Yesterday, when everyone was talking about the latest revelations about Donald Trump, Jr., the president re-tweeted this:
Report accuses material James Comey leaked to a friend contained top secret information pic.twitter.com/Hkg4cAb6o9
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) July 10, 2017
Obviously, Trump is still spending his mornings getting fed stories by Fox and Friends. He followed that up with his own commentary.
James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2017
Kellyanne Conway weighed in later on Good Morning America.
Conway: "The big bombshell this morning is Jim Comey disclosing…" @GMA
— Rick Klein (@rickklein) July 10, 2017
The so-called “bombshell” story was published at The Hill. Let’s break down all the ways Fox’s reporting and Trump’s tweeting amount of fake news.
First of all, Josh Marshall gives us a bit of an inside scoop on the author of the story at The Hill, John Solomon. Apparently when he worked at the AP, he “had a well-earned reputation as the easiest mark in the business for GOP oppo research hits.” Since then, Solomon has worked for the Washington Times and has been hired by right-wing media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting to run Circa.
But none of that is important if Solomon is writing the truth. I’d say that the title of his story, “Comey’s private memos on Trump conversations contained classified material,” is a bit sensational (nothing new for The Hill), but otherwise true. We know from Comey’s own testimony that at least one of the nine memos he wrote about his meetings with Trump contained classified information.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.): The memos that you wrote, you wrote — did you write all nine of them in a way that was designed to prevent them from needing classification?
Comey: No. On a few of the occasions, I wrote — I sent emails to my chief of staff on some of the brief phone conversations I had. The first one was a classified briefing. Though it was in a conference room at Trump Tower, it was a classified briefing. I wrote that on a classified device.
Since Comey wouldn’t even talk about that classified briefing during his testimony, it is obviously not the one memo he shared with a friend that was eventually summarized in an article at the New York Times. Not much of a “bombshell” to this story after all, is there? Here is what Solomon wrote:
Four of the memos had markings making clear they contained information classified at the secret or confidential level, according to officials directly familiar with the matter…
It was also unclear when the documents were shown to Congress whether the information deemed secret or confidential was classified at the time Comey wrote the memos or determined so afterward, the sources said.
So Fox and Trump made the leap from (1) one or more of the nine documents were at one point deemed to be classified to (2) Comey put our national security at risk by leaking classified information to the media.
It’s also worth noting the source of Solomon’s story. Throughout the article he refers to, “officials familiar with the documents.” In other words, some unnamed source(s) “leaked” this information to Solomon. Marshall assumes that means, “congressional staffers who have just gotten access to Comey’s memos. In the nature of things that means Republican staffers.” But regardless, this is yet another example of Trump running with a leaked story that attacks someone he deems to be an enemy, at the same time that he claims that all leaked stories are fake and vows to go after the leakers.
Finally, when Trump issued a statement about his decision to fire Comey, he referred to the three times the former FBI Director assured him privately that he was not under investigation. When interviewed by Lester Holt immediately after the firing, he discussed his dinner meeting with Comey. It was only after all that happened that Comey leaked the one memo about their meeting in the Oval Office to the press. If Trump assumed these meetings were classified, perhaps he should have kept his own mouth shut about them.