Homeland Security

Is Washington Post's Sessions-Kislyak Purported Intelligence 'Scoop' More Fake News?

In yet another in an ever-growing series of alleged “intelligence leaks,” the Washington Post reported Friday that Russian Ambassador Kislyak told his superiors that he and Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed campaign issues during last year’s presidential election, seemingly contradicting Sessions’ own testimony to Congress a few weeks ago.

But the Washington Post article undercuts its own premise by acknowledging there’s no way to know if the Kislyak claims are true. And the Justice Department is pushing back hard on the story while Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats expressed cautious skepticism about the claims.

This is yet one more in a series of purported “intelligence leaks” that the Senate Homeland Security Committee estimated is hitting the Trump administration nearly once every day.

The Post alleged:

Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

The Washington Post tweets pushing the story express a level of certitude undercut by their own story:

The first problem is that there’s no way to verify if the alleged claims by Kislyak are true:

Officials emphasized that the information contradicting Sessions comes from U.S. intelligence on Kislyak’s communications with the Kremlin, and acknowledged that the Russian ambassador could have mischaracterized or exaggerated the nature of his interactions.

“Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman in a statement. She reiterated that Sessions did not discuss interference in the election.

Russian and other foreign diplomats in Washington and elsewhere have been known, at times, to report false or misleading information to bolster their standing with their superiors or to confuse U.S. intelligence agencies.

And later:

The intelligence on Sessions, by contrast, is based on Kislyak’s accounts and not corroborated by other sources.

If the Russians knew Kislyak’s communications were compromised, the discussion itself could be part of a Russian intelligence disinformation campaign.

Secondly, the Justice Department pushed back hard, reasserting Sessions’ claim that there was no collusion.

When asked about the Washington Post claims while attending the Aspen Security Summit, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats expressed skepticism:

Those problems notwithstanding, the media cartel engaged in the standard Trump scandal circlejerk to reinforce the “collusion” narrative:

Some are even trying to use the Washington Post article to bolster their own anonymously sourced stories:

Others are incredulous about the media cartel hysterics:

Even more troubling is that the Post admits it’s been sitting on the story since June, releasing it now only after a public squabble this week between Trump and Sessions.

Even some of the president’s fiercest critics warned in response that these “intelligence leaks” are dangerous:

Earlier this month, the Senate Homeland Security Committee released a report documenting the chronic leaking of intelligence targeting the Trump administration, finding nearly one leak every day since the administration took office.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

The first 126 days of the Trump administration featured 125 stories that leaked harmful information. Just under one a day. The committee staff judged the stories against a 2009 Barack Obama executive order that laid out what counted as information likely to damage national security. And as it chose to not include borderline leaks or “palace intrigue” stories, that number is an understatement.

For reference, the first 126 days of the Obama term featured 18 stories that met the criteria. Ten of those were actually leaks about George W. Bush’s “torture memo,” which Mr. Obama released.

Understandably, the media cartel is getting desperate as their “collusion” narrative has entirely collapsed with the absence of any actual collusion.

Even the breathless hysteria over Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian officials has been a case study in how the media has spun a narrative contrary to the available facts at hand that appear to run directly counter to the narrative itself:

https://twitter.com/Doranimated/status/888509889340899328

Will the Washington Post’s hype about Sessions and Kislyak ever go beyond anonymous sources and unverifiable claims? If the past six months are any indicator, it’s unlikely.