Trump attacks Wall Street Journal for quoting him accurately on North Korea, as audio confirms

It's just a coincidence that the Journal also reported this week on Trump's pre-election payout to an adult film star.

CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

This weekend, the White House has been lashing out at the Wall Street Journal, quibbling over a quote President Donald Trump made about his relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The Journal reported that Trump said, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea,” while the White House contends that Trump said “I’d probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out Saturday evening that the Journal’s reporting was “fake news.”

Though the Journal had released its audio the day before, Sanders then released the “official” White House audio at midnight Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted his own attacks about the interview, claiming the Journal “stated falsely” that he has a good relationship with Kim Jong Un.

But the Journal stands by its reporting, as well as the transcription provided by an independent transcription service. Neither version of the audio provides any audible or contextual indication that Trump said “I’d” in a line of comments about foreign relationships that were otherwise not conditional. Moreover, the transcript of the interview shows that the Journal’s own reporters clearly heard “I” — not “I’d” — and asked a follow-up question, which the President refused to answer:

TRUMP: …I have a great relationship with him, as you know I have a great relationship with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. I have relationships with people, I think you people are surprised.

WSJ: Just to be clear, you haven’t spoken to the North Korean leader, I mean when you say a relationship with Korea—

TRUMP:  I don’t want to comment on it—I don’t want to comment, I’m not saying I have or I haven’t. But I just don’t—

WSJ: Some people would see your tweets, which are sometimes combative towards Kim Jong Un…

TRUMP: Sure, you see that a lot with me and then all of a sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.

It’s unclear exactly what this quibbling is designed to accomplish, though it certainly draws more attention — not less — to the possibility that the White House has a relationship with North Korea of a different nature than it has previously indicated.

It may, however, also be a form of retaliation against the Journal for something totally unrelated. The Journal published its story about Trump’s Kim Jong Un comments on Thursday, then on Friday published a report that shortly before the 2016 election, the Trump Organization paid an adult film star, Stephanie Clifford (stage name Stormy Daniels), $130,000 to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. It was only after this report that the White House began criticizing the Journal’s reporting on the relationship with North Korea.