Spotting CNN on a TV Aboard Air Force One, Trump Rages Against Reality

On Tuesday, President Trump doubled down in his efforts to tell supporters to trust him over the words of critics and news reports.

WASHINGTON — Updated July 25, 2018: This story has been updated with a response from the East Wing. Read more coverage about the first lady.

On the first couple’s recent trip overseas, Melania Trump’s television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased.

He raged at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to Fox — his preferred network over what he considers the “fake news” CNN — and caused “a bit of a stir” aboard Air Force One, according to an email obtained by The New York Times. The email, an internal exchange between officials in the White House Military Office and the White House Communications Agency last Thursday, also called for the ordering of two additional televisions to support Beam, a TiVo-like streaming device, to make sure the president and first lady could both watch TV in their separate hotel rooms when they travel.

At the end of the email chain, officials confirmed that tuning the TVs to Fox would be standard operating procedure going forward. On Wednesday, Mrs. Trump’s spokeswoman issued a statement to CNN saying that the first lady watches “any channel she wants.”

The channel-flipping flap was the latest example of how Mr. Trump, at a pivotal moment in his presidency, is increasingly living in a world of selected information and bending the truth to his own narrative. As his aides work to keep him insulated from the outside world, Mr. Trump is doubling down in his efforts to tell supporters to trust him over the words of critics and news reports.

For now, his approach is working: His standing with Republicans continues to rise, according to a series of new polls.

“Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Mo.

And then: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Similarly, as the negative headlines continue after Mr. Trump’s meeting in Finland last week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Trump has shifted from blaming American institutions for a bad relationship with Russia to telling people not to believe the facts of what they have seen or heard.

On Tuesday, the president effectively said black was white when he claimed without evidence that Russians would be helping Democrats — but not him — in the coming midterm elections. In January 2017, American intelligence agencies assessed that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election in an effort to help Mr. Trump.

“I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”

In his tweet, Mr. Trump made no mention of the fact that he has been told repeatedly that Russia ordered a series of attacks to sway the 2016 election. Nor did he say that he has struck a conciliatory view toward Mr. Putin even as his administration and Congress have moved to impose harsher relations.

Over the weekend, Mr. Trump claimed with no evidence in a series of tweets that his administration’s release of top-secret documents related to the surveillance of a former campaign aide had confirmed that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. “misled the courts” in the early stages of the Russia investigation.

But the documents appeared to do the opposite. They presented in stark detail why the F.B.I. was interested in the former campaign adviser, Carter Page: “The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.” The documents also said Mr. Page had “established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers,” and had been “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

Analysts, including Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor who specializes in national security law at the University of Texas School of Law, said the president was “cherry picking” bits of the warrant that would be most useful to him.

In the White House, little of the outside criticism breaks through. People who have worked for Mr. Trump say he tends to view everything through the lens of a battle. His goal is bring everyone over to his view.

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