Yates, media apparent partners in effort to ignore criminal leaks aimed at Trump

Greg Nash
Two big stories were on full display during this week’s made-for-TV Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.

One was about former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warning the Trump administration that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail by Russia. 

The second was about classified information on Flynn’s conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak leaking to The Washington Post.

{mosads}If you watched the evening newscasts or CNN or MSNBC, the focus was almost all on the first story. It was all about Yates, Flynn and the 18 days that elapsed between Yates warning the White House and Flynn’s termination.
And that’s fine. It’s a legitimate story and coverage was warranted. 

But that doesn’t mean the second story, about information on a private citizen(s) obtained via government surveillance leaking for political purposes, should be glossed over.

The president tweeted out what he felt was the lede to come out of the hearings. That doesn’t make it so, of course, but it does warrant more than a passing analysis and oh-by-the-way mentions before turning back to all things Flynn, the White House and Russia.
So here’s the problem: Many in media are using the president’s tweet around Trump Tower being wiretapped as an excuse to not cover any story about possible surveillance of Trump’s team that took place during the Obama administration.
Per a July CNN report: “The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate, according to US officials briefed on the investigation.”

To any objective observer, and there are very few left in the polarized media bubble, it should be quite easy to separate the evidence-free Trump Tower tweet from what happened with Flynn and 1,933 other private U.S. citizens in 2016 alone, per James Clapper’s count during testimony Monday. 

The stories are mutually exclusive. Apples and oranges. One doesn’t cancel out the other. Improper surveillance, or “unmasking,” and unauthorized, criminal leaks absolutely warrant investigation.

“[Unmasking] is a crime. And so … is taking classified information, unclassifying it, and leaking it out. That is something somebody in the Obama administration decided to do,” Speaker Paul Ryan said on Fox News early Tuesday. 

Of course, leaks are something journalists can benefit from — and some have even encouraged. 

Take veteran New York Times Pulitzer-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof, who urged IRS employees in March to leak Donald Trump’s tax returns to his publication. 

“If you’re in IRS and have a certain president’s tax return that you’d like to leak, my address is: NYT, 620 Eighth Ave, NY NY 10018,” Kristof wrote on Twitter to two million followers.

Releasing an individual’s unauthorized tax returns is a felony. And while reporters who publish illegally obtained information they did not solicit are traditionally not prosecuted, the legal picture becomes less clear if the reporters are involved in the leaking of the information.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to whom any return or return information (as defined in section 6103(b)) is disclosed in a manner unauthorized by this title thereafter willfully to print or publish in any manner not provided by law any such return or return information,” according to the U.S. code on unauthorized disclosure of information. 
“Any violation of this paragraph shall be a felony punishable by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution,” the law reads.

No matter. Kristof faced zero reprimand internally at the Times, and the press stayed silent. 
Two big stories emerged from yesterday’s hearings starring Sally Yates and James Clapper. 
But to our myopic media, only one was worthy of attention. 
Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump James Clapper Joe Concha media Michael Flynn Paul Ryan Sally Yates

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