At the National Rifle Association annual meeting on May 4, President Trump criticized the charges against his former campaign manager Paul Manafort. (The Washington Post)
President Trump treats CNN like his mortal enemy. “I don't watch them at all,” he claimed on Fox News last week, adding that “you keep your sanity” by avoiding the network he calls “fake news.”
Addressing members of the National Rifle Association on Friday in Dallas, however, Trump read from a CNN report he apparently loved.
As the crowd booed at his mention of CNN's name, Trump said, “I think NBC may be more distorted and worse. No, but on CNN, they have a headline: 'Judge in Manafort case says Mueller's aim is to hurt Trump.' Do you believe that? This is what we're up [against]. It's called the witch hunt. So, I just said, 'Give me that article. I want to read it.' Just happened a few minutes before I walked onstage.”
Trump then got a bit mixed up. He read aloud a passage that came from a similar Wall Street Journal report before returning to the portion of CNN's report that quoted Judge T.S. Ellis, who questioned special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's authority to charge former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with financial crimes.
“None of that information has to do with information related to Russian government coordination and the campaign of Donald Trump,” Ellis told a prosecutor on Friday.
Mueller's probe launched as an effort to scrutinize Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. Ellis's statements suggested he may believe Mueller has exceeded his mandate.
The Journal reported “the judge appeared sympathetic to Mr. Manafort's efforts to have the charges dismissed, without indicating he was inclined to do so.”
Trump did not read that last part.
“Let me tell you, folks, we're all fighting battles, but I love fighting these battles,” Trump said, wrapping up his thoughts on the subject. “It's really a disgrace.”
Trump liked CNN's report (and the Journal's) for one simple reason: He saw an account of Friday's proceeding in the Manafort case as evidence of the “witch hunt” he has decried for more than a year.
The president's live reading of a CNN article is a reminder he judges news reports only by whether they are favorable to him. Accuracy is practically irrelevant. Though he trashes CNN constantly, Trump will gladly herald a network report he can use to advance an argument.
CNN is “fake,” according to Trump — except when it reports something he wants to hear.