Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Donald Does Not Like Questions

His Imperial Orangeness would like you to know that media critical of the Trump administration will not be tolerated in any way.

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday would not let a reporter from CNN ask him a question during a press conference, saying that he worked for a “fake news” company.

The contentious exchange happened after Trump trashed a report CNN published Tuesday that said the U.S. intelligence community had presented him with allegations that the Russian government had compromising, but unverified, information about him.

“Could you give us a chance, you're attacking our news organization, can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir?” CNN's Jim Acosta asked him.

“Don’t be rude. I’m not going to give you a question,” Trump responded. “You are fake news.”

After the news conference, Acosta said on air that Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, told him that “if I were to do that again, I was going to be thrown out of this press conference.”

What happens when Trump has the power of the state to not just throw journalists out his press conferences, but to start jailing them at will?

Might be something CNN wants to start asking. Heck, he almost covered up the real story at his presser: that he still refuses to release his tax returns, and refuses to resolve his painfully obvious conflicts of interest.  Greg Sargent:

We appear to be entering into truly uncharted territory. The vast extent of Trump’s global holdings, combined with their opacity, create both a level of potential for conflicts, and an inability for us to track those conflicts, that render all efforts to predict the consequences utterly hopeless.

It is hard to say what will happen now. The role of the press in trying to keep track of those conflicts will be crucial. But on that front, too, what we saw at today’s presser was cause for alarm. Trump tore into CNN as “fake news” for publishing a careful if provocative and envelope-pushing story on unverified claims that Russian intelligence gathered compromising information on him. Trump ferociously attacked Buzzfeed for publishing a dossier of those claims, pointedly noting that Buzzfeed would “suffer the consequences.”

That would be worrisome enough on its own. But combine it with Trump’s unprecedented dishonesty and his refusal to revise his claims when they are widely called out as false, and it all starts to smack of an effort to stamp out the very possibility of shared agreement on the legitimate institutional role of the news media or even on reality itself. It’s easy to imagine that, if and when a news organization uncover potential conflicts, Trump will simply deny the reality of what’s been uncovered (“fake news”) and begin threatening “consequences” towards that organization.

One thing that remains clear: Congressional Republicans are not going to step up and try to mitigate this situation. Republicans are not going to take any of the steps they could be taking to try to prod Trump into showing more transparency about his holdings, which would make conflicts and corruption less likely. It’s hard to see that changing, unless, perhaps, intensified media scrutiny shakes loose enough scandalous stories to make the lack of congressional action untenable. That will also require public pressure — of the sort that forced Republicans to reverse recently on their plan to gut an independent ethics oversight office, but probably a lot more.

Right now, serious pessimism appears to be a reasonable default setting. I could be entirely wrong about this — maybe Trump really will surprise us. If not, our institutions are going to be tested in unforeseen ways, and it will be on us — through vigilance, organizing, and political action — to make sure they are up to the task.

We're a week and change away from the most terrifying administration in recent history, and odds are very good that things will begin to disintegrate in America very quickly.

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