A central element of Donald Trump’s reelection strategy involves attacking and smearing individual members of the media with “damaging information,” and Trump’s allies are so committed to this plan that they are currently raising up to $2 million to fund investigations of reporters who have published stories critical of Trump in such outlets as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and even BuzzFeed, according to a stunning report Tuesday morning by the political site Axios.
Campaigns of all political persuasions have long relied on “opposition research,” as FiveThirtyEight.com documents, to attack and discredit rival candidates with negative information. But the strategy of turning the same investigations against members of the media appears to be a new one, Axios reports.
Last week The New York Times reported that a “loose network” of conservative political operatives close to Trump has already begun an “aggressive operation” to target journalists and other members of the media, but the Axios report was the first to reveal the fundraising effort specifically aimed at attacking and silencing critical journalists. The site also reported that the fundraising effort includes, but also extends beyond the “loose network” of Trump allies described by The New York Times revelations, involving Republican political consultant Arthur Schwartz and “undisclosed others.”
The new report comes just two days after Axios reported that the Trump campaign is plotting an aggressive “war on social media.”
That “war” will use social media itself, with the campaign purchasing ads on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, to accuse the social media sites of “bias” against Trump.
Axios founder Mike Allen wrote that he had read a new, three-page fundraising letter that outlined the aims of the effort to discredit specific, individual reporters — and even their family members. The letter stated that the campaign will be “targeting the people producing the news.”
The operation will use what the letter called “friendly media outlets”, such as the alt-right site Breitbart, for derogatory information it digs up on journalists who have reported negative stories about Trump.
“CNN, MSNBC, all broadcast networks, NY Times, Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and all others that routinely incorporate bias and misinformation in to their coverage,” are among the targets, according to the Axios report, as well as individual reporters and editors at those organizations who will also be “tracked.”
Axios described the “loose network” reported by The New York Times as an “improvisational” effort that in response to the publicity it received from the August 25 Times report has now become more organized and engaged in actual fundraising.