As news reports emerge that the White House is mounting a renewed effort to smoke out internal leakers, a Republican anti-Trump campaign group has released a video telling the president that he cannot rely on anyone’s loyalty – and that even his family is “whispering” about him.
Addressing the president in the first person, the ad asks “why do you think you’re losing, Donald?”, answering that he has “a loyalty problem”. Echoed with sinister whispering, the voiceover continues: “They’re in your campaign, your White House, in Congress, even your own family.
“They whisper about you. They leak, spin, lie. They tell the media that they’re smart and you’re out of control – that you can’t focus, that you’re mentally and physically weak, that you hide in your bunker, scared and shaky, laugh when you can’t walk down a ramp or drink water …
“With so many leaks, you’d probably think it could be anyone. Donald – it’s everyone.”
The group tweeted out its ad for the first time on Tuesday, just as news outlets were reporting that the White House is narrowing down the list of potential culprits who may have leaked the story that the president ignored intelligence about Russian bounty payments for American soldiers’ lives.
And just as the ad went live, the Lincoln Project’s George Conway – the husband of core Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway – tweeted: “@realDonaldTrump, it’s EVERYONE. You’ll never find them, but you can see them just by looking around you.”
The Lincoln Project’s stated methodology is not just to try and swing voters with brutally effective negative ads against Mr Trump and in some cases his Republican allies, but to produce ads targeted very specifically at the president himself in an attempt to exploit his psychology and use it against him.
In May, the group purchased a single slot in the commercial breaks of an edition of Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News, which the president is known to watch devotedly.
The ad shown, “Mourning in America”, so enraged Mr Trump that he tweeted furiously about the project’s team of “losers” throughout the next day, guaranteeing the ad a slot in the news cycle and helping the group raise some $1.4m.
In the case of this particular ad, the target seems to be Mr Trump’s well-known fixation on personal loyalty. The president is known to prize this quality extremely highly in people around him; according to former FBI director James Comey, Mr Trump told him in private in January 2017 that he both “needs” and “expects” loyalty, and that he was obsessed with securing and preserving it from the very beginning of his presidency.
If the Lincoln Project’s ad really is targeted attack on Mr Trump’s own psychology, rather than just a typical attack ad, it has arrived at an apt moment.
While the White House hunts for leakers who have revealed a deeply damaging story of potential presidential misconduct, Mr Trump also faces the release of a book by his cousin, Mary, which reportedly presents an extremely damning analysis of Mr Trump’s character and his relationship with his family, calling him a “damaged man” with “lethal flaws”.
Mr Trump tried to have the book barred from release, but failed; it is now being released two weeks earlier than planned because of huge demand.