Richard Pollock, DCNF
The Washington Post editors refuse to publicly release the smoking gun “anonymous letter” that serves as the foundation of their sensational charge that White House advisor Jared Kushner sought a secret, back-channel to Russian officials.
The “anonymous letter” was part of a front-page article claiming the president’s son-in-law sought to set up a private communications channel to Russian officials during a discussion with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The piece was published Sunday and received high profile coverage throughout the long Memorial Day weekend.
“The Post was first alerted in mid-December to the meeting by an anonymous letter, which said, among other things, that Kushner had talked to Kislyak about setting up the communications channel,” the article’s three authors stated,
WaPo also claimed American intelligence agencies discovered the ploy through an intercepted open phone call by Kislyak to Moscow. Observers have noted that Kislyak, a seasoned spy, made the phone call on an “open line,” and therefore knew it was likely to be intercepted.
To date, there has been no independent verification the letter is real or that WaPo’s description of its contents is accurate. The Washington Post editors also never explain why they withheld the letter.
The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group contacted The Post’s national desk over the weekend, seeking a copy of the letter and an explanation why their editors withheld it from the public. WaPo did not reply to either TheDCNF’s email or phone inquiries.
The question is, what is The Washington Post hiding?
The story is weakened further since its reporters only cite unnamed government officials to confirm the anonymous letter’s charges.
WaPo stated the letter’s allegations were affirmed by unnamed officials “who reviewed the letter and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.”
As a general rule, TheDCNF does not post documents if it endangers genuine whistleblowers, ongoing law enforcement or military operations, human life, or public safety.
Otherwise, TheDCNF emphasizes openness and transparency, which is especially important for original source documents related to its articles. And if it does not publicly link a document, it explicitly explains to readers the reasons why it has not released a key document.
The Post’s secrecy has produced its doubters. Over the weekend, Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who serves on the Senate Committees on Armed Services and the Judiciary, said he believed The Post’s account was bogus.
“I don’t trust this story as far as I can throw it,” the South Carolina Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Graham, who served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence between 2007 to 2009, doubted the Russian Ambassador would transmit the Kushner proposal via an open line, saying it “made no sense” since Kislyak would know U.S. intelligence authorities were monitoring the communication.
“I don’t know who leaked this information, but just think about it this way — you’ve got the ambassador of Russia reporting back to Moscow on an open channel, ‘Hey, Jared Kushner’s going to move into the embassy,’” Graham said on CNN.
Former U.S. Attorney Joseph DiGenova told TheDCNF other unreleased parts of the letter could undermine the credibility of the author and discredit the allegations about Kushner.
“Here’s the problem: we don’t know what else is in the letter. The letter may be so outrageous in its claims that if we read it all, it would throw doubt onto this particular allegation. And it may very well be that the letter is so scurrilous and outrageous that they won’t release it because it will make them look bad for relying on it at all,” he told TheDCNF in an interview.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a nonpartisan government watchdog group dedicated to openness and transparency, said he thought there could be references that shows the letter’s author had a partisan agenda, which WaPo reporters wanted to hide .
“Are they coloring their documents in any way?” he asked during an interview with TheDCNF. “The way you figure that out is whether they disclose their politics or their agendas. We don’t know if the characterization of the underlying documents is accurate or if it’s being slanted.”
Former Air Force Col. James Waurishuk, a senior intelligence and political-military affairs advisor who served on the National Security Council and worked with news organizations, told TheDCNF journalistic integrity has evaporated in Washington.
“We’ve been turning the corner for some time on journalistic integrity. I remember in my career a time when a press organization would not release anything to jeopardize a source, jeopardizing a military operation or some ongoing political dialogue. I think those days are gone,” he told TheDCNF.
Another issue testing the credibility of mainstream news organizations is a May 16 New York Times article claiming a memo former FBI Director James Comey wrote revealed President Donald Trump asked him to drop his investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
But The NYTimes never possessed the Comey memo. According to the newspaper, “The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.”
Fitton faulted The Times on the Comey memos.
“I’ve released documents for decades,” he said. “I could never get a reporter to write a story from a document that I’m reading to them without providing them with the full document.”
Brant Houston, who for a decade was the executive editor of the non-profit Investigative Reporters and Editors, told TheDCNF that in the end, it’s up to readers to decide if anonymous sources or or unseen documents appear credible.
“The great thing about journalism is it’s out there for everybody to see. Readers, viewers and fellow journalists will make their own judgments as to whether uses of anonymity was the appropriate thing to do,” he said.
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