Sean Spicer, President Donald Trump's controversial press secretary, personally connected federal officials with reporters in an effort to discredit the New York Times article accusing the president's campaign aides of maintaining communication with Russia.
According to Axios, Spicer put Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo and Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in contact with reporters from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on Feb. 15.
After the Times column argued Trump aides had communicated with Russian intelligence, an FBI official reportedly told the White House that the story was “b.s.,” prompting the White House to act once the FBI failed to inform the press about this assessment. As the Trump administration looked for officials who would “convey that idea to inquiring reporters,” Spicer allegedly made his move.
While the White House press secretary failed to comment on this story, an official who spoke with Axios said the agency had been getting calls from the media all day. Even as the administration encouraged people “with direct knowledge of the accuracy of the Times story to discuss it with other reporters.”
Again @seanspicer dodges the question about if he personally reached out to the CIA director— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) February 27, 2017
During the call arranged by Spicer, little was said. Instead of offering any kind of evidence that would help the White House case against the Times piece, Pompeo and Burr simply told reporters that the story wasn't true.
“All I can tell you is the story is not accurate,” officials allegedly told journalists.
According to Axios, officials from the President Barack Obama administration say that it's rare for the CIA director to talk to a journalist. Instead, only a publisher or an executive editor is given access to the top ranking official, and only in case a publication is contemplating releasing a story that could harm national security.
After the White House took such bold steps to counter the Times piece, the Washington Post reported about the pushback operation, prompting George Little, a top CIA and Pentagon spokesperson in the last administration, to say that Congress will not “conduct an objective and independent investigation into ties between this White House and the Russian government if it is collaborating so closely on media pushback with the White House press secretary.”
It's unlikely that Spicer — or his colleagues — will ever be taken seriously by acting this way. If an independent investigation into Trump's alleged ties with Russia is finally carried out, we might know the full extent of this story. Until then, Trump's White House might want to reconsider their actions, keeping in mind the various unethical moves they have made over the past couple of weeks.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Carlos Barria