On Thursday morning, Politico reported that Donald Trump’s chief-of-staff had established a new decision-making process in the White House — one that would allow him to exert tight control over what information the president did and did not see:
In a conference call last week, [White House chief-of-staff John] Kelly initiated a new policymaking process in which just he and one other aide — White House staff secretary Rob Porter, a little-known but highly regarded Rhodes scholar who overlapped with Jared Kushner as an undergraduate at Harvard — will review all documents that cross the Resolute desk.
The new system, laid out in two memos co-authored by Kelly and Porter and distributed to Cabinet members and White House staffers in recent days, is designed to ensure that the president won’t see any external policy documents, internal policy memos, agency reports and even news articles that haven’t been vetted.
Hours later, the president of the United States retweeted a supporter who had recently argued that Jews “just can’t drive.”
Kelly’s attempts to control the information flow within the White House aren’t valueless. The commander-in-chief is infamously impressionable, frequently letting the last person he speaks to on a given subject dictate national policy. As Politico wrote in May:
A news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda. Current and former Trump officials say Trump can react volcanically to negative press clips, especially those with damaging leaks, becoming engrossed in finding out where they originated.
To the extent that Kelly’s system can keep the White House’s warring factions from manipulating the president’s emotions with printouts from “GotNews.com” — during working hours — it will be an improvement on the status quo.
But as Trump’s ill-advised retweet demonstrates, so long as the president has an internet connection (and/or a cable modem), he will be drinking from a fire hose of far-right propaganda every time Kelly turns his back. (The president didn’t decide to accuse Barack Obama of wiretapping his phone because someone handed him a shoddy internal policy memo; he floated that felony accusation because he misread a Breitbart article).
Ultimately, the only way to prevent this president from making policy on the basis of misinformation would to dismantle the vast right-wing propaganda network that created him and the voters who put him in the Oval Office.