Trump’s Department of Justice
The tight-rope walk between protecting national security and the need for a free press has always been a challenge. It’s essential that government and justice operate without the fear of damaging leaks to the media, similar to your need of security on your social media platforms.
Our President, Donald Trump, spends an inordinate amount of time writing and sending posts to Twitter. Some people, even many of his followers, consider this an exorbitant use of a social media platform. Trump’s tweets often get him into trouble, but our president’s psychological vomiting gives the nation a revealing look into his soul.
There is a widely held belief in our government that if the President of the United States reveals something then it is no longer classified. Under this logic, once the leader of the free world speaks whatever he says is not a leak. Trump fails to realize, however, that some of the leaks he complains about are things that he shared with his buddies on the phone. Trump uses these people as sounding boards, but they also talk to others.
Good reporting is much like a jig-saw puzzle. A journalistic sleuth will interview and prod people in power and tap official sources. By carefully connecting the dots of loosely related pieces of a story, a talented journalist can then write a complete story, hopefully with the added value of a big scoop. Once the report is written, the correspondent usually calls people in authoritative positions to have them verify the premise or the facts. Many times, a “no comment” is interpreted as approval. While this is not always correct, it is an accepted technique. The old, “Well, they didn’t deny it,” can be a bit like walking on thin ice.
Because of the competitive nature of the press, and the aggressive, often unprofessional, work of web bloggers and media sites, reporters are not afraid of rummaging through someone’s trash to get a story. Some writers have a political purpose and will bend the story to fit their perspective, right or left. Washington, D.C. seems like a big city, but it’s really a bunch of little towns filled with gossip, rumors, and bottom-feeders. The government might be the Capitol’s biggest employer, but the notion of a swamp isn’t too far from the truth.
In their quest for truth, reporters will do just about anything to concoct a good story. Because the D.C. center of power is so small, personal relationships and late-night bed partners often play into the mix. Human nature doesn’t change, but the law about protecting the secrets of government are black and white.
In 2003, a journalist for The Washington Post, James Novak, received inside information from Richard Armitage, who worked at the Department of State. Novak then published a story that revealed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Not only did this end Ms. Plame’s CIA career, it also generated a grand jury investigation.
The case was United States v. Libby and, yes, that is the same Scooter Libby who President Trump recently pardoned. Libby’s was VP Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, and he was found guilty of making false statements to investigators about leaking information to reporters. Many people believe that Libby took the fall for Cheney, who was probably also in the loop of the leak.
Now, here are some strange coincidences. The special prosecutor in the Scooter Libby case was Patrick Fitzgerald. He prosecuted and got a conviction of Rod Blagojevich, who was the Governor of Illinois at the time, for attempting to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat for money. Trump said he is considering pardoning Blagojevich. And to make the stew a little thicker, James Comey, then acting Attorney General, was the person who appointed Fitzgerald to investigate the leaking of Plame’s identity.
But it gets even stranger. Scooter Libby tried his hand at writing and published a fictional novel about a smallpox epidemic in Japan in 1903 called, The Apprentice. One can’t make this stuff up and it shows the interlocking circles of our government and Trump’s intentions.
The front-page story in the New York Times today (6-8-2018) reports that, “A former Senate Intelligence Committee aide was arrested on Thursday in an investigation of classified information leaks where prosecutors also secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records.” The story alleges that the former aide, 57-year-old James A. Wolfe, was charged with lying repeatedly to FBI investigators about his contacts with three reporters. A shocking fact is this was the first known instance of the Trump Justice Department seizing a reporter’s records.
But wait, there’s more. Wolfe and reporter Ali Watkins were allegedly dating. The New York Times went on to add, “It appeared that the FBI was investigating how Ms. Watkins learned that Russian spies in 2013 had tried to recruit Carter Page, a former Trump foreign policy adviser.” I guess the “failing” New York Times really did have a major scoop.
Wolfe has worked in a security role on the Hill for over 30 years. This puts the Great Orange Leader in a precarious position. While Trump disparages his own Justice Department, those same professionals are using the same legal methods to obtain information which could lead to a conviction, just as they did in New York with Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer. This underscores the notion of no one being above the law, and that Donald Trump may be in the thick of the same kind of thorough investigation in the Russian probe. As someone pointed out, “investigation” is part of their name: Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Trump has his unlimited power to pardon, as he did for Scooter Libby. Perhaps this was a message sent to anyone who might be thinking of testifying against him or flipping on him. Regardless, the media will continue their relentless fact finding. That is what they do.
There are people who consider themselves whistle-blowers and the Washington press corps craves their precious pieces of information. All the king’s horses and men will never stop the leaks, whether they are legal or not. Human nature dictates that, sooner or later, someone will leak. And we thank them for giving us the gift that Trump cannot, TRANSPARENCY.
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The Jonas Bronck Series
BOOK ONE (IF GOD COULD TALK) A Cable TV talk show host is approached by a friend who offers a guest for his show who has never been on TV before. The Diary of a TV Journalist is the story about the host of the show and his executive producer vetting the guest and attempting to determine what would happnen If God Could Talk…
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