By Jesse Goodwin, Staff Writer
President Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks during his campaign, but denounced “low-life leakers” in a lengthy Twitter rant following the emergence of leaked reports that led him to fire his National Security adviser, Michael Flynn.
The reports confirmed that the Justice Department warned the Trump administration last month that Flynn lied to administration officials about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States and was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian government.
In a Twitter rant that extended into his work hours, Trump dismissed the story as “fake” and promised to catch the officials in the government who leaked the details.
He demanded an apology from the “failing” New York Times and accused the news media of making up stories and sources, even as he said he wanted those sources apprehended.
“Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years,” Trump tweeted.
“Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize! The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught! FAKE NEWS media, which makes up stories and ‘sources,’ is far more effective than the discredited Democrats – but they are fading fast!”
These tweets were a startling change in tone towards leaks from his campaign.
During his campaign, Trump routinely praised WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, for disseminating the contents of internal communications stolen from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
The organization published emails from the personal Gmail account of John Podesta, a former White House Chief of Staff and the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
Last July, following a hack of Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz was forced to resign.
Internal emails showed her and other officials discussing ways to undermine Bernie Sanders’s campaign during the primary.
“E-mails say the rigged system is alive & well!” Trump tweeted on July 24, after Schulz stepped down on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.
“Crooked Hillary Clinton knew everything that her ‘servant’ was doing at the DNC – they just got caught, that’s all!”
During the Democratic convention, Trump even publicly encouraged Russian hackers to “to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Clinton’s email server.
And when asked at a July 27 news conference if he would tell Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop any potential interference in the election, Trump claimed that Americans should ignore the sources of leaked information.
“It’s not even about Russia or China or whoever it is that’s doing the hacking,” he said.
“It was about the things that were said in those emails. They were terrible things, talking about Jewish, talking about race, talking about atheist, trying to pin labels on people. What was said was a disgrace.”
In October, hetouted a false leak reported and subsequently retracted by Fox News. The report claimed that an indictment is “likely” in an ongoing FBI inquiry into the Clinton Foundation.
He told supporters at a rally in Jacksonville, Florida that FBI agents said their investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server was “likely to yield an indictment.”
When reports that Trump and President Barack Obama had been briefed on claims that Russian operatives possessed a compromising information about Trump surfaced on January 10, the then-president-elect took to Twitter the next morning to criticize the intelligence community for leaking the unverified dossier and dispute the contents of the dossier.
“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public,” Trump tweeted. “One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
It is telling that Trump has dismissed reports of the Russia leaks as “fake news” yet affirmed the authenticity of the DNC leaks, including one that was confirmed as fake.
He cares not about the authenticity or sources of the leaks so much as whether their information benefits him or his political opponents.
Information concerning the misdeeds of government agencies and officials should be released to the public, even if it implicates Trump.
The Trump administration—and the federal government in general—must be held accountable for any actions that betray the public trust.
The question is, will the media continue to press Trump on these issues?