Despite his constant public derision of the mainstream media, President Trump worries over the daily coverage of the Ukraine scandal and impeachment inquiry. “We’re getting fucking killed,” a Republican close to the White House told Politico, quoting Trump’s main concern. “He does make that comment literally every day.”
Not only is Trump frustrated by the fact that White House officials are providing testimony to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry, he’s upset that the hearings “have to be covered at all,” preferring that the speed and depth of the reporting on the process resemble something closer to that of President Andrew Johnson than that of President Clinton. Trump has reportedly told aides that he thinks that details on impeachment-inquiry depositions are unnecessary because he released the transcript of the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky — despite testimony from the process revealing that the transcript was substantially edited.
To pay attention to the process, Trump has expanded the size of his media diet, if not its substance. In addition to his usual morning and night binges amounting to up to eight hours of TV a day, Politico reports that Trump has been tuning into Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, and MSNBC on his way out of the Oval Office. Naturally, one network dominates his screen time:
To get news on impeachment, Trump often relies on his favorite Fox shows: Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, “Fox and Friends,” Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Jeanine Pirro, because he thinks they provide an alternative to the narrative many journalists in the more down-the-middle press are giving. He has grown especially enamored lately with Carlson’s show, according to a Republican close to the White House, though he has complained publicly about some of the more critical news coverage on Fox …
“He likes all these guys on Hannity who are beating the shit out of the left,” this person said, according to a former White House official.
Trump will also sometimes consume news from conservative outlets Newsmax and One America News Network, which tend to take a more uniformly pro-Trump line than Fox News. In private, he has erupted at Fox for bringing on former DNC chair Donna Brazile as a contributor, and has railed against its weekend hosts on Twitter.
As Trump struggles to control the narrative around the impeachment inquiry, he has done his best to keep Republican lawmakers happy.
“The entire White House is on a charm offensive with the members,” a White House official told Politico, citing invitations to representatives to have lunch with Trump or visit camp David so that the president can “hear from them and what they think, what they hear, and what they expect, and give them an opportunity to ask questions.” The strategy also includes printing out friendly reports and having aides deliver them to the hill, and retweeting important GOP members. If that carrot isn’t all that appetizing, the stick provides a stronger incentive for Republican lawmakers to hold the Party line: Trump, after attacking decorated veterans in his administration, appears prepared to deride lawmakers who aren’t defending him to his liking.
And though the president recently ordered the cancelation of the White House subscriptions to the New York Times and Washington Post, his pettiness is no longer getting in the way of him staying informed: According to Axios, Trump has been accessing the papers’ digital apps despite bailing on the print editions. He’s also reportedly been paying more attention to in-person briefings on impeachment, actually listening to presentations from the legislative affairs, press, and counsel’s offices, and asking educated questions like “What does that mean?”