If you want to bring an issue to the attention of the president of the United States, there is no better way to do so than to put it on television.
The crew at “Fox & Friends” knows this, which is likely why it made sure this morning to report on this OMG BOMBSHELL NEWS:
“It turns out he may have actually broken the rules. A brand-new bombshell report accuses Comey of putting our national security at risk. According to The Hill, the former FBI director's personal memos detailing private conversations with President Trump contained top-secret information.”
The background here is that James Comey admitted in his Senate testimony last month that he gave one of the memos he composed after his Oval Office conversations with the president to a friend to leak to the media. The Trump camp's defense has long been that the conversations were private and ipso facto classified, making Comey's leaking of a memo about them illegal.
“Fox & Friends” brought up this bombshell at 6:12 a.m. Monday morning. At 6:32, the show's social media team blasted out a short clip of the segment. The president retweeted it, and at 6:40, he added his own gloss on the story for good measure:
Mission accomplished, “Fox & Friends”!
Except that the bombshell-ness of this blockbuster scoop completely withers once you read the story in The Hill that the Fox crew pulled it from (emphasis mine):
More than half of the memos former FBI Director James Comey wrote as personal recollections of his conversations with President Trump about the Russia investigation have been determined to contain classified information, according to interviews with officials familiar with the documents.
Comey, it turns out, wrote seven memos based on nine conversations with Trump. Four of those memos have allegedly been shown to contain classified information. What the hosts of “Fox & Friends” don't tell you is whether it was one of those four memos that Comey gave to his friend to leak to the media.
Why don't they tell you this? Because even The Hill barely acknowledges that question. At best, the story nods to it in the 23rd(!) paragraph (out of 24) in the story. Again, emphasis mine:
In order to make an assessment, congressional investigators will have to tackle key questions, such as where and how the memos were created, including whether they were written on an insecure computer or notepad; where and how the memos were stored, such as inside Comey's home, in a briefcase or on an insecure laptop; whether any memos were shown to private individuals without a security clearance and whether those memos contained any classified information; and when was it determined by the government that the memos contained classified information, before Comey took them and shared one or after.
The Hill does not say whether the memo Comey handed to his friend was one of the four containing classified information.
But that distinction is the entire crux of the story, as CNN anchor Kate Bolduan discussed with network legal correspondent Jessica Schneider later in the morning:
So to sum up: The Hill writes a story that does not come remotely close to making the distinction on which its entire thesis revolves, “Fox & Friends” lies through its teeth while bringing this “blockbuster” to the president's attention, the president tweets it out while amplifying the lie, and it becomes the White House talking point for the rest of the day and, likely, eternity.
There is a reason that the sources for The Hill's story leaked to The Hill and not a more widely read publication, and this pipeline directly to the president's brain shows why. Had it come from, say, Time via a segment on “Morning Joe,” Trump would have never believed it.
Glad we could clear that up.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.