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Trump’s crusade against anonymous sources is a sham. Here are the receipts.

What a racket.

CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump is not particularly good at practicing what he preaches — at least not according to his tweets over the past 24 hours. Wednesday morning found him fuming about anonymous sources in news stories, but Tuesday night he was indicating he’d take action over something he read in a story with anonymous sources.

In a tweet Wednesday, Trump insisted that any news story based on an “anonymous source” (his quotes) is “fiction.” He was responding to news that CNN is sticking by its reporting that Michael Cohen could corroborate that Trump knew about his son’s Trump Tower meeting with Russians in advance, even though Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, has admitted he was the source and he’s no longer confident of the claim.

But Tuesday night, Trump was tweeting about an article in the Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet, that claimed that China had hacked Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The story was based on “two sources briefed on the matter” who were never identified. Nevertheless, Trump actually called on the FBI and the Department of Justice to investigate the claim. No other outlet has been able to confirm the reporting; in fact, the Washington Post’s headline describing Trump’s accusations noted that he had not cited any evidence to support his accusations.

What actually seems to be the case is that Trump doesn’t have a consistent view of anonymous sources. He likes them if he likes the story (like, something that damages his election opponent’s reputation), but he doesn’t like them if he doesn’t like the story (like, something confirming he colluded with a foreign power to win that election).

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Trump’s own staff asks to be cited anonymously all of the time, which never seems to bother him. A standout example of how common this practice is took place in a recent interview Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s chief counselor, gave about her family. When dissing her husband George Conway’s tweets criticizing the president, she insisted that she be identified as “a person familiar with their relationship,” but Washington Post reporter Ben Terris refused to let her retroactively go off the record.

Several reporters — including some in the White House press corps — were quick to point out Tuesday that the White House frequently holds briefings and conference calls “on background,” meaning reporters are not permitted to identify the official providing them with information.

But the other glaring hypocrisy is Trump’s own history as his own anonymous source. Throughout his career, Trump would adopt pseudonyms like “John Miller” or “John Barron” and call New York reporters to give interviews praising himself. Even to this day, reporters have said that Trump will call them to be a source without identifying himself.

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Moreover, this exact scenario played out in May 2017. Trump tweeted that stories that include the words “sources say” are “fake news” a day after he retweeted a Fox News story that relied on a single anonymous source. That story defended Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, claiming it was not his idea to secretly back channel with the Russians.