The Republican National Committee and pro-Trump super PAC America First plan to use intimidation tactics and harassment to defend President Donald Trump from journalists reporting facts they deem critical of the White House, according to reports on Thursday.
According to The Atlantic, the Trump campaign plans to use Attorney General William Barr’s memo on the Russia investigation as leverage against Trump’s Democratic rivals on the 2020 campaign trail. The memo, released on Sunday, stated special counsel Robert Mueller was unable to gather enough evidence to conclude Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia but noted the special counsel had not exonerated Trump or his 2016 campaign from any criminal wrongdoing.
Mueller’s full report, which is reportedly around 300 pages long, has not yet been released publicly.
Despite this, the White House and Trump’s allies in Congress have claimed Barr’s memo fully exonerates the president. And on Thursday, both the RNC and America First PAC threatened any journalist reporting otherwise with a personalized harassment campaign.
“Any reporter who tries that will be hit with 30-second spots of all their ridiculous claims about collusion,” an anonymous source “familiar with internal discussions” at both organizations told The Atlantic. “Their tweets have all been screencapped. It’s all ready to go.”
For years, Trump and those in his employ have harassed, threatened, and in some cases even physically assaulted journalists. It’s a practice that long predates his presidency or political aspirations.
When reporters have called out this behavior, they have traditionally been castigated and told they misinterpreted a tweet or took the president’s comments out of context.
The Trump campaign kept a collection of reporters' tweets in 2016 too, which officials occasionally mentioned https://t.co/1bCes8ioKw
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) March 28, 2019
At campaign rallies, Trump frequently lashes out at journalists who report what he deems “fake news.” During the 2016 campaign, Trump’s own campaign manager was arrested after physically assaulting a reporter, and charged with battery. His supporters have been known to directly confront reporters in attendance, sometimes physically.
Some of those supporters have gone a step further, plotting violent attacks on the press, in retaliation for reports critical of the president. Last October, an avid Trump supporter who had attended Trump’s rallies and plastered his vehicle with stickers and signage denigrating the president’s political adversaries was arrested for mailing a number of pipe bombs to Democratic lawmakers and CNN’s Atlanta headquarters.
In a separate incident in 2017, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) was arrested and charged with assault after he grabbed a reporter around the neck and threw him to the ground. Last October, Trump praised Gianforte for the incident, telling a crowd of supporters in Missoula, Montana, “Any guy who can do a body slam — he’s my guy.”
CLARIFICATION: This piece has been updated to make clear that the information is based on reports and has not been announced publicly by the White House.