CNN walked away with a prestigious journalism award at Saturday night’s White House Correspondent’s Association dinner for their role in making public a briefing by intelligence officials to then President-elect Donald Trump. CNN reported the briefing “included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” But the information briefed to the President was also leaked to the media by one of the same senior Obama administration officials who orchestrated the briefing and was hired by CNN months later as a paid analyst.
Some are questioning now if this was ethical –a pay for play of sorts –as it raises serious questions about the role and responsibility that U.S. intelligence officials have when taking on paid positions as analysts for news organizations, while still retaining their high-level security clearances. It also raises similar questions about news organizations and their role of remaining objective and not paying their sources.
“If it would have been anyone else, he’d be prosecuted. Instead, they get a high paid position..”
Reporters Jake Tapper, Jim Sciutto, Evan Perez and Carl Bernstein won the Merriman Smith Award for their broadcast work and reporting on the dossier. But as first reported here it was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who was suspected by Congress of leaking the information to CNN, after he asked now fired FBI Director James Comey to give Trump the private briefing on Jan. 6, 2017.
By August 2017, Clapper was hired by CNN as an analyst but the network never disclosed that Clapper was a major source behind the leak of an unproven and salacious dossier when he joined the network. News agencies and reporters never disclose their sources, it would be unethical, but isn’t it also unethical to pay sources for information or give sources jobs as analysts for your news outlet after they’ve been illegally leaking classified information?
The dossier, which was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele through cut-out Fusion GPS, was also being paid by the Hillary Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee, as first reported by The Washington Post. And Clapper, Comey and former CIA Director John Brennan have been very vocal and partisan against the Trump administration, despite the fact that they are former senior intelligence officials of the United States. The United States has generally observed a tradition of non-partisanship among its intelligence officials who serve the people rather than a regime. In countries like Pakistan, Russia and in other places throughout the world highly partisan intelligence apparatus’ have attempted to destroy, overthrow or control their governments through subversion or coup d’etats.
Brennan, who is now a paid analyst for MSNBC, candidly expresses his anti-Trump opinions in public venues and continues to drop insults along with vague and ominous premonitions about the President, while refusing to show any evidence that the Russian’s possess blackmail material or that the Trump campaign was “colluding” with the Russians to win the presidency. The House Intelligence Committee has found no evidence of collusion after more than 15 months of investigation.
Mr. Trump: Your hypocrisy knows no bounds. Jim Clapper is a man of integrity, honesty, ethics, & morality. You are not. Jim Clapper served his country for over a half century, including in Vietnam. You did not. By your words & behavior, you diminish the Office of the Presidency. https://t.co/bYlmZInDoM
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) April 28, 2018
The FBI, CIA, DNI, among other intelligence agencies, are supposed to work to protect the American people in a non-partisan matter, and current U.S. intelligence officials say the direction these former officials have taken is dangerous.
Former Assistant FBI Director James Kallstrom criticized Brennan and Clapper in an interview Sunday on Fox News Sunday Morning Features with Maria Bartiromo saying there is “no doubt there is a cabal – to diminish his (Trump’s) ability to manage the country.”
Kallstrom said people in the United States should be concerned and react to this, “this is third world country stuff.”
Many current and former U.S. intelligence officials agree.
“Clapper was already in bed with CNN months before he was hired and while he was the DNI,” said a current U.S. intelligence official. “It’s unbelievable that a senior official would leak this type of disinformation to destroy an incoming president. If it would have been anyone else, he’d be prosecuted. Instead, they get a high paid position to the company they leaked to and retain their security clearance. Banana Republic?”
Mary Beth Long, a defense analyst and the first woman to serve as an Assistant Secretary of Defense from 2007 to 2009, responded to my tweet yesterday questioning CNN’s hiring of Clapper but added a very compelling and interesting point.
She questioned if it was “appropriate” for two openly highly partisan intelligence officials, who now work for news networks, to continue to retain their security clearances.
I also understand #Clapper and #Brennan still have access to intel. Is that appropriate for two now “journalists”? Particularly two who are so publicly critical of the Administration? And in view of the handling of the dossier? And leaks? @seanhannity @FoxNews @PoliticalShort
— Mary Beth Long (@LongDefense) April 29, 2018
At the time Comey briefed Trump on the contents of the dossier, no media organization would report on it, despite the fact that Steele had shared it with numerous outlets.
Comey said in his memo that Clapper had asked him to brief the President privately about the dossier’s contents, specifically the salacious part of the document accusing the President of being with prostitutes who urinated on a bed that former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had slept in while staying in a Moscow hotel room.
“I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook,” Comey said in his memo about what he told Trump in the briefing.
“I explained again why I had thought it important that he knows about it,” said Comey. “I also explained that one of the reasons we told him was that the media, CNN in particular, was telling us they were about to run with it.”
As for the White House Correspondent’s Association, they stated that CNN’s story made the “dossier” part of the American “lexicon” and therefore deserved the prestigious award.
These four journalists and a number of other CNN reporters broke the story that the intelligence community had briefed President Barack Obama and then-President-elect Donald Trump that Russia had compromising information about Trump. The CNN team later reported that then-FBI Director James Comey personally briefed Trump about the dossier. Thanks to this CNN investigation, “the dossier” is now part of the lexicon. The depth of reporting demonstrated in these remarkable and important pieces, and the constant updates as new information continued to be uncovered showed breaking news reporting at its best.
It certainly appears that briefing the unverified dossier to the President and then leaking it to the media was part of a plan to undermine an incoming President. It was a “news hook” that led to more than a years worth of stories that accused the President of alleged collusion with Russia and aided the Kremlin in what appears to be one of the greatest disinformation campaigns to sow chaos in the United States, according to numerous former and current U.S. intelligence officials.