ABC Reports that Sources Familiar Say 2 + 2 = 5

In a piece describing that Jack Smith has substantially completed his investigation into stolen documents, WSJ reported Trump’s associates believed that the former President would be indicted and were already making plans to profit off him being charged with one or more federal crimes.

Some of Trump’s close associates are bracing for his indictment and anticipate being able to fundraise off a prosecution, people in the former president’s circle said, as clashes within the Trump legal team have led to the departure of a key lawyer.

Hours after WSJ reported that Trump was going to try to profit off being a criminal suspect, he posted a letter, with just one substantive paragraph, on Truth Social. Aside from the letterhead and signatures from Jim Trusty and John Rowley, it was indistinguishable from Trump’s other grievance-farming on his failing social media platform, claiming that,

Unlike President Biden, his son Hunter, or the Biden family, President Trump is being treated unfairly. No President of the United States has ever, in the history of the country, been baselessly investigated in such an outrageous and unlawful fashion.

Then it asked for a meeting with the recused Attorney General to discuss the “ongoing injustice being perpetrated by your Special Counsel.”

It copied unnamed members of Congress, the last thing a letter seriously asking for dialogue with the Attorney General would do.

It’s a campaign stunt, not a letter designed to request a meeting about potential upcoming indictment(s). In fact, just days ago, Tim Parlatore explained that he quit because Boris Epshteyn would not permit him to engage in that kind of discussion professionally.

Nevertheless, multiple news outlets decided to treat this letter as a serious bid for discussion with the recused Attorney General. In ABC’s case, it falsely claimed that the letter “present[ed] arguments” that Trump should not be charged in the stolen documents case, citing “sources familiar with the matter.”

The letter, though thin on details, presents arguments that Trump should not be charged in the investigation related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

In other words, rather than convey to ABC’s readers what the document actually says — which is nothing more than a claim Trump is being treated unfairly, a claim that is easy to debunk — its reporters called up Trump’s lawyers and transcribed what they claimed the letter said, or perhaps simply parroted their cover for releasing a letter better designed to raise money and sow violence, rather than just reporting what the letter actually did say.

Because “sources familiar” told them so, ABC reported the letter said something it did not. 2 + 2 = 5.

Jim Trusty used to work at DOJ. He knows how to write such a letter. He did not. But ABC nevertheless claimed that he and John Rowley did.

2 + 2 = 5.

As the two journalists described how the letter was something that it wasn’t on Twitter, one of them — Alex Mallin — likened it to Trump’s purported request to speak with Garland last August, just before Garland publicly spoke about the search on Trump’s beach resort.

He didn’t mention that Trump’s comment came after Trump’s false claims of victimhood led a Trump supporter and January 6 participant to attempt to breach the Cincinnati FBI office. He didn’t mention that that earlier outreach sure looked like an implicit threat.

I really get the inclination to treat Trump’s response to being caught stealing classified documents as if it is a normal legal proceeding. I get the inclination to pretend everything is normal.

But that doesn’t justify describing the plain content of the letter as something it’s not.

The letter is a fundraising vehicle. It’s an attempt to discredit rule of law. It’s probably an attempt to sow violence again. Claiming it is something else because sources you’ve granted anonymity said it is is not journalism.

50 replies
  1. wasD4v1d says:

    “his failing social media platform”

    It is not failing, it’s doing the job it was designed to do – amplify tfg’s voice exclusively and the media drinks it up. Why, it’s even cited here. Mission accomplished.

    • JVOJVOJVO says:

      If your context is that it would replace Twitter – of course, it’s a failure.
      If your context is I’ve been de-platformed from mainstream social media and I really need to get my message amplified so I can keep the rubes sending in the $$$ train (even though I’m an alleged Billionaire), then it’s a fine example of a successful failure!

      • AnthonyL says:

        I recently bounced over to truth social to check it out. There is no discourse happening. It’s mainly TFG posting an incoherent rant, then his sycophant followers posting dumb ass meme after meme, instead of any true dialogue.

        TFGs truth, then gets aggregated over to twitter, and is rightfully skewered for its bullshit.


        • xbronx says:

          Re: Truth Social and “there is no discourse happening”. They have replaced the Socratic Method with the Autocratic Method.

        • Surfer2099 says:

          I’m on that site to gaslight them. I think most of the postings there are bots, actually.
          Prolly russian….lol

    • Clare Kelly says:

      The SPAC (DWAC) for his bridge loan/merger, under investigation for Russian ties/money laundering, filed a warning which:

      “highlighted several examples of bankruptcy associated with Trump while noting that there is “no guarantee” Truth Social will be successful”.

      Also see:
      “The former president’s fortune dropped from an estimated $3.2 billion last fall to $2.5 billion today. The biggest reason? His social media business, once hyped to the moon, has come crashing down, erasing $550 million from his net worth—so far.”

      Dan Alexander
      April 3, 2023

      The word “failing” is apt.

      • BobBobCon says:

        Right. There’s a ridiculous irony that in a post where MW warns against baselessly repeating key Trump propaganda, people pop up to repeat key Trump propaganda.

        Trump Always Wins is wishful thinking by a certain set of liberals who feel the same impulse as his worst followers to elevate every stumble into some 3D chess move.

        Trump did not launch this to get the user base he’s gotten, and he wished he got vastly more coverage of his propaganda than he’s gotten. That he gets some fraction of his goal is bad, but it’s worse for him.

        Trump getting vastly less exposure than he got in 2015 with his twitter rants and far less media coverage isn’t a win for him. Of course he and his supporters will try to spin it that way, but it’s silly for liberals to amplify that spin due to some misplaced psychological tic that makes them think they look smart that way.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Where would one find reliable information about the value of Trump’s net worth – minus his growing list of liabilities and potential liabilities?

        It seems to me that most of these public valuations about the finances a public figure keeps hidden would be Trump’s own valuations – the same sort of information he self-reports, unreviewed and unaudited, to his accountants. It’s the very definition of self-serving misinformation.

        • NerdyCanuck says:

          I found these two articles that I came across recently to be really helpful – the first is a breakdown of his actual wealth (like investments, properties, cash etc.) and the second details the many ways he has lied about it to try and inflate the numbers to Forbes for years (mostly in the context of Trump tower, but other examples are included as well)

          p.s. moderators, I deleted and reposted my comment because I think that I used the wrong email address the first time, sorry!

        • BobBobCon says:

          Dan Alexander has been doing this for a long time and he’s very good. He’s done things like gone to Trump properties and walked the floors to see whether claimed tenants are actual operating entities.

          He’s open about his methodologies and sources, and he is very on top of the twists and turns of things like real estate valuations, and the implications of things like liquidity and loan balances.

        • bmaz says:

          Daniel Dale, now at CNN, used to do this too. Kept a running tally of them as well. Not sure if he still does, but he was very good on it.

        • BobBobCon says:

          Speaking of knowledgable reporters, it was hilarious to see Charlie Savage dunking on Marc Thiessen when Thiessen tried to knock down Savage on the Durham Report.

          The Post ended up issuing a multi item correction and rewriting the column to fix Thiessen’s errors.

          Although even with the correction, Savage points out Thiessen still got things wrong.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Clare Kelly, I adopted the same policy re: Thiessen. Makes like so much more bearable.

  2. Surfer2099 says:

    This situation reminds me of an accounting joke:

    CEO to Accountant: What does 2+2 equal?

    Accountant to CEO: What do you want it to equal?

    That’s what MSM has become today. The parties used to have spin doctors. Now the media has taken on that role for them.

  3. Peterr says:

    The letter, though thin on details, presents arguments . . .

    If it’s thin on details, it doesn’t present arguments. It presents conclusions or talking points. Without details, it’s not persuasive and thoughtful, but whiny and demanding.

    Are there no editors at ABC? Seriously – no details=no arguments.

    From the ABC story: “The one-page letter was signed by Trump lawyers John Rowley and James Trusty, and does not outline any specific allegations of wrongdoing by Smith and his team.”

    No details, no argument, no specific arguments of wrongdoing . . . Sounds like the letter gives no reason for AG Garland to waste his time on a meeting.

    But it’s great for being able to tell his base “You can’t put Baby Trump in a corner. Send MOAR money to fight this evil.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Channeling Suitcase Simpson and Cokie Roberts, the information is out there, all you have to do is let it in – and publish it unfiltered. If that were journalism, AI could do it.

  4. Yogarhythms says:

    “ Aside from the letterhead and signatures from Jim Trusty and John Rowley, it was indistinguishable from Trump’s other grievance-farming on his failing social media platform” Hate needs a target. DOJ it is. Rinse and Repeat. Hundreds of millions raised so far says this rinse & repeat works. Grievance farming is having a green revolution aided by access journo’s wanting to keep their day jobs pandering their corporate logos. Thankfully Dr Wheeler is prolifically raising the journo’s curtains behind which the cast is naked for all to see.

  5. Tom R. says:

    We agree that if Trusty had wanted to request an actual meeting to discuss actual information about the case, he could have done so. The letter would have looked very different.

    On top of the differences already mentioned, I would add that he would have chosen a different addressee: Jack Smith, not any of the people addressed or CCed on Tuesday’s letter.

  6. TimothyB says:

    TFG is in the alternative reality business. He is particularly skilled at creating alternative reality based on legal process. Fake offers to negotiate, here. Misrepresentation of the charges as being the same as VP Biden’s cooperation, or P Obama’s turning docs over to NARA, here. Fake offer to undergo DNA testing (after close of discovery) in Ms. Carroll’s litigated case. False claim that he is banned from speaking in the (whoops, “a”) criminal case. The alternative reality serves his political purposes, establishing him as the most aggrieved avatar of a grievance-based political movement. He is careful to keep the monarchist elements of the alternative reality consistent: of course Garland should negotiate with Your Favorite President. There is collateral damage to several things TFG values not at all: truth, the rule of law, US institutions implicated in the rule of law (courts, FBI, DOJ, state parallels). In other parts of the alternative reality, elections are stolen, and other collateral damage arises.

    Where the journalists are screwing up is in not recounting this for what it is — EW, our national treasure, aside.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, I’ve been struggling to demonstrate what a problem it is that journalists still treat Trump speech as some transparent vehicle to get to the truth.

  7. Konny_2022 says:

    Maybe 2+2 equals even 6. I was looking for the letter ifself and found it as a link to Scribd in the ABC article itself… and was then taken aback about the “reporting” with many words, yet leaving out the “reference” to Biden, his son and family and the claim of “the ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated by your special counsel and his prosecutots” that no real lawyer would ever make to the US Attorney General. My best guess is that Trump’s spokesperson (what’s his name?) had asked the attorneys for a template with the letterhead and then put down what Trump had dictated. (That would also explain why the letter isn’t signed by facsimile signatures like normally done when a real letter is made public.)

    P.S. There are by now 6 captures of the ABC article archived at The link to Scribd is first included in the capture of 04:01:42.

  8. Attygmgm says:

    Years ago, I was speaking with a TV reporter about a newly filed civil lawsuit that had attracted media interest. I provided the reporter with a copy of the publicly filed, 5-page complaint.
    “What does it say?,” reporter asked.
    “It’s five pages,” I replied, handing it over, “you can just read it.”
    “What does it say?,” reporter asked again.
    Thus went my introduction to the laziness and lack of curiosity of electronic media reporters.

    • bmaz says:

      Lol, if it is only five pages, given the header and signature space, it does not say much. Basically says “read me, I am easy”.

    • ToldainDarkwater says:

      They ask you, an attorney to tell them, for the record, what it says, because that removes them from the (necessarily interpretive) job of summarizing it. It is old school journalism ethics at work, not laziness.

      It would be interpretation, which is to say, opinion, for a reporter to summarize a five-page paper. It is reporting fact if someone else (preferably with some expertise) says, “the summary is X”.

      This ethos is kind of dying out, though. When my roommate was in his journalism major, he said the “new journalism” was where the author showed up in the piece, and didn’t pretend to not have an opinion. He also said there’s no such thing as “objective reporting” – the goal was to be fair. We’ve, ahem, shifted a fair way away from that these days, even.

      • bmaz says:

        Naw, it is complete laziness. A competent reporter would read the freaking five page (seriously it would only be a 3.5 pages actually) and ask specific questions.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      It strikes me, as a reporter who used to work in the field, that the key here is “publicly filed.” I’m betting (hoping) the reporter planned to read the public filing but wanted to grab a source quote while it was available.

      Some of you fancy legal people can be hard to reach.

  9. The Old Redneck says:

    They also failed to mention that Garland has ceded control over the investigation to Jack Smith. That’s the entire point of having a special counsel. ABC surely at least knows that.
    If a law school exam asked for arguments in favor of Trump’s legal position, and the only thing you gave them was the “arguments” contained in that letter, you’d get an F in about 10 seconds.

  10. JohnK-NOLA says:

    “Unlike President Biden, his son Hunter, or the Biden family, President Trump is being treated unfairly.”

    This is a clear statement from Trump acknowledging that the Biden family is being treated fairly by DOJ.

  11. klynn says:


    “I feel it’s time for a periodical reminder that Marge, who owns Kevin McCarthy’s Speakership, is accelerationist-adjacent and so should expect she’d be happy to burn the country to the ground to start over as a white fascist hell-hole.”

    Expanding this tweet would make a great post. Walking folks through the definition and characteristics that make someone accelerationist-adjacent would be quite the picture. Thank you for posting the observation.

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