At 7:47 a.m. ET Monday morning, President Trump tweeted this: “Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!”
He followed it up in rapid succession with two more tweets on Blumenthal: “Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and…….conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?”
What occasioned this Trump rant?
TV, of course. And, specifically, CNN — which Trump likes to say he never watches.
Blumenthal had appeared on CNN’s “New Day” right around 7:45 a.m. And, in the interview, he blasted Trump — and defended special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election.
“There is no minimizing or underestimating that attack by the Russians,” said Blumenthal. “It was purposeful and relentless, and it involved propaganda and hacking into our voting machines or at least an attempt to do it and potential collusion by the Trump campaign and then obstruction of justice. That investigation must be pursued.”
(Sidebar: Blumenthal was forced to admit during his 2010 Senate campaign that he had heavily exaggerated regarding his military service following a New York Times report detailing the allegations about claims he made regarding Vietnam. Blumenthal never actually set foot in Vietnam.)
This morning’s timeline is proof positive of something we have long known: The idea that Trump doesn’t watch TV — and CNN in particular — is ridiculous.
In February, Trump proudly proclaimed: “I don’t watch CNN. … I don’t like watching fake news.”
This exchange, from an Associated Press interview with Trump in April, is both amazing and telling on that front.
TRUMP: OK. The one thing I’ve learned to do that I never thought I had the ability to do. I don’t watch CNN anymore.
AP: You just said you did.
TRUMP: No. No, I, if I’m passing it, what did I just say (inaudible)?
AP: You just said —
TRUMP: Where? Where?
AP: Two minutes ago.
TRUMP: No, they treat me so badly. No, I just said that. No, I, what’d I say, I stopped watching them. But I don’t watch CNN anymore. I don’t watch MSNBC. I don’t watch it. Now I heard yesterday that MSNBC, you know, they tell me what’s going on.
Here’s the thing: Trump watches more cable TV than roughly 99% of the country. Even before he was a candidate, his Twitter feed reveals an obsession with cable news. Does anyone think that habit would change once Trump became a candidate — and then president — and so much of the daily cable chatter was all about him?
If you did think that, you don’t know Donald Trump.
During an interview with the Washington Post in August 2016, Trump interrupted the interview no fewer than five(!) times to watch or point out something on the TV that was on throughout.
“He was seated so that right behind me was the television screen tuned to Fox News,” WaPo’s Phil Rucker, who conducted the sitdown, told Yahoo News. “And every time Fox showed Donald Trump on the screen or a statement that Trump had made or they had a reporter doing a live shot in front of Trump Tower in New York, Donald Trump commented on it. He was very excited to see himself on the TV. So he was not fully focused on the interview.”
Time magazine’s profile of how Trump spends his nights in the White House includes this description of how the president has changed his personal dining room:
“But the thing he wants to show is on the opposite wall, above the fireplace, a new 60-plus-inch flat-screen television that he has cued up with clips from the day’s Senate hearing on Russia. Since at least as far back as Richard Nixon, Presidents have kept televisions in this room, usually small ones, no larger than a bread box, tucked away on a sideboard shelf. That’s not the Trump way.”
There has never been a president more obsessed with cable TV news — and the tone and tenor of the coverage of his White House — than this one. And it’s not even close. Trump watches the shows closely, always looking for supporters and detractors — fingers at the ready to call out hypocrites with a few taps on his phone.
This is who he has been his whole life. It’s who he is now. And it’s who he will be even after he leaves the White House. Tigers don’t change their stripes. And Donald Trump watches CNN.