Commentary

A Million Little Manila Envelopes: Truth, 'Compromat,' Fake News

In response to my Facebook post that President-Elect Trump’s first formal press conference in months was a circus, a Trump supporter told me that it was a “tour-de-force” that Trump had handled “with aplomb.”

Similarly, in his defense, senior advisor Kellyanne Conway announced during an interview that we shouldn’t listen to his words, but rather, look at “what’s in his heart.”

There were no MRIs available, but certainly this particular conference was loaded with both visual and verbal cues, some of them unintended, that we can plumb.

It started with a bigger bang than expected, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Vice President-Elect Pence slamming “fake news” and throwing around the words “disgrace” and "outrage” by way of introduction.

And then, Trump stepped to the podium, in front of the forest of American flags. He said: “Thank you very much, this is very familiar territory — news conferences — because we used to give them on an almost daily basis.”

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This statement, meant to blame and punish the media, suggested he had to stop giving the almost-daily events because he hadn’t been covered honestly, is imprecise, to put it nicely.

Granted, while he was campaigning, Trump made himself available for interviews with TV personalities and anchors on news shows at least every day and mostly several times a day.

One of Trump’s great strengths was how much free airtime he garnered, and how good he was at filling it. He avoided the need for paid media that way, and it was win-win: The media was totally complicit in using him for ratings.

Still, Trump never gave “almost daily” press conferences by any stretch of the imagination.

But why get bogged down on what he said right out of the gate, when there are so many other issues at stake?

Speaking of steaks, there was some beef about the second of Trump’s three memorable press conferences. (The first, of course, started with the unforgettable down-escalator ride, after which he announced his candidacy.)

At the second, in Florida, he spoke in front of an enormous table laden with Trump products. His visual instincts as a salesman are dazzling; the eye was drawn to all those delicious and important-looking Trump goods. But on closer inspection, it turned out most of them no longer existed — or were not owned by him.

Trump was going for a similar visually symbolic display at this week’s presser, where a table teeming with manila folders was set up on the side of the podium.  

To his credit, the plan with this press conference was to speak about conflicts of interest, ethics and signing over the running of his businesses to his sons, Don and Eric. Thus, the folders symbolized all of the deals he had signed away in order to serve as president.

So it is unfortunate the entire conference got monopolized by BuzzFeed’s decision, the previous day, to dump a dossier of pages that made unsubstantiated claims about Trump’s putative kinky behavior in a Moscow hotel room years ago.

Never verified, the content had been collected as “oppo-research” — and as such, had been floating around in D.C. government and press circles for months.

To me, what Trump was heard on tape saying on the bus with Billy Bush about “pussy”-grabbing was far worse than any putative peeing set-up.

But the point here is that the Russians, through sexpionage, might have collected information on our now-President they could eventually use to blackmail him. (An act known as “Compromat.”)

CNN did not link to the BuzzFeed report on its Web site, as the Trump campaign maintained. The cabler had reported the story legitimately because, as has now been discovered, both Trump and President Obama had been briefed on what was in the dossier.

At the morning press conference, however, the outrage was still fresh. Trump could now be furious and newly sanctimonious about the horrors of the press. As a result, more like an Eastern European strongman than any president I’ve ever seen, he pointed at a CNN reporter, and in a version of “No soup for you!” yelled: “You are fake news! “

We will leave the Soup Nazi reference for another time, since, more seriously, Trump also used the presser to excoriate the intelligence community, whom he accused of using Nazi-like tactics.

But in their attempt to get their hacking questions answered, the press never asked Trump about his own time in the fake news biz, when he fathered the search for President Obama’s birth certificate.

At the conference, Trump did admit, briefly, that Russia was involved in the hacking of the DNC, and that it was wrong, but quickly dissembled and scrambled in another direction.

“But …look at what was learned from that hacking,” he said. “That Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it? That’s a horrible thing...Can you imagine what if Donald Trump got the questions to the debate? It would have been the biggest story in the history of stories. And they would have said, ‘Immediately, you have to get out of the race.’”

Well, he did, and it wasn’t, and they didn’t.

As I wrote about last week, in information that Fox anchor Megyn Kelly saved to put in the post-election publication of her book, she said Trump knew she was going to question him about women at the debate. He had already called on then-Fox News head Roger Ailes to complain.

(She also mentioned she may or may not have been poisoned on the day of the debate, by a driver who insisted on bringing her coffee. She started vomiting violently immediately after taking a few sips. That sounds very Soviet-like.)

Certainly, the results of the email hacks of Hillary’s campaign were reported with glee. No one investigated whether what was reported in John Podesta’s hacked email was true. (Nor can anyone find the “horrible things” that Trump claims Podesta said about Hillary in the emails, either.)

Donna Brazile, who reportedly told Clinton’s organization there would be a Flint, Michigan, question in one of the debates, resigned from the DNC.

Back to the original point of the press conference: Trump talking about divesting himself from running his business to avoid questions of ethics and conflicts of interest. He brought up a lawyer, Sheri Dillon, to explain why he can’t have a “fire sale” or enter into standard behavior for presidents: a blind trust.

By the end, Trump said: “But these papers [meaning folders] are all just a piece of the many, many companies that are being put into trust to be run by my two sons.” He announced he would have no communication with them about the businesses.

Still, as showman and brander-in-chief, he just couldn’t  help himself. He had to add a self-referential branding “joke”: “At the end of eight years, I'll come back and say, ‘Oh, you did a good job.’ Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I'll say, 'You're fired.'"

So there we have it. That’s his psychological tell, showing there is no way he won't have communication or overreach with his sons. If you believe that he won’t, I have some Trump steaks to sell you.

If we can’t believe his words, and can’t see inside his heart, maybe we can check inside his folders.

Reporters who were there said the pages inside the folders appeared to be blank.

15 comments about "A Million Little Manila Envelopes: Truth, 'Compromat,' Fake News".
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  1. David Shor from Prove, January 13, 2017 at 10:36 p.m.

    As a marketer who is all for fair, legal battle over legislation, I'm truly concerned about a future potential need for N intervening force who will have to say, no, I won't take this anymore. But I fear that that civil, educated if not intellectual, possible majority will not have the gumption to rise up and stop the, goodness how do we define the psychological label of this new Trump Supporter.

    The is something sinister about this new group in power.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 13, 2017 at 11:03 p.m.

    There no more words, only actions. He belongs in federal prison with his spawn. Again, until the pain is felt enough through the deplorables will they decide to rise up along with new shooting pains of the proletatiat. Until there was a draft, the war was about others and protests rare. While they can still spend $200 on cell phones so they can twit and fbeast to no avail, the pain hasn't reached them. They still believe in shine dimes. Sadly, this kind of pain is the only thing than can make the needle move.

  3. Jerry Gibbons from Gibbons Advice, January 14, 2017 at 12:53 a.m.

    Great observations, Barbara.  Maybe a typo though.

    "But on closer inspection, it turned out that most of them (no) longer existed or were not owned by him."

    And, I'm not sure that the hacks on Clinton's emails were reported with glee.  But media did not, at all, ignore the event. 

  4. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, January 14, 2017 at 4:05 a.m.

    Barbara, Maybe you should have titled this - "Buy Beware". Meaning you can buy nearly anything on the streets of Moscow.  For a few dollars I am sure I could buy a Photoshop picture of you with a good story to go with it. I am joking with you but I do know several very legit Russian. They will tell you the same what I am say.

    I can get you a great deal on the great Russian fur hat. Want one?


  5. brad berger from aim high tips, January 14, 2017 at 8:54 a.m.

    He is still winning especially when his adversary is the press. 

  6. Jane Farrell from Freelance, January 14, 2017 at 10:39 a.m.

    He is contemptible and has no respect for the truth. In fact, I don't think he is familiar with the concept of truth.  He's not book-smart, but he is a heat-seeking missel that instinctive senses the right target and goes for it. And he is a master at deflecting attention from the main issue: Russia, Russia, Russia.


  7. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, January 14, 2017 at 12:36 p.m.

    Kellyanne Conway assumes that we'll accept the premise (or promise) that we could find Donald Trump's heart without a microscope. I'm not a surgeon or even a medical doctor, but I'd be happy to lead the mission to search for it.

  8. Don Perman from self, January 14, 2017 at 1:02 p.m.

    Thanks for such a smart, insightful piece. Disturbing,  but whose fault is that?

  9. Jim English from The Met Museum, January 14, 2017 at 2:47 p.m.

    Thanks Barbara.  Am really hoping that the press will close ranks and insist that First Amendment rights be respected.

  10. AC Winters from ACWintersEsq, January 14, 2017 at 10:54 p.m.

    Good job slicing and dicing up his press conference, Barbara. It seems to be so hard for him to tell the truth about anything. Sad.

  11. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, January 16, 2017 at 10:33 a.m.

    There is a reason The Emperor's New Clothes continues to resonate. We all must join in pointing out the named greed and personal ambition that drives Trump. The presidency is just the biggest notch in his invisible belt 

  12. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, January 16, 2017 at 3:48 p.m.

    Clint-- Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your readership. I realize we probably won't see eye-to-eye, but I'd like to respectfully respond. Isn't it a little ironic that Trump went around for years while Obama was president, saying he was "Illegitimate" because he wasn't born here? I believe the guy is too smart to have thought that the search for the birth certificate was anything but a stunt to get him talked about and embraced by the Tea Partiers. And he did it!  It gave him the momentum to run for office.
    The extreme right wing did nothing but shut Obama down and whine for the entire 8 years. And whether you agreed with his politics or not, he was a president with a fine, disciplined mind and ethic. Not one scandal. Even Trump has admitted that Russia hacked the election. And there's a reason he hasn't released his taxes. And that's just the tippy top of so many squirrely things going on. 

  13. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, January 16, 2017 at 5:24 p.m.


    I, too, would like to thank Mr. Dixon for his comments.  His posts are like a reverse lie-detector; ... the closer any writer here gets to the truth about Trump, the louder the buzz and the wider the needles move in Dixon's posts.  

    But "libtard"?  Really?  

  14. John Grono from GAP Research, January 17, 2017 at 4:48 a.m.

    I suspect the only truth The Donald said during the campaign was that 'the election is rigged', and that he woukd only accept the result if he won.

    Prescient?   Pre-warned?   Pre-Ordained?   S'pose he got the best apparatachiks that money can buy.

  15. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, January 17, 2017 at 4:54 p.m.

    Once one descends to name-calling, Clint, any further arguments are rendered null and tainted by your disrespect for other opinions.  

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