A few days ago, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times made a bombastic claim involving Donald Trump. The anonymously sourced report alleged that the former president believes he will be reinstated in August as President of the United States.
Much of the right found the assertion to be questionable. How close is Haberman to Trump's current inner circle, after all, which is much smaller than when he was in the White House? But another outlet is now claiming to have “confirmed” Haberman's reporting. That comes via Charles Cooke at National Review.
Instead, they should have listened — because Haberman's reporting was correct. I can attest, from speaking to an array of different sources, that Donald Trump does indeed believe quite genuinely that he — along with former senators David Perdue and Martha McSally — will be “reinstated” to office this summer after “audits” of the 2020 elections in Arizona, Georgia, and a handful of other states have been completed. I can attest, too, that Trump is trying hard to recruit journalists, politicians, and other influential figures to promulgate this belief — not as a fundraising tool or an infantile bit of trolling or a trial balloon, but as a fact.
Now, I don't think Cooke is making up sources. Cooke is not a Never Trump figure and I have no reason to believe he's lying. Rather, it's highly likely that sources did tell him what he's reporting about Trump believing he'll be reinstated in August. But again, how does that “confirm” the story? Is there a direct quote I'm missing? Is there a named source at least willing to stand behind their statement that I skipped over?
My problem here is not so much that someone would report something via anonymous sourcing, but rather that we are going to pretend that this circular game of quoting off-the-record sources actually constitutes a story as having been “confirmed.”
It's only been a few months since the Russian bounties story, which included a claim that Trump ignored intel that Putin was paying the Taliban to murder U.S. troops, was shown to be false. Multiple outlets had supposedly “confirmed” that story via anonymous sourcing just as we are seeing now with this latest report. After that Russian bounties story blew up, a lot of conservative voices, including some from National Review, chastised the media for playing a circular game of sourcing when it was clear that it was the same, lying sources blabbing to everyone who would listen.
How do we know that's not what's happening here? We simply don't know that. Cooke can report whatever he wants, but there is nothing “confirmed” about what he writes in his piece. Could right-leaning media, even if they are Trump skeptical (or anti-Trump) please learn their lesson for once? It's really disappointing that we keep spinning in circles, watching stories fall apart, only to see the next “bombshell” swallowed whole the next time it drops.
I have no idea if Trump actually thinks he'll be reinstated in August. It's certainly possible as Trump isn't shy about making out-there claims. Yet, it's also completely possible that these “sources” are spreading this rumor in order to discredit Trump's standing in the party. What I do know is that nothing about this story has been “confirmed,” and until that has happened, it shouldn't be treated as such.