President Donald Trump publicly wages campaigns to oust “leakers” from the West Wing. But in private, he reportedly provides the press with a cornucopia of exclusive scoops under an anonymous alias.
“Trump phones Maggie Haberman of The New York Times directly, as well as Philip Rucker of The Washington Post, and Jonathan Swan of Axios, feeding them stories attributed to ‘a senior White House official,’ creating the impression that [the] White House leaks even more than it already does,” wrote reporter Ronald Kessler in The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game.
Published on Monday, Kessler’s book provides insight into how Trump manipulates media, and for what end. Despite an antagonistic relationship with The New York Times, the president reportedly courts positive coverage from reporter Maggie Haberman.
“He wants, eventually, to win her over,” an aide told Kessler. “The president subscribes to the general theory that a little love can go a long way. Even if a story will be bad, give it a shot and maybe it will come out a little better.”
“He believes like this is his hometown paper,” added former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “He likes the respectability of being in the Times.”
Leaks have poured from the White House since Trump first arrived in Washington. Though many accused leakers have been axed, including former White House strategist Steve Bannon, other staffers continue galavanting throughout the Oval Office with reporters on speed dial. The biggest culprit besides Trump, Kessler alleges, is White House aide Kellyanne Conway.
“If you wonder why there are so many leaks out of the White House, one reason is Kellyanne Conway is the number one leaker,” Kessler told Jake Tapper on Sunday during CNN’s State of the Union.
“I have a great working relationship and great relationship with Jared and Ivanka,” shot back Conway on her Monday appearance on Fox & Friends. “First of all, the president and I talked at length last night about a number of issues—talked about that very briefly, because there’s so many relevant things happening. He knows… who the leakers and the liars are and have been.”
Although the biggest leaker may be Trump himself, expect no such accountability: In a White House defined by sycophantic personality, only one can gush the “greatest” leaks America has ever seen.