MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski said President Trump's attacks "worry me about the country," on June 30. She and "Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough pointed to Trump's "alarming" pattern of especially vicious attacks on women as Trump tweeted out more insults. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

President Trump exposed his own viciousness in those now-infamous tweets about Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, but the “Morning Joe” co-hosts on Friday accused Trump of another, unseen act of malice.

“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,” Brzezinski and Scarborough wrote in The Washington Post. “We ignored their desperate pleas.”

On their MSNBC show, Brzezinski and Scarborough elaborated.

SCARBOROUGH: They said if you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story. I had, I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me. And the response was like, “Are you kidding me? I don't know what they have. Run a story. I'm not going to do it.”

The calls kept coming and kept coming, and they were like, “Call. You need to call. Please call. Come on, Joe, just pick up the phone and call him.”

BRZEZINSKI: And let me explain what they were threatening. They were calling my children. They were calling close friends of mine.

SCARBOROUGH: You're talking about the National Enquirer, yeah.

BRZEZINSKI: And they were pinning the story on my ex-husband, who would absolutely never do that, so I knew immediately it was a lie and that they had nothing. And these calls persisted for some time, and then Joe had the conversations he had with the White House, where they said, “Oh, this could go away.”

Trump offered a different version of events in a tweet, which prompted a quick response from Scarborough.

The National Enquirer also issued a statement:

At the beginning of June, we accurately reported a story that recounted the relationship between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the truth of which is not in dispute. At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story. We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions.

In case the idea that the president can kill a National Enquirer story seems confusing, allow me to explain: Trump is a longtime friend of David Pecker, chief executive of the Enquirer's parent company. In an interview published in the New Yorker this week, Pecker described his intense loyalty to Trump, which is reflected in the tabloid's coverage.

The New Yorker also interviewed Gus Wenner, who negotiated his family's recent sale of Us Weekly to Pecker's company. Wenner said that Pecker “told me very bluntly that he had killed all sorts of stories for Trump.”

Pecker then denied telling Wenner that he had killed stories for Trump — but didn't actually deny killing stories for Trump.

Brzezinski and Scarborough's claim, if true, demonstrates yet again that Trump fundamentally misunderstands the role of the press. Everything is a transaction. Everyone can be coerced.

It is an incredibly cynical view of the media, rooted in the premise that coverage is determined by leverage and selfish interests, rather than facts and authentic opinions.

The Fix's Callum Borchers explains the years-long feud between President Trump and the hosts of MSNBC's "Morning Joe." (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)