In the middle of September, Donald Trump wanted to make something very clear to his senior staff: He didn’t feel like he was talking to enough reporters, and he needed to talk to as many as humanly possible in the coming weeks.
According to two knowledgeable sources, the president told some of his top lieutenants, including White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Bill Shine, that he was frustrated and believed he wasn’t getting his message out enough on mainstream channels in the weeks leading up to the critical midterm elections.
Trump then directed his top communications brass to make sure he would get on the phone and Facetime with more journalists from various outlets (not merely Fox), to supplement his increasingly busy 2018 campaign-trail schedule. He wanted a media strategy for “flood[ing] the zone,” as one senior administration official put it, and to make himself an even grander presence on the TV shows and print publications he so addictively consumes.
The media blitzkrieg began shortly thereafter.
He called The Washington Post for the sole purpose of dumping on Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her decision not to support then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the midst of sexual assault allegations.
On Tuesday afternoon, Trump told Sanders to stop a New York magazine reporter from leaving the White House grounds so he could talk to her in the Oval Office about China, Steve Bannon, John Kelly, and whatever else came up.
On Wednesday evening, the president called a Time correspondent from Air Force One, as the magazine was minutes from deadline for the Trump-related cover story, just so he could weigh in. Earlier that day, Trump had already granted yet another “EXCLUSIVE” interview to the Washington Examiner.
On Thursday night, CNN reported that, after nearly two years of turning down interview request from CBS’s 60 Minutes (the most-watched TV news program in the U.S.), President Trump finally acquiesced, agreeing to a sit-down set to air Sunday.
And those interviews aren’t even counting his calls to Fox.
Since Oct. 6, the president has also phoned into Fox News shows three times, spending roughly 45 minutes with the gang at Fox & Friends on Thursday morning alone.
Also on Thursday, Trump made sure to summon a gaggle of reporters, photographers, and TV cameras to the Oval Office for a surreal, freewheeling conversation with Trump-supporting rapper Kanye West. The affair was naturally irresistible catnip for the cable news broadcasts to which the president is practically glued.
This latest uptick comes at a time when the frequency of official White House press briefings is at a new bottom, and when cable news networks—even at the conservative Fox News—aren’t carrying Trump rallies live and uncut the way they used to.
The White House press shop didn’t respond to requests for comment on this story as of press time.
And if Trump has his way, there’s a lot more coming down the pike.
According to two sources with knowledge of the plans, the president agreed to an interview next week with Fox Business Network host Trish Regan on her new primetime show.
“Any time the American people can hear directly from the president, it’s great—they know exactly what he’s saying, what he’s thinking,” said Marc Lotter, a member of Trump’s 2020 advisory committee and former press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence. “I think it’s a great strategy to have the president give voice, talk to reporters and media, in all the different formats…[to] tell directly to the American people what he thinks, and his plans for the future, and how it relates to the midterms.”
—With additional reporting by Lachlan Markay