ABCs chief White House correspondent on his new book Front Row at the Trump Show, fake report, coronavirus and why the Trump presidency is a matter of life and death

At a White House briefing late last month, Jonathan Karl asks what he regarded as the fundamental question that day, about the coronavirus pandemic.” And everybody who needs one will be able to get a ventilator ?”

Donald Trump’s reply was probably the strangest ABC News’ honcho White House correspondent has ever had from a US president.

“Look,” he said.” Don’t be a cutie pie. OK ?”

Trump went on. Karl, he said, was ” a wise guy” too.

What observers may not have known is that the two men become lane back.

They first met in 1994 when Karl was a cub reporter at the New York Postand Trump, a millionaire property developer, devoted him a tour of Trump Tower, where recently married couple Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley were staying. The make was a front-page scoop:” Inside Michael’s Honeymoon Hideaway “.

Now president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Karl recounts the occurrence both at the start of his new book, Front Row at the Trump Show , and in a phone interview with the Guardian.

” The thing that blew me away about that moment, my first real introduction to Donald Trump, was the way he understood exactly what my job was and how to make a compelling story, and the room he controlled so quickly ,” he says.

” It wasn’t going through handlers and PR advisers and spokespeople. It was Donald Trump:’ Come on over, let me show you what I went .’ There was no filter. It was him and he was incredibly, in such a way, alluring and we had a great story and he was willing to break rules to tell it.

” There was intense security all the countries of, keeping the press at bay, and here’s Donald Trump bringing me right up to Michael’s apartment, showing me their secret vehicle to get in and out of the place. He didn’t play it the behavior it’s normally played .”

Karl, 52, lends:” I knew that I could call him from that item on whenever I wanted to and he can be accessed and willing to play along and adoration to be in the mixture. The impression that I would go on to become a White House reporter, president of the White House Correspondents Association, and he would be the president is kind of mind-blowing .”

Trump’s gut impulse for advertising and reptilian genius for realise media condition would be evident in his 2016 election campaign and throughout his presidency. The White House press secretary’s daily briefing was killed off and amended to read as follows” chopper talk”, before Trump boarded Marine One on the South Lawn. He has turned the daily coronavirus modernizes into a new form of safarus rally .

Karl with Sarah Sanders, then White House press secretary, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2018. Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/ Getty Images

Karl indicates:” We’ve had three White House press secretaries, we’ve had- I suspect depending on how you count- three or four communications chairmen in the Trump White House, but in reality we’ve really merely had one. Donald Trump has always been the press secretary, the spokesperson, the communications director for Donald Trump. That was true in 1994 when I firstly encountered him and it’s absolutely true in 2020.”

Karl notes himself promoting a journal in the midst of a pandemic. He has been doing TV interrogations from remote locations. Stephen Colbert razzed him for speaking from a main office where his Emmy honors were prominently displayed.

One of Karl’s most memorable fables is about 10 November 2016. It has become a commonplace to quote the musical Hamilton’s song The Room Where It Happens but Karl was genuinely in there, witnessing the Oval Office meeting between President obama and President-elect Trump( and snarling a few cases photos from 5ft away ). And this crash of matter and anti-matter developed a surprise.

” It was the first occasion that I received what seemed to be a humbled Donald Trump ,” Karl echoes.” He seemed to be taken with the moment. I was almost imagining he’s like,’ Oh, my God, what did I get myself into ?’

” Nobody thought he was going to win. I don’t think he really thought he was going to win and here he was in the Oval Office, a place where he was gonna be returning in precisely a short period of time as the president and all the load of all that meant and the problems he was gonna be dealing with and shared responsibility he was going to have.

” He seemed humbled. He seemed a little bit freaked out. Now, that didn’t last: we never identified that examination again, certainly. That was a fleeting moment but it really hit me .”

When Trump was asked if he intended to ask Obama or any of his other predecessors for advice on dealing with the coronavirus crisis, he replied :” I don’t want to disturb them, bother them. I don’t think I’m going to learn much. And, you are aware, I guess you could say that there’s probably a natural inclination not to call .”

‘Enemy of the people’

For more than three years, Karl has been on Trump’s trail, even receiving a hug from Kanye West in the Oval Office. He has also watched Trump’s war on the media with barbs such as ” the foe of the people “– a term which, Karl tones, the Nazis used in 1934. So what meaning does it send to the rest of the world?

A far-famed struggle between the president and Jim Acosta of CNN at the White House in November 2018. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters

” I think it is deeply disturbing that you have authoritarian captains around the world who closed down a free press, prison reporters and potentially as bad and do so invoking the words of the American president. So you ascertain Erdogan and Putin. You see it’s been documented in Kazakhstan and in Egypt. You investigate dictatorial leaders resembling the exact texts of Donald Trump, speaking about’ hoax news’ as reporters are hurled in jail.

” The interesting thing that I think is really disturbing is when the president calls real word’ forgery bulletin ‘, when he suggests that the act of being an aggressive reporter is’ treasonous ‘, it has subverted the faith in an independent free press among a significant segment of the population. That’s a big problem. I do is concerned at that a lot .”

Trump’s use of the bully pulpit for his daily coronavirus briefs has led to renewed calls for the press corps to be more argumentative . In his work, however, Karl carefuls against reporters behaving like a political opponent or the anti-Trump ” fighting “.

He excuses:” There is a breathlessly negative ambiance to a lot of the news coverage of Trump and Trump’s added copious textile to fuel that, but what happens is a segment of entire populations finds it and ariums it all out. It all becomes noise and everything is the outrage of the day and then it’s hard to differentiate between a real outrage and an outrage that is maybe not as important.

” I mention the case of one CNN reporter literally going up on live television and saying reporters should be protesting the president in Lafayette Square . We are not demonstrators. We are not the fighting. We need to report on a chairman somewhat and objectively and a lot of that’s going to end up being negative .”

He adds:” Your north star is to provide objective and offset report and let’s remember that this president has labelled the news media as opposition political parties, so when those working for mainstream news organisations act like the opposition party, you’re actually playing right into his media strategy .”

Karl’s journal attractions on fresh research and interrogations, including with John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff. In 2017, Karl writes, Kelly had to talk the national security adviser, HR McMaster, out of passing on the president’s tell for a Venezuela war plan to the Pentagon.

Now, nonetheless, as Trump faces the biggest test of his life, most voices of suppression are gone.

Karl says:” Up until this moment he’s had a series of people in the White House who have tried to steer him or place some guardrails up. John Kelly shaped the most aggressive effort to try to protect Donald Trump from his most destructive tendencies.

” It is all Donald Trump right now and I think that’s potentially dangerous. Any chairwoman , no matter how competent, needs to have strong advisers. He’s got the medical beings that are advising him on this, sure, but those are not on his West Wing staff there.

” It really is Donald Trump announcement all the shoots and doing it by his gut instinct. So I think that is potentially worrisome, as is the way the truth has been undermined, the credibility of the White House and too the credibility of the press corps that he’s tried so hard to undermine. Both of those things make this crisis harder to deal with day to daylight .”

‘An discharge story’

As the entitle of his journal suggests, Karl already had a front-row seat to history, reporting on the most peculiar president of this or any other age. Now there is a once-in-a-century global pandemic added to the mix. What a time to be alive. Is a part of him secretly experiencing the daily adrenaline rushed?

Trump speaks during the daily to report on the romance coronavirus in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/ AFP via Getty Images

” It’s an weary narration ,” he says, abruptly announcing exhausted.” Yes, there is something rewarding about people wanting to know the story and the interest and the preoccupation in it, but it’s depleting and some of it’s truly been disturbing .”

He develops:” I speculate, especially in light of what we’re beholding with this pandemic, “theres something” very dangerous that is unfold here.

” We’re at a moment where nearly half the country doesn’t believe what this president and White House says and we have nearly half the rest of the country that’s been told not to believe what they see in a newspaper or see in television news or any other form of mainstream news.

” That’s a deeply troubling, profoundly dangerous lieu to be where there isn’t a shared agreement and gumption of some basic facts, specially now where reliable intelligence, and feeling “youve had” reliable info, can literally be a matter of life and death .”


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