Sep 30, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump threatened to go after Maggie Haberman's phone records

Former President Trump at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, on on Sept. 17.

Former President Trump at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, on Sept. 17. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman reports in her book — "Confidence Man," out Tuesday — that former President Trump had threatened internally to go after her phone records to expose leakers.

Driving the news: "Trump, angry about my published stories, would bellow that he wanted administration officials to obtain my phone records and identify my sources," Haberman writes.

  • "It did not appear that anyone ever acted on it."

Why it matters: News organizations go to great lengths to prevent the government from seeing their communications, in part to protect the identity of sources who help expose what's really going on.

Context: N.Y. Times columnist Frank Bruni says "Donald Can’t Quit Maggie," which pretty much sums it up.

  • Trump, in the course of giving Haberman three interviews for this book, told aides: "I love being with her; she’s like my psychiatrist."

Trump's obsession: He has called her "Maggot Haberman" and tweeted in 2018: "Maggie Haberman, a Hillary flunky, knows nothing about me and is not given access."

  • In February, he repeated in a statement about the book that she "knows nothing about me."

What we're hearing: When there's a negative story in The Times, Trump privately calls it "Maggie's story"— no matter the author.

  • Trump has been known to rant: "I never speak to her." Aides roll their eyes.

Joe Klein, in a N.Y. Times review of "Confidence Man," calls Haberman "famously formidable":

  • "The only other journalist who can match her access to a recent president is Lou Cannon, who spent much of a lifetime covering Ronald Reagan."
  • "She is an exemplar of her craft, relentless, judicious and even-keeled, giving credit, where due, to her colleagues and fellow biographers."

When asked about Trump's threat about Haberman's records, spokesman Taylor Budowich responded with his standard comment about Haberman's book:

  • "While coastal elites obsess over boring books chock-full of anonymously-sourced mistruths, America is a nation in decline. President Trump is focused on Saving America, and there's nothing the Fake News can do about it."

Go deeper: Free book excerpts (CNN)

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