As Twitchy has noted a number of times, the strain between the news media and Donald Trump started long before his election and looks certain to continue throughout his term, especially as a new front has opened in the ongoing war between the two, with the White House hosting selected briefings off-camera.

It wasn’t only the absence of TV cameras from today’s briefings that stirred up the press; add to that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s insistence Trump was joking on the campaign trail last summer when he said he hoped Russia could find Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails.

But … if you do go to the tape, and lots of journalists have, you learn Trump didn’t “ask Russia to hack” Hillary; he said, in part, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.” In other words, if it was Russia behind the DNC hack, maybe those emails would turn up as well.

Dafna Linzer, managing editor of politics for NBC and MSNBC, went straight to the videotape, which shows he “clearly wasn’t joking.”

Here’s the thing: say what you will about Trump, but would he as a candidate literally ask the Russian government to commit espionage against his opponent during a press briefing? If his campaign was colluding with the Russian government to ensure his election, wouldn’t he just ask through those alleged back channels and not with TV cameras rolling?

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, who annotated a transcript of the press conference headlined, “Donald Trump’s falsehood-laden press conference, annotated,” highlighted that very line with the simple note, “This caused a stir.”

Transcripts are a terrible tool for detecting sarcasm and wry humor, but there’s something about Trump’s “yes sir” at the end of his answer:

Why do I have to … get involved with Putin? I have nothing to do with Putin. I’ve never spoken to him. I don’t know anything about him other than he will respect me. He doesn’t respect our president. And if it is Russia — which it’s probably not, nobody knows who it is — but if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason, because it shows how little respect they have for our country, when they would hack into a major party and get everything. But it would be interesting to see — I will tell you this — Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next. Yes, sir…

What’s incredible is that the press doesn’t seem to get that they were the ones getting slammed. Yes, Trump was joking, at their expense: if he had the power to put Russian intelligence to work at will on behalf of his campaign, as the press seemed to suggest, why not hope agents were hard at work sifting through those emails about yoga and Chelsea’s wedding plans for some dirt?

Trump didn’t seem to think he’d done anything wrong, tweeting the line the following day:

Imagine the surprise, though, when the Clinton campaign’s senior policy advisor accused Trump of encouraging espionage. Hillary Clinton herself repeated the charge during the debates during the famous “No puppet!” exchange.

So … there’s the video clip and the transcript. Journalists seem certain Trump’s line was no joke, and they have lots and lots and lots of followers anxiously agreeing. Any dissenters?

For as long as it works, yes.

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