MILLER TIME: Donald Trump has said that as president, he would surround himself with the very best people. In prior positions, his leadership approach seems to have been a bit more…hands-on.
“The voice is instantly familiar; the tone, confident, even cocky; the cadence, distinctly Trumpian,” report Marc Fisher and Will Hobson. “The man on the phone vigorously defending Donald Trump says he’s a media spokesman named John Miller, but then he says, ‘I’m sort of new here,’ and ‘I’m somebody that he knows and I think somebody that he trusts and likes’ and even ‘I’m going to do this a little, part-time, and then, yeah, go on with my life.’
“A recording obtained by The Washington Post captures what New York reporters and editors who covered Trump’s early career experienced in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s: calls from Trump’s Manhattan office that resulted in conversations with ‘John Miller’ or ‘John Barron’ — public-relations men who sound precisely like Trump himself — who indeed are Trump, masquerading as an unusually helpful and boastful advocate for himself, according to the journalists and several of Trump’s top aides.”
If you have trouble imagining what that could possibly sound like — here it is: ‘John Miller’ speaking with People magazine reporter Sue Carswell back in 1991.
“Some reporters found the calls from Miller or Barron disturbing or even creepy; others thought they were just examples of Trump being playful. Today, as the presumptive Republican nominee for president faces questions about his attitudes toward women, what stands out to some who received those calls is Trump’s characterization of women who he portrayed as drawn to him sexually.
“‘Actresses,’ Miller said in the call to Carswell, ‘just call to see if they can go out with him and things.’ Madonna ‘wanted to go out with him.’ And Trump’s alter ego boasted that in addition to living with [Marla] Maples, Trump had ‘three other girlfriends.’
Trump has admitted in the past — including in court testimony — that he used the name “John Miller” to act as his own spokesman.
On Friday, he did not. In a phone call to NBC’s “Today” program after this article appeared online, Trump denied that he was John Miller. “No, I don’t think it — I don’t know anything about it. You’re telling me about it for the first time and it doesn’t sound like my voice at all,” he said. “I have many, many people that are trying to imitate my voice and then you can imagine that, and this sounds like one of the scams, one of the many scams — doesn’t sound like me.” Later, he was more definitive: “It was not me on the phone. And it doesn’t sound like me on the phone, I will tell you that, and it was not me on the phone. And when was this? Twenty-five years ago?”
Then, Friday afternoon, Washington Post reporters who were 44 minutes into a phone interview with Trump about his finances asked him a question about Miller: “Did you ever employ someone named John Miller as a spokesperson?”
The phone went silent, then dead. When the reporters called back and reached Trump’s secretary, she said, “I heard you got disconnected. He can’t take the call now. I don’t know what happened.”
This election has everything. pic.twitter.com/yWO11kNHh4
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) May 13, 2016
For some people, the story felt…familiar.
Trump is literally Guy Incognito now
— Matt Negrin (@MattNegrin) May 13, 2016
(If you don’t know who Guy Incognito is, you’ve probably never been to Springfield.)
Zoiks! It turns out John Miller was Mr Trump all along pic.twitter.com/FacMiI1AwY
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) May 13, 2016
Others considered Miller’s potential role in a Trump administration:
Trump begins to assemble his staff, announces former publicist John Miller will be White House press secretary. pic.twitter.com/Z5m7DshaRl
— Carter Hall (@CarterHall_) May 13, 2016
“President Putin, please hold the line for Secretary of State John Miller.”
— Jason Gay (@jasongay) May 13, 2016
Solved the VP quandary. pic.twitter.com/0Z3nkYqf6f
— Caleb Howe (@CalebHowe) May 14, 2016
Others pondered the existential implications: John Miller is everyone, they said. And he is no one.
We are all John Miller. #freeJohnMiller
— Max Handelman (@maxhandelman) May 13, 2016
We are all John Miller.
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) May 13, 2016
John Miller is always there for you, anytime you need him. John Miller never says anything you wouldn’t say. John Miller is the voice within that, on your toughest days, appears just to reinforce what a classy, tremendous, elegant winner you really are. Just the best.
When everyone is John Miller, no one is. https://t.co/2KjZM2mlRZ
— AKA John Miller (@petersuderman) May 13, 2016
Well…you can’t quite say no one.
By the way I’ve seen Mr. Trump’s tax returns. He made several terrific donations to the Human Fund, among others.
— John Miller (@JohnMillerPR) May 13, 2016
By the way: Thanks to hero Philip Bump, you can now find out what your own Donald Trump spokesman name is with this handy generator tool.
this John Miller thing is like if superman’s alter ego were some guy who constantly wrote puff pieces about how great superman was
— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) May 13, 2016
Donald Trump has said that his path to the presidency this year likely runs through Rust Belt states President Obama won, areas that are home to plenty of working class white voters who might find his criticism of free trade agreements appealing. And Hillary Clinton agrees!
“Facing the unpredictable candidacy of Republican Donald Trump, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is preparing to dispatch resources to vote-rich industrial states that have been safely Democratic for a generation,” reports Abby Phillip.
“Clinton’s plans include an early, aggressive attempt to defend Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — reflecting a growing recognition inside her campaign of the threat that Trump’s unconventional bid for president may pose in unexpected places, particularly in economically struggling states that have been hit hard by global free-trade agreements.
“Joel Benenson, Clinton’s chief pollster and senior strategist, acknowledged that Trump’s popularity, particularly among white, working-class voters, could make states in the country’s industrial midsection more competitive than they have been in recent elections.
“‘There is no state where they can put us on defense that we don’t already treat as a battleground,’ Benenson said. He added: ‘The key here is to really protect the territory we have to protect, then play offense.’
“Clinton performed poorly against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in Democratic primaries in this part of the country — partly because of her past support for free-trade agreements and partly because Sanders’s promises to focus on economic issues and income inequality resonated with voters. Those factors could work against her with Trump, who has criticized her positions on trade and has also found deep appeal among the working class. …”
(Then again: here’s today’s reminder that before November comes July.)
Sanders campaign mgr Weaver on @MSNBC: “The superdelegates are going to pick [the Dem nominee]…. I think we should go to the convention”
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) May 13, 2016
THE FLEX OPTION:
But what exactly are those views?
The answer doesn’t just depend on whom you ask — it may also depends on when you’re asking, Trump said today.
“There has been confusion this week over just how committed Donald Trump is to implementing his policy proposals if he becomes president, especially when it comes to calling for tax cuts for the wealthy and a temporary ban on allowing most foreign Muslims into the country,” reported Jenna Johnson.
“During an interview on ‘Fox and Friends’ on Friday morning, Trump clarified: ‘Look, anything I say right now — I’m not the president. Everything is a suggestion. No matter what you say, it is a suggestion.’
“It was a sentiment that Trump reiterated during an interview with the ‘Today’ show, also on Friday…
“‘I am always flexible on issues,’ Trump said in the interview with ‘Today.’ ‘I am totally flexible on very, very many issues, and I think you have to be that way….I’m not totally inflexible on anything.” Trump stressed that he stood squarely behind his proposed ban on Muslim travel to the United States, and his position on border security.
For some politicians, this sort of flexibility might pose a problem. Trump does not appear to be one of those politicians. (Earlier this week, Dan Drezner took a closer look at why.)
—Donald Trump shares President Obama’s views on the transgender bathroom issue, but said he did not agree with today’s executive action affecting schools: “Well, I believe it should be states’ rights and the state should make the decision. They’re more capable of making the decision,” he said Friday. (One unanswered question: what, if anything, could the Democratic administration’s decision to go up against the state of North Carolina on this issue now mean for the Democratic presidential candidate’s chances in that swing state this fall?)
(Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) had…quite the floor chart on the issue today.)
—In flux right now, as the Trump finance machine whirs to life: how much the candidate who has said his campaign is (partially) self-funded will actually wind up funding any of it. The mogul has actually spent a bit over $300,000 of his own money; the rest of the money he’s directed to the campaign has been structured as a loan to the campaign. That I.O.U currently stands at roughly $36 million.Trump today said he had “absolutely no intention of paying myself back.” Trump aides told NBC the loan would be converted into a gift sometime soon. As of now, it has not.
—And in more Trump money news: he was endorsed by GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson.
—In a #NeverTrump world, the Libertarian Party faces a nomination fight, reports Dave Weigel. (Past and current Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson calls it “the most negative race of my career, by far. …”)
—Politifact #analysis: “Fact-checking 2016: This is gonna be messy“
—Paul Ryan hasn’t endorsed Trump yet, but nine House chairmen did today, said the Trump campaign: Rep. Steve Chabot (Ohio) of Small Business, Rep. Micael K. Conaway (Tex.) of Agriculture, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.) of Financial Services, Rep. Candice S. Miller (Mich.) of House Administration, Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.) of Veterans’ Affairs, Rep. Tom Price (Ga.) of Budget, Rep. Pete Sessions (Tex.) of Rules, Rep. Bill Shuster (Pa.) of Transportation & Infrastructure, and Rep. Lamar Smith (Tex.) of Science, Space & Technology.
—Trump tax returns message of the day, when asked about his rate: “It’s none of your business. You’ll see it when I release.”
—Next week: the Kentucky and Oregon primaries. In Kentucky last night, Bill Clinton took on protesters in coal country: “I’m not like a lot of people. It doesn’t bother me to have protesters at rallies,” he said, reported Karen Tumulty. (He had a bit of a bumpy, Friday the 13th-esque New Jersey trip today too: arrived at a rally more than an hour late because of a truck accident on the Tappan Zee Bridge, reports Annie Karni — then got heckled by a Sanders supporter over the 1994 crime bill: “Why did you put more people in prison?”)
YOUR DAILY TRAIL PIT STOP: Today wasn’t just Friday the 13th — more importantly, it was Top Gun Day, the day on which we celebrate the release of that film 30 years ago this weekend. Everyone will of course observe the holiday in their own way, but we plan to sit quietly, listen to this theme, and reflect thoughtfully on what our call sign would be, if we had one. Have a great weekend!