White House goes after media over Russia bounty story

It’s become standard operating procedure for the White House: Redirect attention to the media when pressed about Trump’s knowledge of — and response to — various threats. When the administration was grilled earlier this year about when Trump first learned about the coronavirus, the White House said it was the press — not Trump — that had downplayed the outbreak’s severity. The tactic has had the effect of distracting from the intelligence itself. Yet it has also inadvertently revealed how intelligence gets from the ground to the president’s desk.

“It’s a deflection — it’s like yelling squirrel — they’re not addressing what the underlying substance is, they’re trying to point to the shiny object in the corner,” said Mark Zaid, a national security attorney who represented the whistleblower who initially revealed the details of Trump’s controversial phone call with the Ukrainian president. “The White House has only made it worse by their deflection because it’s turned the whole situation upside down so the underbelly is exposed.”…

Trump’s “fake news” claims cut against the simultaneous claims officials were making that those who leaked the information should be prosecuted.

A senior administration official said it is “deeply disturbing” that enough people feel justified revealing such information to major publications. “The people would have to be classified at high levels and the reporters would have to feel the national security risk is justified.”