I’m just going to hold CNN to its own standard here.
Jim Sciutto left a job as an ABC News foreign affairs reporter to go work for the Obama Administration. He is one of many journalists to do so, but the only one I can think of who left the Obama Administration to turn back into a reporter.
Sciutto went into the Obama Administration to work with former progressive Washington Governor Gary Locke who became Ambassador to China. Most media outlets have downplayed Sciutto’s role as an Obama political appointee, but he was.
Based on CNN’s own reporting and conduct, if Sciutto had worked for George W. Bush or Donald Trump, CNN would raise questions about the ethical propriety of a story conjured by Sciutto that blasted an administration of the opposing party. That is what we should do with Sciutto’s new story, which is pretty directly contradicted by the New York Times and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Sciutto claims that President Trump’s improper handling of intelligence information potentially compromised a long time US source in Russia, necessitating that source’s extraction.
A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy. The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel. The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter. At the time, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration officials that too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset. An extraction, or “exfiltration” as such an operation is referred to by intelligence officials, is an extraordinary remedy when US intelligence believes an asset is in immediate danger.
You will note that a single source tells Sciutto this. Again, were the shoe on the other foot, CNN would be questioning whether Sciutto got it from someone sympathetic to his politics and Sciutto then interpreted everything else through that lens.
The key framing from CNN is that the President put the source in jeopardy. That is Sciutto’s major emphasis and, in his interview on CNN, what he goes to first until pushed for more.
The decision to extract the informant was driven “in part” because of concerns that Mr. Trump and his administration had mishandled delicate intelligence, CNN reported. But former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source, and other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.
But wait…there’s more. Sciutto had, by his own reporting, just one source tell him Trump was the reason and interpreted other sources through that one source. The New York Times had multiple sources saying otherwise. In fairness to Sciutto, the CIA and Administration failed to give him examples of media reporting that jeopardized the source. But, quite possibly, Sciutto waited until the last minute to ask for examples and they had none at the ready.
The New York Times actually has a lot of examples of media reporting that put the source in jeopardy while emphasizing that there is no evidence the President ever did.
But the government had indicated that the source existed long before Mr. Trump took office, first in formally accusing Russia of interference in October 2016 and then when intelligence officials declassified parts of their assessment about the interference campaign for public release in January 2017. News agencies, including NBC, began reporting around that time about Mr. Putin’s involvement in the election sabotage and on the C.I.A.’s possible sources for the assessment.The following month, The Washington Post reported that the C.I.A.’s conclusions relied on “sourcing deep inside the Russian government.” And The New York Times later published articles disclosing details about the source.The news reporting in the spring and summer of 2017 convinced United States government officials that they had to update and revive their extraction plan, according to people familiar the matter.
If Jim Sciutto were from a Republican Administration and did this on Fox, CNN would have lots of questions. We all know it and the people at CNN know it.
The network has long sought to downplay Sciutto’s political appointment in the Obama Administration, but I think it is deeply relevant here and CNN would undoubtedly think it relevant if the partisan roles were reversed.
What is more deeply relevant is that Scuitto’s own reporting has a single source directly pointing to Donald Trump as the reason the source was extracted and the New York Times has several current and former officials saying otherwise.
If you don’t believe me on this, just look at CNN, which has chosen to continue its attack on President Trump’s Alabama hurricane statement as its major story while burying its own exclusive report.
UPDATED: The Washington Post is out with its story too and it, like the New York Times, greatly downplays the President’s culpability, leaving CNN out by itself on this claim. Unlike CNN, the Washington Post also uses multiple sources.