David Graham writes: Friday morning, the Associated Press dropped a bombshell report: “Trump administration considers mobilizing as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants,” the new agency’s Twitter account announced.
The hubbub that followed, as the White House denied the report, is a case study in the strange dance between the press and the Trump administration, and the complicated environment of information asymmetry, and misinformation, that characterizes the current moment in American politics. And it shows how the Trump administration deflects genuine reporting by caricaturing it, sometimes clumsily, as “fake news.”
The AP tweet came at 10:12 a.m. Eastern time, with the full story coming a few minutes later:
The Trump administration is considering a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press.
The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana.
The story is a classic Trump administration story: a sweeping, surprising move; a leaked memo substantiating the story, emerging from a very leaky administration; and a policy in keeping with the president’s campaign promise to deport illegal immigrants.
The story quickly mushroomed online and in social media, with stunned reaction at the idea of the U.S. government deploying a hundred thousand armed troops around the country, away from the border. Reporters scrambled to figure out what the legal authority for the move would be, and to figure out how state governments might react.
And yet some people immediately sensed that something about the story seemed off:
How long before this turns out to be highly exaggerated/not true at all? https://t.co/inuI9vIhYL
— neontaster (@neontaster) February 17, 2017
Within minutes, in fact, Trump officials denied the story, on the record, to reporters. Press Secretary Sean Spicer spoke to a White House reporters as President Trump prepared to leave for a trip to South Carolina, saying, “That is 100% not true. It is false. It is irresponsible to be saying this. There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants.”
But Spicer’s comment added two interesting wrinkles. First, he scolded the AP for not seeking comment before publishing the story. But as a reporter responded, the AP had asked both the White House and the Department of Homeland Security for comment multiple times before publication, and had received nothing. [Continue reading…]