Here is a possibility: The internal government system for whistleblowers is so broken that concerned officials went to The Times to blow the whistle instead.
Times national security correspondent and CNN contributor David Sanger says that’s a valid theory.
“If there was a whistleblower/Inspector General system that intelligence and Pentagon officials trusted, this story might well have not leaked,” Sanger told me. “But because President Trump has dismantled or politicized much of that system, those who want to make clear that the President has ignored the intelligence may have felt they had no choice but to come to the press.”
Sanger said that the president’s determination to ax the “deep state” — driven in part by pro-Trump media’s daily attacks against the bureaucracy, I might add — has potentially accelerated the leaking that’s going on.
Many government officials would argue that the leaks are damaging to national security. Many reporters, myself included, would argue that the leaks are a net positive — because the bounty story has a lot more legs this way.
Three key points
- “The nature of intelligence — always incomplete and not always definitive — gives Mr. Trump an opening to dismiss anything that challenges his worldview.”
- “It doesn’t require a top-secret clearance and access to the government’s most classified information to see that the list of Russian aggressions in recent weeks rivals some of the worst days of the Cold War.”
- “Even Russian state television now regularly mocks Mr. Trump as a buffoon, very different from its gushing tone during the 2016 presidential election.”
“The real Russia hoax”
The PDB problem
“I didn’t see, in 17 months, any evidence the president read the PDB itself,” John Bolton told Jake Tapper on CNN Thursday afternoon, referring to the President’s Daily Brief. So Trump should have been verbally told about the information, even if there was uncertainty. Yes — but can anyone possibly defend the president’s choice not to read the CIA’s daily assessment?
In the interview with Tapper, Bolton also said he had been on the receiving end of Trump’s anger about Russia-related intel.