#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor
It is a personal joke to note this is a time of long bylines, but that also seems to be symptomatic of how quickly things move. Still, though, picking up the story from Politico, a certain question emerges:
An Obama White House national security official said the administration was gravely concerned in its final days about increasingly apparent ties between Trump associates and Russians, and about what appeared to be promises made by more than one individual to representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin about policy changes that would occur once Trump was sworn in as president.
The senior Obama White House official was not told the names of the specific individuals involved because the official’s portfolio was foreign policy, not intelligence, so they were not briefed on aspects of the investigation involving U.S. persons.
“It seems pretty clear that [former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn] was not a rogue here,” the senior official said. “I don’t believe that Flynn was the only person promising things to the Russians, communicating to them what would happen once the Trump administration came in.”
The senior official was not aware of any specific information suggesting that Sessions was one of the Trump associates discussing potential changes in U.S.-Russia relations once Trump was sworn in.
Shouldn’t that be the lede?
The New York Times blockbuster report on Obama administration efforts to protect and preserve intelligence and evidence regarding Russian meddling in our election was careful to note that the various contacts described were of unknown nature. The Politico article uses the words “promises” and “promising”. And while we all generally understand the implication of promises and tit for tat and quid pro quo, and Donald Trump is probably getting screwed badly while calling it a fantastic deal, it seems journalistically significant to actually say, “promises made by more than one individual to representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin”. And if Politico intends to run with an unnamed former national security officer who wasn’t briefed on names, it also seems significant that the quote includes the phrase, “promising things to the Russians”.
It is, of course, easy enough to make too much of any one, or two or three reports, especially on a night when veteran journalists can be witnessed having some back and forth about the significance or not of the Washington Post’s attribution of its devastating report on Attorney General Sessions’ pre-election contact with the Russian ambassador to “Justice Department officials”. Still, the accusation of promises made seems really, really important.
Image notes: Top #PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown; Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016. Right ― Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. Senator, in November, 2016. (Molly Riley/Associated Press)
Entous, Adam, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller. “Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose”. The Washington Post. 1 March 2017.
Morin, Rebecca, Josh Meyer, and Austin Wright. “Sessions under fire over Russia meetings”. Politico. 2 March 2017.
Rosenberg, Matthew, Adam Goldman, and Michael S. Schmidt. “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking”. The New York Times. 1 March 2017.