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President Trump signals legal action against intelligence leakers undermining his Presidency

In a succession of tweets President Trump hints that a criminal investigation will shortly be launched to track down and punish the leakers who published classified information in order to bring General Flynn down.

US President Trump – as I speculated yesterday he might do – has signalled today that a leak investigation will be launched to track down and punish the leakers from within the US intelligence community who have been working overtime since before he was elected to undermine and delegitimise him.

That this is so is confirmed in a series of tweets President Trump has published today (here, here, here, and here)

The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story – RUSSIA. Fake news!

FAKE NEWS media, which makes up stories and “sources,” is far more effective than the discredited Democrats – but they are fading fast!

The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!

Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing (and others) must apologize!

(bold italics added)

President Trump’s reference to The New York Times refers to a preposterous non-story which it published yesterday in which on the strength of information provided by our old friends the ‘anonymous current and retired officials’ it spoke luridly of US intelligence ‘detecting contacts’ between Russian intelligence agents and people close to Donald Trump during the early stages of the US Presidential election campaign last year.

Since The New York Times admits that nothing untoward was discovered happening during these contacts, that some of these contacts appeared to concern straightforward business transactions, that some of the people close to Trump who were engaged in these contacts were not members of his campaign, and that it is far from clear whether they were even aware that the people they were dealing with had been identified by the US intelligence community as Russian intelligence agents, it is difficult to see anything meaningful in this story, a variant of which was also published by CNN.

Since The New York Times story does not report news it cannot be considered proper news reporting.  Rather it looks like an attempt to lend colour to the paranoid but now widespread claim that General Flynn’s telephone conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak were part of some vast sinister web of secret contacts between the Russians and Donald Trump’s campaign.

The fact that there was nothing secret about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak, that Flynn apparently said nothing inappropriate during his conversations with Kislyak, and that Flynn and Kislyak would undoubtedly have known that US intelligence was listening to what they were saying to each other, is sufficient to show the total absurdity of this claim.

I will here express my dismay that The New York Times – a once great newspaper – is lending its authority to it.

Putting that aside, the way in which classified information was used by members of the US intelligence community to destroy General Flynn has (finally!) led to public expressions of alarm even on the part of some in the establishment media at the way the campaign against Donald Trump is being conducted.

In addition to the article in Bloomberg by Eli Lake which I discussed previously, there is also for example this article by Damon Linker in The Week

The United States is much better off without Michael Flynn serving as national security adviser. But no one should be cheering the way he was brought down.

The whole episode is evidence of the precipitous and ongoing collapse of America’s democratic institutions — not a sign of their resiliency. Flynn’s ouster was a soft coup (or political assassination) engineered by anonymous intelligence community bureaucrats. The results might be salutary, but this isn’t the way a liberal democracy is supposed to function.

Unelected intelligence analysts work for the president, not the other way around. Far too many Trump critics appear not to care that these intelligence agents leaked highly sensitive information to the press — mostly because Trump critics are pleased with the result. “Finally,” they say, “someone took a stand to expose collusion between the Russians and a senior aide to the president!” It is indeed important that someone took such a stand. But it matters greatly who that someone is and how they take their stand. Members of the unelected, unaccountable intelligence community are not the right someone, especially when they target a senior aide to the president by leaking anonymously to newspapers the content of classified phone intercepts, where the unverified, unsubstantiated information can inflict politically fatal damage almost instantaneously……

…….no matter what Flynn did, it is simply not the role of the deep state to target a man working in one of the political branches of the government by dishing to reporters about information it has gathered clandestinely. It is the role of elected members of Congress to conduct public investigations of alleged wrongdoing by public officials…..

In a liberal democracy, how things happen is often as important as what happens. Procedures matter. So do rules and public accountability. The chaotic, dysfunctional Trump White House is placing the entire system under enormous strain. That’s bad. But the answer isn’t to counter it with equally irregular acts of sabotage — or with a disinformation campaign waged by nameless civil servants toiling away in the surveillance state…..

Those cheering the deep state torpedoing of Flynn are saying, in effect, that a police state is perfectly fine so long as it helps to bring down Trump.

It is the role of Congress to investigate the president and those who work for him. If Congress resists doing its duty, out of a mixture of self-interest and cowardice, the American people have no choice but to try and hold the government’s feet to the fire, demanding action with phone calls, protests, and, ultimately, votes. That is a democratic response to the failure of democracy.

Sitting back and letting shadowy, unaccountable agents of espionage do the job for us simply isn’t an acceptable alternative.

Down that path lies the end of democracy in America.

Even in militantly anti-Trump Britain there are now expressions of concern.  The most powerful is by Julie Lenarz in an article in the rigidly pro-establishment Daily Telegraph

Flynn’s orchestrated downfall by unaccountable, shadowy agents entrusted with the country’s most sensitive secrets is not just bad news for the Trump administration. It raises serious concerns over the democratic nature of the US political system.

This is not how a liberal democracy is meant to function. You may be right in thinking that Michael Flynn was a disastrous choice as National Security adviser and that his questionable ties to high-ranking Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, are compelling enough to withdraw confidence in him….

And you may be right in thinking that we are all safer without him walking the corridors of the White House. But the end does not justify the means. It was not the place of unelected members of the intelligence community to leak highly sensitive information to the public to bring down an official, a member of a democratically elected government, because he was deemed unqualified and undesirable by them…..

…..it matters, a great deal, who is holding the government accountable and how it is being done. In a liberal democracy there are proper procedures in place. It is the role of elected officials, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, to investigate the government for breaking the law and endangering national security.

The leaking of highly sensitive material by an unelected agent to bring down an official of the government is an unprecedented breach of trust that must be unequivocally condemned. If liberal democracy means anything, regardless of political orientation, the engineered political assassination of Flynn must be denounced by Trump critics and supporters alike. And if this happened in any other country – or to any other president – we would see it as symptomatic of a decline of democracy and a corruption of the security apparatus.

The rise of the deep state cannot be the answer to bringing down the Trump administration, no matter how critical you may be of the government and its conduct. That would be a dangerous drift towards a police state not worthy of the land of the free.

As I wrote yesterday, the flagrant illegality of the way in which General Flynn’s downfall was brought about has given the President the handle he needs to act against those in the US intelligence community who have been working to undermine him.  His comment in his tweets today – “they will be caught!’ – suggests he intends to use it.  With Jeff Sessions now confirmed as Attorney General there is nothing obvious which can stop him.

I would make one final point.  It is interesting that since the inauguration many of the leaks have come not just from serving US official but from  “retired” officials as well.

That all but confirms that some former officials of the Obama administration are actively involved in the campaign to undermine the new President.  Presumably they are people who had access to the classified information which is now being leaked, which suggests that they held senior positions in the previous administration.

It will be very interesting to find out who they are.  Perhaps as a result of the investigation President Trump is hinting at we will find out.

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Alexander Mercouris
Editor-in-Chief atThe Duran.

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