There’s a rumor going around, encouraged in no small part by this article, to the effect that Trump was talking off-the-record with a New York Times reporter, and what he said called into question whether he would stand by his views on immigration:
Trump visited the paper’s Manhattan headquarters on Tuesday, Jan. 5, part of a round of editorial board meetings that — as is traditional — the Democratic candidates for president and some of the Republicans attended. The meetings, conducted partly on the record and partly off the record in a 13th floor conference room, give candidates a chance to make their pitch for the paper’s endorsement.
After a dispute over Trump’s suggestion of tariffs on Chinese goods, the Timesreleased a portion of the recording. But that was from the on-the-record part of the session.
The author of the article, Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith goes on:
Sources familiar with the recording and transcript — which have reached near-mythical status at the Times — tell me that the second sentence is a bit more than speculation. It reflects, instead, something Trump said about the flexibility of his hard-line anti-immigration stance.
So what exactly did Trump say about immigration, about deportations, about the wall? Did he abandon a core promise of his campaign in a private conversation with liberal power brokers in New York?
I wasn’t able to obtain the recording, or the transcript, and don’t know exactly what Trump said. Neither Baquet, Collins, nor various editorial board members I reached would comment on an off-the-record conversation, which the Times essentially said they cannot release without approval from Trump, given the nature of the off-the-record agreement.
Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal told me he would not comment “on what was off the record at our meeting with him.”
The New York Times isn’t going to release the transcript unless Trump says it is okay. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have called on Trump to consent to its release:
“If Donald didn’t say that to the New York Times then he deserves to have that cleared up and releasing the tape can clear it up,” Cruz said.
“The alternative is that it is true.”
This put Trump in a bit of a bind, especially if it is true.
I suspect he might argle bargle a little bit, and threaten to sue Ben Smith and/or the New York Times, and surely that will satisfy his current supporters who (as Trump says) wouldn’t care if he killed an old lady. But as for other potential supporters — which Trump still needs for the general election — this could be very bad for Trump. It could show that he really is a politician after all — saying what he knows the GOP base wants to hear, but has no intention of doing that.
How does Trump get out of this? I think the only way is to consent and hope for the best. Stalling looks bad.
RELATED: A secret service agent at a Trump rally took down a photographer rather hard. No surprise — in fact, it was late in coming. But watch for an increase in this kind of violence.