The Administration

How the media and its ‘sources’ undermine democracy in rage against Trump

Getty Images

It turns out “outrage” is like “beauty.” They both live in the eye of the beholder. Since FBI Director Jim Comey was fired, it seems everyone has developed their own personal flavor of outrage.

At first, people were outraged that President Trump “illegally” fired Comey. Then it became clear that he had the legal authority to do so.

{mosads}Many were outraged when it was reported that Director Comey had been fired “days after he had requested more money for the Russia Investigation.” That story turned out to be utterly untrue.


Next, outrage was fueled with a story that the Deputy U.S. attorney general was so angry with the White House that he threatened to resign. Again, this story wasn’t true either.

But those two stories were simply the warm up act.

A very prominent newspaper published a story of what allegedly happened in an Oval Office meeting with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador. The story claimed that the president had given the Russians highly classified, top-secret information.

The story certainly read as if its source had a first-hand account. It turns out the source was not even in the room. Therefore, the source had no idea that the president had not even been “read in” on the program that he was accused of sharing with the Russians. It’s effectively impossible to reveal intelligence “sources and methods” when you were never briefed on them. Furthermore, the president has the legal authority to share whatever classified information he wants to.

The latest story claimed the president tried to halt the FBI investigation into Gen. Mike Flynn. This piece is written based on an alleged memo that the newspaper admits it has not actually seen. Even the mystery memo the paper has not seen doesn’t make such a claim. The paper reports the memo claims President Trump said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

It takes some serious gymnastics to turn that phrase into “I insist you stop the investigation now.” If the memo is real and factual, it seems abundantly clear that the president was just making an ill-advised plea for some compassion. Ill-advised because, as anyone who has been in Washington for as long as I have knows, traits such as compassion are viewed as weaknesses here and as punishable offenses.

Forget the obvious questions about the state of journalism in 2017. What each of these stories has in common is a leak. 

A leak in Washington is what happens when someone with a grudge to settle is willing to violate their integrity, and possibly the law, to share something with a reporter that they should not be sharing in exchange for secrecy.

This week we have heard “leakers” provide details from one-on-one meetings held when they weren’t in the room or even the building. 

“Leakers” who work in places like the CIA, FBI, and the Department of Justice. “Leakers” who believe that settling a score is more important than adhering to their oath, displaying integrity or following the Constitution. 

I understand that not everyone likes Donald Trump. I recognize that many people are opposed to everything he stands for. But I also understand he is the president. 

As a citizen, you can resist all you want. As an officer of our government, working against the president isn’t an option. It can be a crime. No one at the CIA is being held against their will to work on government wages. Government employees at the Department of State or in “the deep state” are free to turn in their badge and join the private sector.

What these “leakers” are doing to our country will not easily be undone. What future president will blindly trust these men and women? Why should they trust them?

“Leakers” who willingly share a secure cable to create perceptions about what happened in a room they weren’t in are not patriots. They are partisans. They believe their personal beliefs are far more important than the presidency. Violating the law is justified in their eyes. I am certain some of them think it is morally required.

We should all be outraged that someone with access to secure cables feels free to leak any information he or she sees fit to settle some score. We should all realize we have some of these people in posts they should not be in.

My outrage isn’t just limited to the “leakers” in this week’s stories. I, too, am outraged when I read stories from people who attend White House senior staff meetings but feel free to dish on the president or even their peers.

No American is forced to toil at the FBI, the CIA or even the White House. They are all free to leave at their will. If you cannot support the president, then take a stand and take a walk.

Leaking secret information doesn’t just hurt President Trump. No future president will soon forget what they have done in the darkness and surely fear more of the same.

Donald Trump is not a perfect man. We have never had a perfect president. Our democracy depends on the will of the people being supreme. Subverting that will is hardly the high moral ground these leakers think it is.

If you cannot respect the current president, at least understand that someday a different commander-in-chief will sit in the same Oval Office. Imagine a man opposing everything that president stands for, and who can now more easily rationalize taking illegal measures to undermine that president.

The Washington Post recently adopted the motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Unfortunately, that has never been truer.


Barry Bennett (@GOPBarryBennett) is a partner at Avenue Strategies in Washington, D.C. He was a senior advisor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

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

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video