The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Problem With Vengeful Intelligence Agencies — and Four Other Thoughts on the ‘Kompromat’ Story

This story already has so many threads. I have a piece up on the home page torching Buzzfeed, and last night I outlined the basic facts, including its many disturbing facets. But there’s more, so much more. A few additional thoughts, in no particular order:

First, I’m sick of hearing that it’s foolish for presidents to tick off the intelligence community, and I’m doubly sick of that alleged fact being relayed with a sense of vengeful glee. It may be true that some intelligence operatives retaliate against politicians who attack their conclusions, but this is a terrible thing. Do we want to live in a world where politicians are afraid to cross the FBI or CIA? 

Second, yes I know that Trump was more than happy to take his news from the National Enquirer when it suited his purposes, and I know that he was happy to lambast opponents with wild conspiracy theories (Ted Cruz’s dad helped kill JFK?), but that doesn’t mean there’s anything good or acceptable about turning wild and unsubstantiated reporting back on Trump. Donald Trump should elevate his standards. Journalists shouldn’t lower theirs.

Third, don’t forget, however, that the Buzzfeed dossier isn’t the sum total of the controversy over Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, and debunking the dossier doesn’t end the inquiry. In fact, one of the many problems with Buzzfeed’s decision is that it allows Trump’s team to lump all reporting with Buzzfeed’s document dump and evade more serious and more credible questions.

Fourth, remember that if Trump’s conduct towards Russia didn’t already raise flags, the story would likely go nowhere. As it is, it’s coming on the heels of Trump’s strange and consistent regard for Putin, Trump foreign policy pronouncements (such as his declarations about NATO and the Baltics) that sound like Putin wish-casting, hiring aides like Paul Manafort with longstanding ties to Russian allies, and an intelligence determination that Russia wanted Trump to win and actually took steps to try to help Trump beat Clinton. That matters. A lot.

Finally, if Clinton was elected under similar circumstances, Trump’s core conservative media would be going thermonuclear, and everyone knows it. So let’s stop the blind partisanship and try to determine the truth. The truth is out there, and the truth matters.