Last night's Trump town hall on CNN actually wasn't a disaster, because the word disaster invokes the event as as the unfortunate result of both unforeseen failure and failure in preparation, an act of God. What happened last night was not only predictable, but I'm convinced that CNN prepared for it deliberately because they knew what was going to happen.
CNN INVITED DONALD Trump to lie on its airwaves for over an hour on Wednesday night. The evening was billed as a town hall, but played more like a campaign rally for the former president, who steamrolled and repeatedly mocked moderator Kaitlan Collins, pushing a torrent of misinformation about the 2020 election, the multiple investigations into his conduct, and pretty much everything else he commented on.
One CNN insider who spoke to Rolling Stone called the evening “appalling,” lamenting that the network gave Trump “a huge platform to spew his lies.”
Collins tried her best to correct Trump as he spoke. And immediately after Trump went off-air, CNN anchor Jake Tapper led a parade of pundits and fact-checkers to counter his dissembling and pan his performance.Jake Tapper sums up Trump's town hall: "He called a black law enforcement officer a thug. He said people here in Washington, D.C. and Chinatown don’t speak English. He attacked Kaitlan as a nasty woman… he made fun of [Carrol's] sexual assault and many in the audience laughed." pic.twitter.com/NSzVzVEApP— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) May 11, 2023
Nevertheless, the town hall was “a fucking disgrace,” in the words of another network insider. “1000 percent a mistake [to host Trump]. No one [at CNN] is happy.”
“Just brutal,” added one of the network’s primetime producers.
A CNN spokesperson defended the network’s decision to host Trump — and Collins, the host who tried to stop his steamroller of lies. Collins “exemplified what it means to be a world-class journalist. She asked tough, fair and revealing questions. And she followed up and fact-checked President Trump in real time to arm voters with crucial information about his positions as he enters the 2024 election as the Republican frontrunner,” the spokesperson said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “That is CNN’s role and responsibility: to get answers and hold the powerful to account.”
But Team Trump didn’t seem to feel that the boss wasn’t held to much of anything. Even before the conclusion of the town hall’s first hour, the reactions within Trump’s circle were universally joyous. Some close aides to the ex-president were almost baffled that the night went that well for them, according to sources in and close to the campaign. “We want to thank CNN for their generous donation to President Trump’s campaign!” one Trump adviser said late on Wednesday.
“[Trump] should literally do this every night,” one operative working closely with the Trump 2024 team said about an hour into the live event. “Nightly CNN hits!”
For Trump’s political lieutenants, the evening served as a dose of vindication of his and his staff’s plans to heavily saturate the kinds of major media outlets that GOP rivals like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have largely avoided, people familiar with the plans say. “Part of the idea is to bury Ron [in the media], and to laugh at him for being so weak that he can’t even stand up to CNN,” another person close to Trump says. “To just completely swamp him.”
Bullshit. Everyone at CNN is lying about this being a disaster, you see?
It was deliberate.
See, all of this, all of this, is pro-wrestling kayfabe.
Trump's people knew exactly what the game plan was, Trump knew, CNN's Kaitlan Collins knew because she's a former Daily Caller writer and FOX News contributor who knew exactly what was going to happen, CNN boss Chris Licht knew what he was getting, the audience were all diehard Trump fans who cheered and jeered along with his shtick, and all of it just had to be allowed to happen, and it did.
Trump got an hour-long rally free of charge on the new biggest cable network now that Fox and Tucker Carlson have split up (and that pro-wrestling story is a subject for down the road.) All of it was done deliberately. The next question is why, but we know the answer, and that too is very much a deliberate act of sabotaging our democracy.
These outraged CNN staffers are still going to show up to work today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.
When people say "Our press has learned nothing!" that too is a lie. They have leaned plenty, and non more so than CNN. They learned Trump is good for business, and putting him in the White House is better business. John Hendrickson at The Atlantic asks:
Next month marks eight years since Trump descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower and announced his candidacy for president. Hardly anyone in the media seemed to know how to properly cover him then. CNN was among the networks that used to carry his campaign rallies live. Tonight’s town hall, despite Collins’s admirable attempts at pushback, felt like a regression to that earlier era. Even some of Trump’s lines felt ominously familiar. “If I don’t win, this country is going to be in big trouble,” he said. Are we really about to do this all over again?
Yes, you dumb bastards, we are, and America is in dire trouble because of it.
Having said all that though there is one singular benefit to this idiocy Trump's part: his public braggadocio may hurt him legally in the long run.
Trump repeatedly lied during the town hall that the election was "rigged," that Georgia "owed" him votes, that he had the right to take classified documents to Mar-a-Lago and that he does not know E. Jean Carroll — the writer who was awarded $5 million a day earlier after it found Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation.
"All three ongoing criminal cases got new evidence tonight against Trump," tweeted national security attorney Bradley Moss. "He is confessing on live television."
During one point, moderator Kaitlan Collins pressed Trump on whether he showed the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago to anyone else.
"Not really," Trump replied.
Collins questioned what Trump meant by that but he continued to steamroll through his answer.
Former FBI agent Pete Strzok called the comment a "tacit admission of unauthorized disclosure of classified information."
So, there's that. Trump's lawyers really should stop him from, you know, publicly confessing to crimes.
Or no, they shouldn't.