Speak with one voice

High-ranking members of the Trump administration on Aug. 2 rejected one of the president’s most frequent and damaging lies — the one about Russian interference in our elections.

The White House briefing by intelligence and law enforcement leaders was meant to dispel concerns of cybersecurity experts and election officials that President Donald Trump does not take seriously Russia’s attempts to continue its meddling in the 2018 midterms. But in stressing their efforts to protect the election, the officials said flatly that Russia did interfere in 2016 and, as FBI Director Christopher Wray put it, was continuing to work in “malign” ways.

It was a far better use of the White House podium than [the Aug. 1] debacle, when press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to a question about threats to reporters from Trump backers by trying to show the media is fake news — with a thoroughly discredited claim that media reports in the 1990s led to a loss of important intel about Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks. The insinuation of blame was disgusting, and utterly false. Sanders continued her attack after the briefing.

The media assault orchestrated by Trump has incited his supporters, who are growing increasingly hostile to the press, as happened at an event in Tampa. First daughter Ivanka Trump said that she does “not feel like the media is the enemy of the people,” but son Eric Trump and his father tweeted out support for the rough treatment. When asked point-blank to declare that the press is not the enemy of the people, Sanders twice declined.

If this keeps up, someone could get hurt. The administration needs to speak with one voice and remind America that the press always has had an important role to play in holding accountable those in power, even the president himself.