Get James Pindell’s analysis first via his newsletter, Ground Game. Sign up here.
A fast-moving, explosive Friday story suggested the Trump administration was considering an illegal immigrant deportation force of 100,000 National Guard troops, citing a memo that was being circulated.
Moments later, the AP reported that the idea was in a draft memo, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer quickly said the story was “100 percent not true.”
“I wish you guys had asked before you tweeted,” he added.
The Associated Press said they asked the White House and the Department of Homeland Security Friday “and had not received a response from either.”
This marks at least the third time the White House has, according to reports, not responded to reporters and later attacked it as fake news. There appears to be a pattern, and it might be a strategy from the White House to discredit the press.
First there was a Jan. 24 report in the Kansas City Star about a draft memo that included the Trump transition’s team top 50 large infrastructure projects. Among the projects were improvements to the Kansas City airport, rail projects from California to New York, plus the expansion of the Green Line in Massachusetts.
“Attempts to reach the White House were not immediately successful,” reads the story.
The next day, the Star reported that the administration had said this infrastructure member, “was not an official White House document.”
Just last week, President Trump played naive about fake-but-true news.
On Feb. 10, aboard Air Force One, Trump told reporters he was unaware that — as the Washington Post had reported the day before — his then-National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, had discussed sanctions with Russian officials.
Later, Trump dismissed stories about Flynn and Russia as fake news, even after he asked Flynn to resign. He said the real story on Flynn was about reckless leaks from the federal government.
Now, in the AP’s case, this might be an evolving and quickly-changing story.
But it’s also possible -- although nearly impossible to prove -- that the White House set up the AP by not responding to their inquiries and only denying the report after it came out.
It is also possible that the AP got the story; the White House declined to respond; the story was published; and only then did the administration realize an immigration deportation force was a bad idea.
All of this plays perfeectly into Trump’s efforts — on full display during his Thursday press conference — to make the press his foil.James Pindell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics:http://pages.email.bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp