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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

He's got Hannity. That's all he needs

by digby

This piece from the former White House stenographer is an excellent piece of evidence about Trump's criminal mentality:

On Friday, at a news conference with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain a reporter asked President Trump about disparaging comments he had made about her to The Sun newspaper. He denied ever having said them and declared that recordings of the interview would vindicate him. “We record when we deal with reporters,” he said. “We solve a lot of problems with the good old recording instrument.”

Do we?

“We have a problem,” my colleague announced in our office the Monday after Mr. Trump’s inauguration. “Trump doesn’t like microphones near his face.”

She had just returned from the West Wing, where she’d tried to do her job the way stenographers had since Ronald Reagan. As White House stenographers, we were among the handful of staff members who remained at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when the administration changed. This was my first transition, but my boss had said every new administration she’d worked in since the 1980s was grateful for our help.

We weren’t powerful, but we were respected; George W. Bush used to call out, “I love the stenos!” whenever he saw my boss, Peggy, or her colleagues. Our job, after all, was to provide a first line of defense against the press by being present whenever a reporter was in the same room as the president.

We carried a microphone and two recorders at all times, and let them run until the last reporter had left the room, just in case somebody yelled a question over his shoulder with one foot out the door. Should the press actually misquote the president, we were there, armed with an official transcript of what the president did or did not say.

But now, we were faced with a president who didn’t want to be recorded. Perhaps he didn’t fully understand the role of the stenographer. That would make sense, since his administration had rebuffed every invitation from the Obama transition team during an inherently stressful time, including to learn how to keep the lights on.

My colleague had ventured over to the West Wing three times before that first Monday to introduce herself. But she had been able only to meet a 22-year-old press wrangler.

Finally, my colleague met with Stephanie Grisham, the deputy press secretary, who would soon move on to an illustrious career as the first lady’s spokeswoman — the job that never ends because it has yet to really begin. It was Ms. Grisham who told my colleague we would need to keep our microphones far away from the president’s face. She also surmised we would not be needed often because “there would be video,” which is why the Trump press office did not have a stenographer present when the NBC News anchor Lester Holt interviewed him.

Weeks later, when I recorded the president’s interview with Bill O’Reilly, I watched with disbelief as the White House communications director Hope Hicks summoned Mr. O’Reilly to the Oval Office so he could speak with Mr. Trump privately. In my five years with President Barack Obama, off-the-record discussions with reporters happened after work hours — not for an hour in the middle of the work day, and certainly not before an interview. When a president spoke on the record with a reporter, his staff made sure to have a stenographer present so there could be an official White House transcript, just in case the reporter came out with an inaccurate quotation.

But that was then, and this was the Trump era.

Nixon was out last outright criminal president. And he made the mistake of thinking that presidents should keep a record of their behavior and paid the price. Trump won't make that mistake. And, in fairness, Nixon was an amateur criminal by comparison. Trump's been grifting and stealing for decades on a very different level than Nixon ever did. He's got a built in consciousness of guilt.