Axios—AP—AP ImagesThe White House is seeking to quell speculation that President Donald Trump’s administration is preparing to launch a broad crackdown on fake news in a bid to limit its impact on the nation’s elections.
The president, in a tweet Wednesday morning, said he’s “open to working with Congress on a solution that protects our democracy.”
The White the White House has been briefed on the situation, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement Thursday.
“The president believes the integrity of the elections process should not be compromised, and he is open to working w/ Congress on that solution,” Walters said.
Trump, in the tweet, also called for “tough, smart, & smart people” to be appointed to a commission to investigate “fake news,” which the White Houses top cybersecurity official, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and a number of other White House officials have called for in recent weeks.
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, in an interview with CNN on Thursday, also sought to tamp down speculation that the White house is considering a new approach to combating fake news.
“If you look at the facts, we don’t have a plan for the future,” Priebus said.
“The truth is, we have a problem and we’re going to solve the problem.
We are going to have to solve it through our intelligence, our law enforcement, and through a new strategy that’s going to focus on a lot of different things.”
The president has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for his handling of the ongoing Russia probe, and his aides have repeatedly said that his administration is not under investigation by the special counsel and that he has no involvement in any wrongdoing.
But many Trump allies have warned that the president has a tendency to be a touchy-feely president, especially with the nation facing a looming election in November.
While Trump has made no secret of his desire to crack down on fake and misleading news, his allies say he’s also looking to create an atmosphere of transparency and trust among voters that can win over undecided voters who might otherwise lean toward the Democrats.
“We have an opportunity to put an effective spin on this, and that’s why I’m so confident we’re doing a lot better than we have been,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich said on CNN on Wednesday.
Trump has also made no bones about his desire for a broader focus on combating the spread of fake news, which is already having an impact on polls, including one released this week by ABC News.
Trump’s tweet, in fact, was a response to a Washington Post story that reported that a White House official was told to “be careful about calling fake news ‘fake’ anymore,” a comment that drew criticism from both sides of the aisle.
White house press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that the tweet was in reference to a tweet Trump had made in January, when he said that the term “fake” was “inherently offensive to Americans.”
“It is unfortunate that the media has gotten ahead of itself and has now chosen to treat the president’s use of the term ‘fake,’ which he has used so often, as the basis for attacking the press,” Sanders said.
But Trump’s tweet also drew ire from fellow Republicans who argued that the comment was offensive, given that he’s often praised journalists who have been critical of his administration.
Trump is set to meet with the heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees on Friday to discuss the issue, as well as his agenda, the White Senate Office said in an email Thursday morning.