‘Jim gets it’: Acosta says in new book Trump war on press started as an act

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By Martin Pengelly | The Guardian | May 25, 2019


Donald Trump’s war with the US press began as an act in the absence of effective Democratic opposition then spiraled out of control, according to an eagerly awaited new book by one of the chief targets of the president’s fury.

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In The Enemy of the People, CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta writes that after an early confrontation, close Trump aide Hope Hicks called him to say the president wanted him to know he was “very professional today”.

“He said, ‘Jim gets it’,” Hicks is quoted as saying.

Trump, Acosta writes, had just called the reporter “fake news” and “very fake news” after being asked about Russian election interference at a press conference in February 2017.

“When he called us ‘fake news’,” Acosta writes, “it was, in his mind, an act.”

The incident occurred amid the opening shots in a rapidly escalating war that now sees fierce national debate over Trump’s attacks on mainstream mediaand what they mean for press safety and US democracy itself.

Acosta’s book, subtitled A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America, will be published on 11 June. The Guardian obtained a copy.

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True to the style of Washington political reporting often complained about by Trump, Acosta mostly uses unnamed sources, many of whom are said to have spoken over social drinks. They are often blunt in their assessment of their boss. A “senior White House official” tells Acosta: “The president’s insane.” A “former White House national security official” says staffers were not sure the president had not been “compromised” by Russia.

At the start of Trump’s presidency, the White House was frustrated by anonymously sourced stories and what it saw as the antagonistic stance of mainstream outlets from CNN and NBC to the Washington Post and the New York Times. Because Republicans controlled Congress and Trump needed an enemy that could be presented as dangerous and effective, Acosta writes, the president decided to attack the media.