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The Deep State Goes to War with President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer

In January, 1961, Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address after serving two terms as U.S. president; the five-star general chose to warn Americans of this specific threat to democracy: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” That warning was issued prior to the decadelong escalation of the Vietnam War, three more decades of Cold War mania, and the post-9/11 era, all of which radically expanded that unelected faction’s power even further.

This is the faction that is now engaged in open warfare against the duly elected and already widely disliked president-elect, Donald Trump. They are using classic Cold War dirty tactics and the defining ingredients of what has until recently been denounced as “Fake News.”

Their most valuable instrument is the U.S. media, much of which reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials. And Democrats, still reeling from their unexpected and traumatic election loss as well as a systemic collapse of their party, seemingly divorced further and further from reason with each passing day, are willing — eager — to embrace any claim, cheer any tactic, align with any villain, regardless of how unsupported, tawdry and damaging those behaviors might be.

The serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There are a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combatting those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience. All of those strategies have periodically proven themselves effective in times of political crisis or authoritarian overreach.

But cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive. Empowering the very entities that have produced the most shameful atrocities and systemic deceit over the last six decades is desperation of the worst kind. Demanding that evidence-free, anonymous assertions be instantly venerated as Truth — despite emanating from the very precincts designed to propagandize and lie — is an assault on journalism, democracy, and basic human rationality. And casually branding domestic adversaries who refuse to go along as traitors and disloyal foreign operatives is morally bankrupt and certain to backfire on those doing it.

Beyond all that, there is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring accuracy?

All of these toxic ingredients were on full display yesterday as the Deep State unleashed its tawdriest and most aggressive assault yet on Trump: vesting credibility in and then causing the public disclosure of a completely unvetted and unverified document, compiled by a paid, anonymous operative while he was working for both GOP and Democratic opponents of Trump, accusing Trump of a wide range of crimes, corrupt acts and salacious private conduct. The reaction to all of this illustrates that while the Trump presidency poses grave dangers, so, too, do those who are increasingly unhinged in their flailing, slapdash, and destructive attempts to undermine it.

For months, the CIA, with unprecedented clarity, overtly threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and sought to defeat Donald Trump. In August, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell announced his endorsement of Clinton in the New York Times and claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” The CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush, Gen. Michael Hayden, also endorsed Clinton, and went to the Washington Post to warn, in the week before the election, that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin,” adding that Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”

It is not hard to understand why the CIA preferred Clinton over Trump. Clinton was critical of Obama for restraining the CIA’s proxy war in Syria and was eager to expand that war, while Trump denounced it. Clinton clearly wanted a harder line than Obama took against the CIA’s long-standing foes in Moscow, while Trump wanted improved relations and greater cooperation. In general, Clinton defended and intended to extend the decadeslong international military order on which the CIA and Pentagon’s preeminence depends, while Trump — through a still-uncertain mix of instability and extremist conviction — posed a threat to it.

Whatever one’s views are on those debates, it is the democratic framework — the presidential election, the confirmation process, congressional leaders, judicial proceedings, citizen activism and protest, civil disobedience — that should determine how they are resolved. All of those policy disputes were debated out in the open; the public heard them; and Trump won. Nobody should crave the rule of Deep State overlords.

Yet craving Deep State rule is exactly what prominent Democratic operatives and media figures are doing. Any doubt about that is now dispelled. Just last week, Chuck Schumer issued a warning to Trump, telling Rachel Maddow that Trump was being “really dumb” by challenging the unelected intelligence community because of all the ways they possess to destroy those who dare to stand up to them:

And last night, many Democrats openly embraced and celebrated what was, so plainly, an attempt by the Deep State to sabotage an elected official who had defied it: ironically, its own form of blackmail.

Back in October, a political operative and former employee of the British intelligence agency MI6 was being paid by Democrats to dig up dirt on Trump (before that, he was paid by anti-Trump Republicans). He tried to convince countless media outlets to publish a long memo he had written filled with explosive accusations about Trump’s treason, business corruption and sexual escapades, with the overarching theme that Trump was in servitude to Moscow because they were blackmailing and bribing him.

Despite how many had it, no media outlets published it. That was because these were anonymous claims unaccompanied by any evidence at all, and even in this more permissive new media environment, nobody was willing to be journalistically associated with it. As the New York Times’ Executive Editor Dean Baquet put it last night, he would not publish these “totally unsubstantiated” allegations because “we, like others, investigated the allegations and haven’t corroborated them, and we felt we’re not in the business of publishing things we can’t stand by.”

The closest this operative got to success was convincing Mother Jones’s David Corn to publish an October 31 article reporting that “a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country” claims that “he provided the [FBI] with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump.”

But because this was just an anonymous claim unaccompanied by any evidence or any specifics (which Corn withheld), it made very little impact. All of that changed yesterday. Why?

What changed was the intelligence community’s resolution to cause this all to become public and to be viewed as credible. In December, John McCain provided a copy of this report to the FBI and demanded they take it seriously.

At some point last week, the chiefs of the intelligence agencies decided to declare that this ex-British intelligence operative was “credible” enough that his allegations warranted briefing both Trump and Obama about them, thus stamping some sort of vague, indirect, and deniable official approval on these accusations. Someone — by all appearances, numerous officials — then went to CNN to tell them they had done this, causing CNN to go on-air and, in the gravest of tones, announce the “Breaking News” that “the nation’s top intelligence officials” briefed Obama and Trump that Russia had compiled information that “compromised President-elect Trump.”

CNN refused to specify what these allegations were on the ground that they could not “verify” them. But with this document in the hands of multiple media outlets, it was only a matter of time — a small amount of time — before someone would step up and publish the whole thing. Buzzfeed quickly obliged, airing all of the unvetted, anonymous claims about Trump.

Its editor-in-chief Ben Smith published a memo explaining that decision, saying that—- although there “is serious reason to doubt the allegations” — Buzzfeed in general “errs on the side of publication” and “Americans can make up their own minds about the allegations.” Publishing this document predictably produced massive traffic (and thus profit) for the site, with millions of people viewing the article and presumably reading the “dossier.”

One can certainly object to Buzzfeed’s decision and, as the New York Times notes this morning, many journalists are doing so. It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario where it’s justifiable for a news outlet to publish a totally anonymous, unverified, unvetted document filled with scurrilous and inflammatory allegations about which its own editor-in-chief says there “is serious reason to doubt the allegations,” on the ground that they want to leave it to the public to decide whether to believe it.

But even if one believes there is no such case where that is justified, yesterday’s circumstances presented the most compelling scenario possible for doing this. Once CNN strongly hinted at these allegations, it left it to the public imagination to conjure up the dirt Russia allegedly had to blackmail and control Trump. By publishing these accusations, BuzzFeed ended that speculation. More importantly, it allowed everyone to see how dubious this document is, one the CIA and CNN had elevated into some sort of grave national security threat.

Almost immediately after it was published, the farcical nature of the “dossier” manifested. Not only was its author anonymous, but he was paid by Democrats (and, before that, by Trump’s GOP adversaries) to dig up dirt on Trump. Worse, he himself cited no evidence of any kind, but instead relied on a string of other anonymous people in Russia he claims told him these things. Worse still, the document was filled with amateur errors.

While many of the claims are inherently unverified, some can be confirmed. One such claim — that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen secretly traveled to Prague in August to meet with Russian officials — was strongly denied by Cohen, who insisted he had never been to Prague in his life (Prague is the same place that foreign intelligence officials claimed, in 2001, was the site of a nonexistent meeting between Iraqi officials and 9/11 hijackers, which contributed to 70% of Americans believing, as late as the fall of 2003, that Saddam personally planned the 9/11 attack). This morning, the Wall Street Journal reported that “the FBI has found no evidence that [Cohen] traveled to the Czech Republic.”

None of this stopped Democratic operatives and prominent media figures from treating these totally unverified and unvetted allegations as grave revelations. From Vox’s Zach Beauchamp:

BuzzFeed’s Borzou Daraghai posted a long series of tweets discussing the profound consequences of these revelations, only occasionally remembering to insert the rather important journalistic caveat “if true” in his meditations:

Meanwhile, liberal commentator Rebecca Solnit declared this to be a “smoking gun” that proves Trump’s “treason,” while Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas sounded the same theme:

While some Democrats sounded notes of caution — party loyalist Josh Marshall commendably urged: “I would say in reviewing raw, extremely raw ‘intel’, people shld retain their skepticism even if they rightly think Trump is the worst” — the overwhelming reaction was the same as all the other instances where the CIA and its allies released unverified claims about Trump and Russia: instant embrace of the evidence-free assertions as Truth, combined with proclamations that it demonstrated Trump’s status as a traitor (with anyone expressing skepticism designated a Kremlin agent or stooge).

There is a real danger here that this maneuver can harshly backfire, to the great benefit of Trump and to the great detriment of those who want to oppose him. If any of the significant claims in this “dossier” turn out to be provably false — such as Cohen’s trip to Prague — many people will conclude, with Trump’s encouragement, that large media outlets (CNN and BuzzFeed) and anti-Trump factions inside the government (CIA) are deploying “Fake News” to destroy him. In the eyes of many people, that will forever discredit — render impotent — future journalistic exposés that are based on actual, corroborated wrongdoing.

Beyond that, the threat posed by submitting ourselves to the CIA and empowering it to reign supreme outside of the democratic process is — as Eisenhower warned — an even more severe danger. The threat of being ruled by unaccountable and unelected entities is self-evident and grave. That’s especially true when the entity behind which so many are rallying is one with a long and deliberate history of lying, propaganda, war crimes, torture, and the worst atrocities imaginable.

All of the claims about Russia’s interference in U.S. elections and ties to Trump should be fully investigated by a credible body, and the evidence publicly disclosed to the fullest extent possible. As my colleague Sam Biddle argued last week after disclosure of the farcical intelligence community report on Russia hacking — one which even Putin’s foes mocked as a bad joke — the utter lack of evidence for these allegations means “we need an independent, resolute inquiry.” But until then, assertions that are unaccompanied by evidence and disseminated anonymously should be treated with the utmost skepticism — not lavished with convenience-driven gullibility.

Most important of all, the legitimate and effective tactics for opposing Trump are being utterly drowned by these irrational, desperate, ad hoc crusades that have no cogent strategy and make his opponents appear increasingly devoid of reason and gravity. Right now, Trump’s opponents are behaving as media critic Adam Johnson described: as ideological jelly fish, floating around aimlessly and lost, desperately latching on to whatever barge randomly passes by.

There are solutions to Trump. They involve reasoned strategizing and patient focus on issues people actually care about. Whatever those solutions are, venerating the intelligence community, begging for its intervention, and equating their dark and dirty assertions as Truth are most certainly not among them. Doing that cannot possibly achieve any good, and is already doing much harm.

The Deep State Goes to War with President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer

How a Former CIA Officer Reads the Trump Dossier
Fact, fiction, or speculation?

Yesterday, BuzzFeed published a 35-page dossier containing allegations that Russian operatives worked to identify and develop compromising personal and financial information about Donald Trump. Allegedly, this is the full document from which a two-page synopsis was drawn and provided to Trump and President Obama as an appendix to a report about Russian interference in the election.

I have read through the published document, which is actually a collection of short reports containing considerable redundancy. Reportedly, these are memos to the client of an unnamed private security firm in London headed by a former British MI-6 officer who served in Russia and is considered to be a credible source by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement. The investigation was commissioned by a group of anti-Trump Republicans and was subsequently supported by anti-Trump Democrats.

Much of the report has been in the hands of the United States government since the summer. The information is apparently being fact-checked by the FBI, but reportedly, it has not been easy to confirm specific details referred to in the document.

The document is somewhat odd in appearance, as it includes no headings or other information identifying who prepared it. That information has evidently been deleted, possibly out of a desire on the part of those who drafted it to remain anonymous. The Wall Street Journal has identified the ex-MI-6 officer as Christopher Steele of the Orbis security company.

I have worked for private international investigative firms, and the first thing I noted was that the language sounds right. The individual reports are exactly what one would expect in terms of tone and content on updates sent to a client to inform him or her what is happening in an investigation.

The next thing I noted was that sources are protected and described by alphabet letters, but are described by position to reveal their access to desired information. That is also what I would have expected from an intelligence officer or a good investigator. But I also noted that quite a lot of the most significant information comes from a single source, Source E. This source’s credibility or lack thereof has to be considered an important issue. With the information publicly available, it is impossible to determine if he really knows what he claims.

Having done intelligence-based investigations for clients, I would have to observe that the initiators of this work were not looking for information to exonerate Trump. That means that the investigation was looking for negatives, which also implies that the investigative firm and the sources that it acquired were not interested in learning what a nice guy Trump is. No reputable security investigative firm would out-and-out lie to a client (though there are plenty of non-reputable companies that would), but anybody who wants to stay in business would collect any and all information and present it in the most negative light possible, because that is what the client wants. That determination would also hold true for the local sources for the report, all of whom would want to stay on the gravy train as long as possible. That means that they might fabricate if they considered it to be doable without getting caught.

What I am saying is that there is a tendency to report speculation and rumors as fact, or at least something approaching that, with the whole product being put together in such a fashion as to appear credible. That is precisely what I felt when I read through the 35 pages. There is considerable detail, and some proper names are cited, including those of two close associates of Trump and one of Putin. Including proper names provides credibility, though in this case, it appears that the FBI has not been able to confirm the dates and places regarding travel and meetings, so the drafters of the document might have gotten some details wrong or might have assumed that discrepancies would not be detected by the client.

And as for Trump and Team Trump’s connection with the Russians, you can bank on the fact that the KGB successor FSB would know who is coming and going in Moscow. They would target prominent Americans and Europeans as potential sources of information and also as possible elements in influence operations, so the assumption that Trump was being monitored is quite credible. But that doesn’t mean he took the bait to do “deals” with the Russians, as the report even notes, and it does not mean that he is an agent. I would also note in passing that U.S. intelligence agencies similarly prey on foreigners passing through or being educated in this country. CIA has an entire division dedicated to spotting, assessing, and recruiting foreigners who are here for business or study, so it is very much an intelligence-agency operational imperative that is not limited to Russia.

My suspicion would be that the report is a composite of some fact, a lot of speculation, and even some fiction. It is very similar to the types of media-focused disinformation produced by both CIA and KGB in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, where a little bit of factual information would be used to provide credibility for a lot of speculation and false stories that were intended to sow doubt and confusion. In this case, the original intent might well have been to discredit Trump personally; its release at this time is likely intended to delegitimize his presidency, or to narrow his options on recalibrating with Russia.

I expect, however, that much of the possibly tall tale being told will unravel as the FBI continues and expands its investigation. Trump has predictably denounced the entire matter as “fake news.” He may be right.

How a Former CIA Officer Reads the Trump Dossier

When Trump Pits Journalists Against Each Other, He’s Won
In a rambling press conference, he offered lame answers on his business conflicts of interest and alleged Russian hacking.

What a farce.

Donald Trump’s first press conference in almost six months showed that the narcissistic bully is still the media’s master. Like a lounge act, the press conference opened with warm-up talent: Press secretary Sean Spicer attacked the media, particularly CNN and BuzzFeed, for their Monday night stories reporting that the intelligence community warned Trump and President Obama that the Russian government has damaging information on the president-elect. Vice President-elect Mike Pence whipped up the crowd’s excitement, reminding viewers that there are only nine days before Trump can “make America great again.”

Yes, there was a crowd. In addition to more than dozens of reporters, there was an audience consisting of Trump staffers, who cheered for their boss at bizarre times—like when he went after the media, who were the ostensible reason for the odd Wednesday morning pep rally.

Trump appeared rattled by the late-night disclosure of alleged Russian “kompromat” known to intelligence agencies, and again seemed to compare the intelligence community to players in “Nazi Germany.” (My colleague D.D. Guttenplan has a sober take on the revelations here.) Like Guttenplan, I think the allegations of specific contacts between Trump, and his campaign, and Russian government sources are the most important charges; the sexual details are irrelevant. But it must be said that there’s never been a presidential moment as bizarre as Trump insisting he couldn’t have taken part in the sexual activities described in the dossier because “I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.”

While Trump seemed to finally accept claims that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic Party figures, he also appeared to praise the leaks for getting out the truth. “Hacking’s bad and it shouldn’t be done. But look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking. That Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it? That’s a horrible thing. That’s a horrible thing. Can you imagine that if Donald Trump got the questions to the debate — it would’ve been the biggest story in the history of stories. And they would’ve said immediately, ‘You have to get out of the race.’ Nobody even talked about it. It’s a very terrible thing.” That “nobody even talked about it” is a trademark Trump lie; the supposed revelation dominated the news for days.

The ostensible purpose of the press conference was to finally unveil Trump’s plans for his businesses—how he would avoid conflicts of interest and even possible constitutional violations. After reminding viewers, at length, that as president he couldn’t be found to have a conflict of interest, Trump told the press that he would turn over management of his businesses to his sons. “What I’m going to be doing is my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company,” he told the crowd. “They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They’re not going to discuss it with me. Again, I don’t have to do this.” Then he turned the podium over to attorney Sheri Dillon, who made a long, confusing presentation, heavy on legalese, about how Trump would avoid conflicts—at least partly by arguing he couldn’t have a conflict because he’s the president. He would not be selling his business, Dillon said, because “President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built.”

Shortly after Dillon wrapped, Common Cause released a statement saying Trump’s proposal “falls far short of what’s necessary to avoid conflicts of interest and Emoluments Clause violations.” Obama ethics watchdog Norm Eisen told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent: “The Trump plan falls short in every respect. Trump did not make a clean break with his business ownership interests as his predecessors for four decades have done. Trump’s ill-advised course will precipitate scandal and corruption.”

Then Trump returned to the podium, and answered a few more questions from journalists. Drama flared when Trump refused to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta, denouncing his network as “fake news” and calling the correspondent “rude.” For a while Acosta’s competitors seemed to pause to let him continue to press Trump, and then the waters closed over him, as reporters ignored the insult to a colleague and just jumped back in the scrum. For the record, Acosta said later that an ABC reporter actually asked the question he was trying to, about whether the Trump campaign had any contacts with Russian officials during the campaign; Trump didn’t answer her, either, but later answered “no” when getting on an elevator. So there you have it. Trump then turned to Matthew Boyle, a reporter at what amounts his own private news agency, Breitbart, and took a question about how he planned to reform media.

Making things worse was the fact that while networks covered Trump, as they of course had to, senators were grilling secretary-of-state nominee Rex Tillerson, the Vladimir Putin friend who heads Exxon-Mobil, while witnesses testified for and against the dangerous-to-civil-rights attorney-general nominee Jeff Sessions. Many of us covered a press conference in which we learned little, rather than hearings at which we could have learned a lot. (Ari Berman will be reporting from the Sessions hearing later.)

I thought reporters in the room ought to have shown more solidarity with CNN’s Acosta. Any of them could be next. But I was then dismayed to watch CNN attack BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the entire intelligence dossier—a controversial decision in journalism circles, to be sure, but a defensible one. “CNN’s decision to publish carefully sourced reporting about the operations of our government is vastly different than BuzzFeed’s decision to publish unsubstantiated memos,” the statement read in part. “The Trump team knows this. They are using BuzzFeed’s decision to deflect from CNN’s reporting, which has been matched by the other major news organizations.”

It seemed as though CNN was bending over backward to make clear that it wasn’t really the news agency Trump had a beef with, it was those low-lifes over there. (For his part, BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith declined to respond.) When Trump gets journalists fighting among themselves, he’s won the news cycle. Once again, a frightening political performance by an unprepared president-elect will avoid the full-force media outrage it deserves.

When Trump Pits Journalists Against Each Other, He’s Won

Craven Reporters Scold BuzzFeed For Reporting News

As you’re likely aware by now, yesterday evening BuzzFeed published a dossier of allegations about Donald Trump, including the instantly unforgettable description of a hotel-room piss party with Russian prostitutes. This set the internet on fire for much of last night and dominated a bizarre press conference held earlier today in which the president-elect, among other things, suggested that BuzzFeed would face “consequences.”

The truth of the claims in the dossier has not been verified; what has been verified, by several other outlets, is that this dossier exists, and has been known to exist for some time, and contains the claims in BuzzFeed’s reporting. Yesterday afternoon, prior to BuzzFeed’s publication of the dossier’s contents, CNN reported both the dossier’s existence, and that both Trump and President Obama had been briefed on its contents by senior intelligence officials. According to CNN’s reporting, as far back as Dec. 9, John McCain gave a copy of the dossier to FBI director James Comey. In BuzzFeed’s words, the dossier “has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.”

As you might expect, much of the talk around media today is about journalism ethics and responsibility. What may surprise and horrify you—or anyway should—is that by and large the journalists being accused of dereliction are not the ones who participated in the circulation of this explosively and undeniably newsworthy dossier for weeks without reporting its contents to the public, but the ones who eventually did get around to performing that simple and fundamental journalistic function.

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple thinks the public can’t be trusted with the dossier’s contents until they “build their own intelligence agencies,” conveniently ignoring the fact that the public already did that, when it built the very intelligence agencies whose head honchos briefed Donald Trump on the dossier’s contents but withheld them from the public. Poynter, a professional handwringing outfit specializing in scolding working reporters who break news, thinks “the work of journalists in 2017” is to make sure the public doesn’t learn about the things its elected leaders are discussing in secret unless those things can be proven to be based on verifiable fact. CNN’s Jake Tapper went on the air today to draw a smarmy contrast between “legitimate, responsible attempts to report on this incoming administration” and, y’know, publishing the contents of a document that has been occupying attention in the corridors of national power for weeks.

Here’s a revoltingly typical example of today’s performative qualming, from The Atlantic’s David Graham; I’ll highlight the part where my laptop went frisbeeing over the fucking horizon:

That raises a range of potential objections. First, it unfairly forces a public figure—Trump, in this case—to respond to a set of allegations that might or might not be entirely scurrilous; the reporters, by their own admission, do not know. Second, the appeal to “transparency” notwithstanding, this represents an abdication of the basic responsibility of journalism. The reporter’s job is not to simply dump as much information as possible into the public domain, though that can at times be useful too, as some of WikiLeaks’ revelations have shown. It is to gather information, sift through it, and determine what is true and what is not.

The appeal to “transparency” notwithstanding. Holy shit! If a reporter’s job is not “learn what powerful people are talking about in secret, and then share it with everybody else,” then I sincerely do not know what the fuck it is, or why we are supposed to believe it has any value whatsoever.

Here is a document that “elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists” have been circulating among themselves in secret “for weeks” is not merely a permissible news story. It needs no radical extremist reporting catechism to smile upon it. Publishing that document, if you have gotten your hands on it, is the most basic and essential act of reporting. The mandate to publish that document is not a matter of journalistic ethics, but the entire reason to have a free press. If the reason not to publish it is fealty to some code of ethics, then that code of ethics serves only to uphold reporters as a privileged class of information brokers. Of what value is that to the public?

But even on its own terms, this argument can’t stand up. If a reporter’s job is to sift through information to parse out what can be verified before sharing it with the public, let’s look at the verified truths in this story. No one disputes that the dossier exists, or that it contains the claims in BuzzFeed’s reporting, or that it has been making the rounds among many of the most powerful people in American government, though not all of them:

Some of the most powerful people in American society have been sharing and reading and discussing a document. We’re supposed to be mad at the reporters who decided that everyone else should get a look at it too?

Graham further wrings his hands over Trump—by his own admission a public figure—being forced to respond to the dossier’s allegations. That Donald Trump is a public figure is no accident: You may recall him seeking, and winning, election to the presidency of the United States. (Perhaps you additionally remember him flouting the disclosure protocols typically associated with campaigning for that job.) This dossier reportedly has been making the rounds among some of the highest-ranking people in the United States government, including Trump and (presumably) his staff; the discussion about it is happening; and it was already happening before anybody at BuzzFeed clicked a button to publish the thing. Under no set of circumstances would the incoming president of the United States—a figure not just “public” in the sense of being very famous, but one whose accountability to the public is written into the laws of the land—be able to avoid responding, in some way or another, formally or informally, to a dossier circulating at the highest levels of government alleging that he has troublesome and potentially scandalous ties to a foreign power (and enjoys watching Russian hookers piss on beds in which the Obamas have slept).

All BuzzFeed’s reporting has assured is that that response—which, again, never was not going to happen—must include some public component. In short, it has assured that an elected official is forced to answer, however poorly or dishonestly, to the people who elected him. It has fulfilled the highest and most basic purpose of journalism.

And here are reporters, for chrissakes, telling us that a trade interest in controlling the flow of information ought to prevent that from happening. There’s been a lot of talk lately about how Donald Trump happened. Here’s part of the answer.

Craven Reporters Scold BuzzFeed For Reporting News

Source: ONTD_Political

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