President Donald Trump believes he is being unfairly linked to the pipe bombs delivered to frequent targets of his acrimonious rhetoric and has watched with disdain as the national conversation has shifted to his role in shaping the divisive political environment.
Rather than cooling off his tone, he is digging in, two people who spoke to him on Thursday said. Trump has no plans to claim any personal responsibility that he has contributed to the divisive climate surrounding the attempted attacks, the two people said. And his advisers have no plans to urge him to dial back his attacks on the media, a senior White House official said.
The President on Wednesday condemned the attempted bombings and called for Americans to “unify” and strive for civility before stressing that the media “has a responsibility to set a civil tone.”
But by Thursday morning, the President directly blamed the mainstream news organizations for “the Anger we see today in our society,” falsely accusing news outlets of publishing “purposely false and inaccurate reporting.”
“He believes he’s treated with hostility and unfairly – there’s no talking him out of that,” one Trump confidant said.
Trump has neither named the targets – President Barack Obama, his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton and others – in public nor has he reached out privately to offer reassurance or provide updates on the investigation, officials said, a move that has raised the eyebrows of leaders from both parties.
Twelve days before the midterm elections, Trump has also not seized on the incidents as a presidential moment, as others before him may have done, where Americans could see their president leading a nation through a time of challenge.
Trump did show some restraint during his rally on Wednesday night, avoiding any criticism of Clinton, his former rival and secretary of state, and refrained from some of his most fiery lines, including his “fake news” attacks on the media. But by Thursday morning, Trump was back to stirring his base against the press.
Elected officials and political commentators have increasingly argued that Trump’s caustic rhetoric has coarsened political discourse in America, pointing to Trump’s frequent demonizing of his political opponents.
Two weeks ago, the President called Democrats who objected to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court as “evil,” just the latest way he has demonized and vilified his political foes. And Trump has long labeled the media “the enemy of the people,” making CNN – which received one of the pipe bombs – his foremost target.
In the face of that criticism, Trump plans to continue blaming the media for the current political environment and believes his supporters will agree with him.
Beyond the President, several of his top advisers believe he is right to blame the media and have no problem with the President calling it out.
One senior White House official said there is no effort underway to urge the President to tone down his rhetoric, particularly as it relates to the media, in the wake of his Thursday morning tweet.
“We haven’t changed our stance on tweeting. He can do whatever he wants,” the official said.
The official said they were satisfied with how the President and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders have handled the fallout from the pipe bombs, by condemning violence and redirecting criticism about the divisive political environment toward the media.
Trump has still kept a close eye on the investigation into the attempted pipe bombings, receiving updates on the investigation on Thursday, two White House officials said.
He has told aides that he is confident the authorities will find the suspect or suspects, but has no immediate plans to call this domestic terrorism – pending investigation – a White House official said.
This story has been updated.