On Monday, Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn resigned his position as National Security Advisor after it was revealed that he may have mistakenly misled Vice President Pence about conversations he had with the Russian Ambassador before taking office - conversations which may have included the topic of U.S. sanctions against Russia.
Flynn has said that he couldn’t recall whether or not the topic of sanctions came up and that any failure to disclose that to Pence was an honest mistake. There is no reason not to believe him.
The delicate situation was made worse once the media got a hold of leaked classified information that the conversations between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador might have been recorded by the FBI. At that point, the issue became a major distraction for the Trump Administration and threatened to derail the president’s agenda. This led to an erosion of trust between President Trump and Flynn.
However, it has also been reported that the FBI has subsequently reviewed the transcripts and interviewed Flynn and determined that he did not violate the law. For LTG Flynn, it was too late, as the damage done by the media and leakers was already done. But the irresponsible media coverage didn’t end there.
Over the last week, reports have surfaced in the media that other Trump campaign officials were in touch with Russian officials during the presidential campaign. What is missing from all of these shoddy reports is the “so what?”
No news outlet or government official has provided any color to the context of those conversations, whether or not the contacts were inappropriate, or who in the Trump administration or campaign was involved. So far, all that has been reported is that “contact” took place.
That in itself it’s not a crime nor is it a scandal worthy of the level of speculation or conspiracy theory development that has captured Washington’s attention over the last week.
The media has gone into hysterics about the contacts between team Trump and the Russians without any evidence or reporting to suggest that those contacts went beyond normal engagement. There has also been no reporting to indicate whether or not those contacts seem unusual or if the Trump team was also engaging with any other countries.
After all, it is not unusual for a major party presidential nominee or the president-elect and his team to engage with foreign leaders or governments during the course of the campaign.
I can recall when then-candidate Obama delivered major speeches in Egypt and Germany and visited the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan during an overseas trip during which he and his team met with numerous foreign officials to “boost his foreign policy credentials,” as he didn’t have any to speak of at the time. During this trip, there were many news reports that then candidate Obama engaged in policy discussion with foreign leaders about what he would do if elected, much the same as Flynn was accused of doing when discussing future policy with the Russian Ambassador.
This is another example of the double standard to which the media hold President Trump and his team.
Responsible, in-depth reporting would have included the context of the conversations in order to provide the readers or viewers with sufficient information to render a judgement as to whether or not the contacts that have taken place to date were appropriate. This is exactly why President Trump continues to berate the news media and call them out on their unfair reporting.
Gone are the days when in-depth, fact based reporting were the norm. At the moment, its appears as though the media has taken a turn towards tabloid level reporting – rushing to judgement and publishing incomplete stories that leave the reader or viewer with more questions than answer, which often ends up lacking any substance in the end.
The American people expect their president and his team to be held accountable to reasonable standards. However, the American people expect the same from the news media. And so far, the media isn’t living up to its own professional standards, which has contributed to eroding of trust between the American people and the institution that has in the past provided them fact-based transparency that enabled government accountability.
Right now, people don’t know what to believe in print or on television. That has got to change.