Donald Trump’s ‘phony source’ is revealed as White House official, in escalating row with newspaper

Donald Trump stoked his simmering feud with The New York Times at the weekend, accusing the stately newspaper of inventing a source for a story. More fake news, was the gist.

Just one problem: The source was in fact a White House official who conducted a briefing for reporters on condition he not be named, according to both the newspaper and reporters who attended.

Such arrangements are commonplace, allowing aides to fill in details about complex issues without overshadowing the president’s own words on the subject.

It seems no-one told Mr Trump.

In a tweet, he accused the newspaper of quoting an official “who doesn’t exist” as he disputed a line about a possible summit with North Korea, which read: “a senior White House official told reporters that even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.”

Mr Trump was no doubt riled by the comments after he earlier said he thought the on-again-off-again June 12 date could bet met.

A transcript of the event showed a reporter asking why the Thursday briefing was not on the record only to be told that the president and secretary of state had both spoken publicly during the day and that it was designed to provide only “background context”.

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Although Mr Trump accused the New York Times of inventing its source, he could perhaps have challenged the newspaper’s interpretation of the words and the conclusion that the June 12 date was "impossible" rather than unlikely.

"I think that the main point, I suppose, is that the ball is in North Korea’s court right now. There’s really not a lot of time," the official said, according to the transcript.

"There’s a certain amount of actual dialogue that needs to take place at the working level with your counterparts to ensure that the agenda is clear in the minds of those two leaders when they sit down to actually meet and talk and negotiate and hopefully make a deal. And June 12 is in 10 minutes."