Ronald Kessler claims in his new book, The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game, that the president leaks to reporters on the condition that he be identified only as one of his own unnamed staff members
Even as president, Donald Trump is still trying to court and control positive press for himself — even if that means getting on the phone with reporters as his own “anonymous source.”
Ronald Kessler claims in his new book, The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game, that Trump has a number of journalists he frequently contacts, and leaks to on the condition that he be identified only as one of his own unnamed staff members.
“Trump phones Maggie Haberman of the New York Times directly, as well as Philip Rucker of the Washington Post, and Jonathan Swan of Axios, feeding them stories attributed to ‘a senior White House official,’ creating the impression the White House leaks even more than it already does,” Kessler writes. “In other cases, the media has picked up reports on what Trump himself has said to his friends.”
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the president is particularly obsessed with his depiction in what he thinks of as his “hometown paper,” the New York Times, despite Haberman’s unfavorable stories.
“He wants eventually to win her over,” a Trump aide says, according to the book. “The president subscribes to the general theory that a little love can go a long way. Even if a story will be bad, give it a shot and maybe it will come out a little better.”
Representatives for the White House and the New York Times did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Steven Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist for the first seven months of Trump’s term, adds that Trump continues to try and change the tone of outlets like the Washington Post.
“‘He always thinks he can charm the media and get a good story,” Bannon told Kessler. “I keep telling him these guys are killers. They’re all assassins. I know some of these people very well, and I like them. They’re still assassins.’ “
But Trump reportedly isn’t the only one leaking information to the press. Kessler states that Trump aides say Kellyanne Conway is the “number one leaker.”
“The fact was she was a constant leaker to the press about her own colleagues,” the author writes. “Through friends of reporters who received them, White House aides saw texts from Conway purporting to leak information about them.”
Kessler even had his own experience with Conway speaking ill about former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus in an interview, “remarks so cutting and obviously untrue that out of fairness I am not including them here.”
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Although Trump adamantly denied ever posing as his own spokesperson after a May 2016 article by The Washington Post claimed that he often gave interviews under the pseudonyms John Miller and John Barron in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, he told a different story to PEOPLE in 1991.
Then-PEOPLE reporter Sue Carswell interviewed a man claiming to be a publicist named John Miller and later played the tape for Trump’s second wife Marla Maples. Maples identified the voice as Trump’s to Carswell.
In response, the former Celebrity Apprentice host told PEOPLE that Miller was a joke gone awry, explaining, “What I did became a good time at Marla’s expense, and I’m very sorry.”