Accuracy in Media

There’s a theory among the conservative blogosphere that President Trump and his staff sometimes plant false stories to figure out who is leaking from the White House and dismiss them.

That theory was put into play last week when the press, led by the Washington Post and New York Times, cited five unnamed sources saying H.R. McMaster, the president’s national security advisor, would be fired imminently.

Sarah Sanders, the president’s press secretary, responded that she had talked to all involved and there was no plan – in the short or long run – to get rid of McMaster.

This led to a new theory, courtesy of Eliana Johnson and Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: McMaster is being Tillersoned.

“Trump gives McMaster the Tillerson treatment,” read the headline on the Mar. 16 story. “The president is keeping his national security adviser in a state of limbo, acutely conscious that he could stay indefinitely or be dismissed at any time in a tweet.”

In truth, the president’s appointees serve at his pleasure and could be fired at any time – by tweet or otherwise – and no movement had taken place on firing McMaster.

Politico’s narrative of the situation in the White House suggests its reporters fell for a planned leak.

“Like now-former secretary of state Rex Tillerson … McMaster has never clicked with the president, who prizes personal chemistry and likes to shoot the breeze. And as with the secretary of state, the president decided months ago amid disagreements over his Afghanistan strategy that McMaster wouldn’t be a permanent fixture in his administration.” No attributions were offered on this claim, which seems to contradict the notion that McMaster is still on the job – indefinitely, according to Sanders.

“What’s changed in recent days, according to a half-dozen White House aides and outside advisers familiar with the situation, is that White House chief-of-staff John Kelly has put increasing pressure on Trump to get rid of McMaster – and that’s made the president, who likes to be contrary and doesn’t mind frustrating his advisers, increasingly resistant to making a change.”

Apparently, this is because other members of the Trump inner circle – Tillerson and James Mattis, in particular, “have been closely aligned” with McMaster against the former Marine general, John Kelly, who serves as the president’s chief of staff.

“Kelly was upset, according to two senior administration officials, by Trump’s decision to remove Tillerson this week, and has, in turn, resumed his efforts to sour Trump on McMaster.”

Politico reported McMaster appeared briefly outside the West Wing on Friday while escorting out guests, which prompted reporters to gather in hopes he’d make a statement. “But the beleaguered national security adviser re-entered the building without answering shouted questions.”

Politico quoted more unnamed sources saying McMaster would receive a fourth star and return to the Army soon and still others saying Ben Carson at HUD, David Shulkin at the VA, Scott Pruitt at the EPA and Ryan Zinke, the Interior secretary, all could be on the chopping block soon.

Those reporters should pay heed to McMaster’s response to one reporter’s question about him leaving: “Everybody has got to leave the White House at some point.”

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