It Can’t be Both Fake Sources and Illegal Leaks
Just another one of Trump’s logical contradictions.
FAKE NEWS media, which makes up stories and "sources," is far more effective than the discredited Democrats – but they are fading fast!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2017
Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2017
It’s either fake news or its illegal leaking, but it’s not both. It’s ironic that he wants to go after leakers when he himself is the biggest national security threat-he was talking about North Korea’s nukes out at Margo Lago in front of everyone.
Trump is failing to heed Chuck Schumer’s advice: going after the intel agencies is a big mistake. I wrote earlier about his plan to appoint a billionaire with no intel experience to watch the intel agencies.
This now done and done.
NBC News: Trump picks private equity billionaire Stephen Feinberg to lead a broad review of U.S. spy agencies, sr. admin official confirms
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 16, 2017
Trump is therefore intensifying his war against the intel agencies. Another Nixon move along with hiring a plumber.
Note that Trump is now saying, in his first tweet above, that the leakers are going to get caught. This sounds very much like a call for investigations designed to ferret them out.
“The Obama administration aggressively investigated and prosecuted leakers and whistleblowers, too. As Leonard Downie recently put it, Obama’s war on leaks was “the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration.” And as Glenn Greenwald argues, there is an enormous amount of hypocrisy afoot in Washington around leakers — many decried it as a heinous crime when it happened under Obama, yet are now celebrating it under Trump.”
“But it’s nonetheless important to pinpoint exactly what is noteworthy about what Trump is doing here. Trump is calling for an investigation into seemingly illegal leaking, but he’s doing more than this. He’s calling for an investigation into leakers and whistleblowers who are undermining Trump himself. Such investigations presumably could lead to prosecutions.”
“Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman during the Obama years, argues that there is a fundamental difference between what the Obama administration did and what Trump is now doing. He emailed:
Though they are controversial, there is a place for leak investigations into disclosures that harm national security and serve no whistleblowing purpose. But a president asking for investigations into leaks that expose illegal or inappropriate behavior by him or his staff is something else entirely.
“Even if one disagrees with Miller’s defense of leak investigations in select situations, the underlying difference here does appear to be significant. Let’s put this another way: If Trump wants to prove that this fundamental difference is not a meaningful one, he can. He can simply explain why the current round of leaks is a threat to the country, as opposed to merely a political threat to Trump himself. And then we can judge whether he’s making a credible argument. Perhaps the next person who gets to interview Trump might confront him with this line of questioning.”
“Another big question here is how Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, will receive the message Trump has sent. Does he take it as a signal to launch investigations into leakers who have undermined Trump politically by revealing contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign? How might Sessions justify this, given the fact that he was a major figure on the Trump campaign himself? How does that all get squared with the fact that the FBI itself is currently investigating those contacts?”
Again though, remember the Nixon precedent. Nixon’s war on leakers and the intel agencies didn’t save him and it won’t save Trump.
“I spoke to multiple former intelligence and national security professionals. To a person, each said such information picked up from monitored calls would be classified, and in the normal course of an administration would not be leaked. One former senior intelligence official said, “Certainly not appropriate. Certainly with the investigation still ongoing.” Eric Edelman, former ambassador to Turkey, told me, “It is never good when intelligence sources and methods are revealed and there has been sensitivity to American citizens and U.S. government officials being caught in intercepts of conversations with foreign officials over the years.” He added, “Asking the intelligence community for the identities (never provided by name but by position) of American citizens was always pretty sensitive and Democrats made a big deal of [former ambassador to the United Nations] John Bolton having asked the intelligence community about this when he was up for confirmation.”
“Nevertheless, Ben Wittes of the Brookings Institution warned, “The assumption that these are intelligence community leaks is utterly unsupported by the evidence — and I suspect wrong.” In other words, others in the administration may well have been behind the leaks in an effort to move Flynn out of the administration.”
Moreover, most agreed that as a rule leaks occurred when, as one expert put it, “the truth isn’t coming out.” The expert added, “It’s a form of checks and balances.” Yet another put it more colorfully. “It’s not that unusual in the sense that if you piss off the intelligence — which Flynn had also done at [the Defense Intelligence Agency] — you should watch your back,” he said. “Not really appropriate, however common.”
“Trump’s tantrum, however, hardly helps him. For one thing, the “fake news” line is getting stale. Moreover, in this case, Trump forced out Flynn, confirming that he did, in fact, mislead members of the administration. Wittes noted, “And as to Trump’s claim that this is all fake news and made up, well, if that were right, why the heck did he fire the guy?” Likewise, Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia, told me via email, “President Trump should respect the work of those in the independent media.” He added, “He can express a difference of opinion about articles in the media without denigrating the profession as a whole. And by the way, he seems to have believed the Washington Post story about Flynn.”
More fundamental, Trump’s old tactic of attacking the press no longer works with his own party. Low-information, loyal voters might be satisfied with that kind of bluster, but Republicans in the Senate no longer are. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) came forward, as others had, to make the case that “if there were contacts between Russian officials and Trump campaign operatives that was inappropriate, then it would be time for the Congress to form a joint select commission to get to the bottom of all things Russia and Trump.” He added, “The bottom line here is we should have a joint select committee if there is any credibility to the accusation that campaign officials for Trump interacted with the Russians inappropriately.” Senate Democrats and Republicans are beginning to work cooperatively in an effort to get to the bottom of Trump’s Russia connections. Push will come to shove, nevertheless, when Democrats demand to see Trump’s tax returns or subpoena Trump aides. Republicans, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), are openly mulling the best course forward, including the possibility of an independent commission.”
“In short, Trump’s antics — like Kellyanne Conway’s spin — are no match for reality. “There is something bigger going on here given the background of Russian interference in U.S. elections which is on a larger scale than anything seen in the past,” Edelman told me. “In the end of the day, the Trumpkins can’t have it both ways. Did Flynn do something wrong or not? If he did, how would anyone have known absent the leaks since even [Vice President] Pence wasn’t told before The Post, Times, etc. published?”
“Trump is kidding himself if he thinks this will all go away. To the contrary, until we know exactly what Flynn was doing and whether it was at Trump’s direction, his presidency will be seriously impaired.”
Seriously impaired. Just under a month into his Administration.
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