Photo: AP

Back in January, we were left to speculate: Donald Trump hates the North American Free Trade Agreement, and he wants to pull the U.S. out of it—so what would happen? Then last month, a draft plan to seek only “modest” changes to NAFTA leaked—and god, wasn’t that so funny? What happened? I thought it was the Worst Deal Ever, Donald. Now, this: Trump’s administration is reportedly crafting an executive order to pull out of the deal altogether. Huh.

Politico is reporting that a draft order has been submitted, is under review, and could be unveiled as early as this week. The order “could change” and would serve an an indication of Trump’s “intent” to withdraw from the sweeping trade deal. Trump has to give the U.S. Congress 90-days notice in order to put things in motion. Here’s more:

Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s National Trade Council, drafted the executive order in close cooperation with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. The executive order was submitted this week to the staff secretary for the final stages of review, according to one of the White House officials.

The draft executive order could be a hardball negotiating tactic designed to bring Mexico and Canada to the table to renegotiate NAFTA. But once Trump sets the withdrawal process in motion, the prospects for the U.S. pulling out of one of the largest trade deals on the globe become very real.

Weird. I thought Bannon was on the fritz with Trump. Oh well...

Advertisement

Obviously it’s early on in the administration, so figuring out exactly what Trump wants to do with something as significant as NAFTA is important. But this deviates so far from the report last month of “modest” changes to NAFTA that I’m starting to find this other item from Politico that just dropped a bit more credible.

On top of the sloppiness, there is the lying. One veteran White House correspondent said he was warned by a transition official to be wary of good color emanating from the Trump camp on background. “They will screw with you,” the correspondent was told. “They will feed you things that are not true.”

Bannon, it is worth noting, is a devoted reader of the “neoreactionary” internet philosopher Curtis Yarvin, an advocate of the strategic benefits of spreading misinformation. But two people close to the administration say that White House staffers do much of their lying for sport, rather than to further any larger agenda.

“They all lie,” said a conservative journalist with close ties to the West Wing, who described an informal contest to smuggle the biggest whoppers into print. “It’s a game to them.”

A conservative activist close to the administration said a member of the White House communications team recently divulged the same to him over drinks. According to the activist, the staffer described the attitude inside the press shop toward lying to reporters as: “They’ll print what they want anyways, so we may as well have fun.”

Here’s a basic standard in journalism for anonymous sources: only rely on them when there’s no other avenue to obtain the information. If you’re citing an anonymous source, do they have any documentation to back up what they’re saying? If not, what’s their motivation for disclosing something to you? It’s not foolproof, but on sometime impenetrable beats like the White House, anonymous sources are the only path forward to report on what’s happening behind closed doors. There are obviously problems inherent to this, but it’s just how it goes. And that’s why the idea that members of the administration are taking the press for a ride, because it’s a “game to them,” seems legit. It’s certainly an easy way to distort the truth.

Of course, there’s the contrary: maybe these guys really are just shooting from the hip.