people. Nine people.And I said, “Give me a break.” Because I know the people, I know who they talk to. There were no nine people.But they say “nine people.” And somebody reads it, and they think, “Oh, nine people. They have nine sources.” They make up sources. They're very dishonest people.
Trump was referring to The Washington Post's Feb. 9 report that Michael Flynn, a national security adviser at the time, had discussed lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia with that country's ambassador to the United States, contrary to what the White House had said publicly.
The career of James Comey as FBI director
Despite his bluster at CPAC, Trump knew the report was accurate. He asked Flynn to resign.
And the veracity of the ProPublica report was reinforced by a letter the FBI sent to Congress Tuesday correcting Comey's testimony. Trump then fired Comey, citing his handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.
It is difficult to say for sure whether Trump would have removed Flynn and Comey without the media reports — or whether he would have removed them when he did. But in Flynn's case, the Post report thrust unflattering information into the public eye and put pressure on Trump to act. And in Comey's case, the ProPublica report made it easier for Trump to oust the FBI director without appearing to obstruct an investigation of his campaign.
Maybe the rest of us shouldn't believe Trump the next time he says that anonymously sourced reports can't be trusted.