Picture this situation, strange though it may be.
Last week, The New York Times published a story about the Adam Schiff-led House Intelligence Committee purportedly being briefed by intelligence officials on Russia interfering on behalf of President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
Imagine that at the end of the story, The New York Times announced it was all a bit of a trap.
You now had a virus on your computer that would destroy all your personal data and render your computer or mobile device totally bricked unless you answered one thing correctly: You had to guess one of the anonymous congressional sources they used to compile the story. Get it right, the virus is removed and you can go about your day. Get it wrong, your entire digital life is erased.
Knowing a) what I can reasonably guess about the story and b) what you could reasonably guess about the story, I can safely say that not a single file would be lost and every single person who read “Lawmakers Are Warned That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump” would be walking around with the same iPhone they read it on.
That’s because everyone who knows enough to read an article like that also knows that Adam Schiff is the Lusitania of congressional leakage.
Even The Times sort of acknowledged the elephant in the room, saying that “Mr. Trump was particularly irritated that Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the leader of the impeachment proceedings, was at the briefing.” The Times, I’m sure, was not.
In an appearance Monday on Fox News, former South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy was on to discuss the fact that the original narrative on the briefing the House Intelligence Committee got has mostly collapsed; intelligence sources say the election security official who gave the briefing overstated the evidence that Russia was trying to elect Trump.
Gowdy began by noting past allegations of collusion involving Moscow.
“We spent two years for Bob Mueller to tell us there was no evidence” of Russian collusion, Gowdy, now a Fox News contributor, told host Sean Hannity.
“It took two minutes this time for us to find out there was no evidence,” he continued.
“As soon as a Republican asked this briefer in the classified intel briefing, ‘What evidence do you have to support that assessment?’ The answer was none.”
“For over a year, we were lectured by the D.C. media and the Democrats that no one is above the law,” he continued.
“No one is above the law, apparently except whoever leaks classified information out of Adam Schiff’s committee. So what the Intelligence Committee needs to give some thought to is [to] stop briefing someone who has a history and is an epidemic leaker.”
While we’re at it, we should probably stop letting Shelby Pierson, the election security official who gave the briefing, do stuff like that.
No matter how you feel about the fact that Trump reportedly attacked Joseph Maguire, his acting director of national intelligence, over his decision to let Pierson give the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, it’s becoming pretty clear Pierson probably wasn’t the person to give it.
The Wall Street Journal cited several individuals familiar with her performance in the position to report she “has a reputation for being injudicious with her words and not appreciating the delicate work of corralling federal agencies, technology firms and state election officials to collaborate on election security.”
Even in their initial report, in which they seemed wholly certain that Pierson’s version of Russia’s election interference was the intelligence community’s official version of events, The Times acknowledged that Pierson “has a reputation for speaking bluntly.”
Several days later, The Times admitted the evidence was “muddied” and that Robert O’Brien, the national security advisor, said he hadn’t seen any evidence that Russia preferred the current president over any of his potential Democratic rivals.
“There’s no briefing that I’ve received, that the president has received, that says that President Putin is doing anything to try and influence the election in favor of President Trump,” O’Brien said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“We just haven’t seen that intelligence. If it’s out there, I haven’t seen it.”
The basic takeaway, as The Times explained it, is that “the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not mean to say that it believes the Russians are currently intervening in the election explicitly to help President Trump” and that intelligence agencies “believe that Russia is intervening in the election, and that Moscow prefers Mr. Trump, a deal maker it knows well. But at least for now, those two objectives may not be linked.”
The point remains that whatever the actual situation is, The Times received information about the briefing almost as soon as it happened.
There were no doubt multiple sources — but you can certainly venture a solid guess who one of them was.
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