The White House Is Openly Threatening a Journalist With a 'Dossier'

It's far from the first time the administration has collected information on a reporter.
August 28, 2020, 5:06pm
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump to the White House, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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A White House spokesperson publicly threatened a Washington Post reporter and said the administration was compiling a “dossier” on him in response to his reporting on the Trump Organization.

While reporting a story on how the Secret Service has been a “captive customer” in spending the public’s money on Trump Organization properties while protecting the president, Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold and his colleagues submitted questions to the White House. In response, White House spokesman Judd Deere told reporters that the administration was targeting him. 

“The Washington Post is blatantly interfering with the business relationships of the Trump Organization, and it must stop,” Deere wrote in a statement to the Washington Post. “Please be advised that we are building up a very large ‘dossier’ on the many false David Fahrenthold and others stories as they are a disgrace to journalism and the American people.”

The story noted that more than $900,000 of the public’s money has been spent at Trump’s businesses, including at least $570,000 as a result of the president’s  travel.  For example, the story revealed that the Trump Organization charged Secret Service agents daily “resort fees” — which were the maximum rate to Secret Service agents under federal per-diem rules — while protecting Vice President Mike Pence at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. That trip alone cost the Secret Service more than $20,000. 

The Washington Post declined comment on the matter to multiple outlets. On Twitter, Fahrenthold accused Deere, a White House employee, of explicitly defending the Trump Organization’s business interests.

It’s unclear what’s in the alleged “dossier,” but Fahrenthold has long been a thorn in Trump’s side. The veteran Post reporter previously won a Pulitzer Prize in 2017 “for persistent reporting that created a model for transparent journalism in political campaign coverage while casting doubt on Donald Trump’s assertions of generosity toward charities.” He also broke the story of Trump’s Access Hollywood tape in October 2016, in which Trump brags about grabbing women “by the pussy.”

In a tweet, Fahrenthold put out a call asking someone to leak him the dossier, which is likely exempted from the Freedom of Information Act along with other White House records.

If the dossier exists, Fahrenthold is far from the first reporter on whom the administration has collected information. In July, the Post obtained copies of  “intelligence reports” the Department of Homeland Security had compiled about a reporter for the New York Times and the editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog, which were handed over to law enforcement agencies. 

And earlier this year, the Trump campaign filed libel lawsuits against CNN, the Washington Post, and the New York Times over alleged “false reporting” in op-eds related to the campaign’s ties to the Russian government.

Cover: White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump to the White House, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)