Today, several news sources and commentators latched onto reports by CNN and Buzzfeed that launch serious allegations of multiple scandals between Russia and President-elect Donald Trump. The “oppo research,” which has been circulated among law enforcement, government officials, and journalists for weeks, was made public today.
The cat’s out of the bag. As a journalist, I wish it wasn’t. These reports represent the worst aspects of the media – the spreading of unsubstantiated accusations that should be verified before release. As a journalist, I’m also obliged to comment on them now that they’re out in public view.
Before I lay out my thoughts, it’s important to understand that I opposed Trump shortly after he launched his campaign. While I didn’t want to see Hillary Clinton win, I have been very critical of Trump over the last year and a half. This criticism was based on facts and speculation about his intentions. At no point did I condone spreading potentially false information. I do not intend to do that now, either. I will not comment on the validity of this report because I have no idea if it’s true. It could be; nothing in it is unbelievable. Then again, it could be complete fiction. It may even be somewhere in between. Very few people know the truth and they’re currently not talking.
First, the truth of this report is determined by the reader. Scandal is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. Those who are squarely opposed to Trump will see the report as truth because they want it to be true. Those who adamantly support Trump will see the report as false because they want it to be false. At this point, nobody’s opinion on validity matters. Seriously, nobody.
Second, the top priority of the intelligence community at this point is to determine as soon as possible whether or not it’s true. It was a fear of the founders that foreign influence could find its way into the highest offices of the land. That prospect should terrify us all. We cannot have a President who is compromised, nor can we have a President whose actions cause a foreign government to release scandalous evidence against him to the public. Without going into details, there are allegations in the report that Russia has damaging evidence they could make public if Trump makes them upset. If he’s compromised, we need to know immediately.
Third, there’s nothing that anyone outside of the intelligence community can do at this point. Trump says it’s a “witch hunt” and we must take him at his word. This cannot be allowed to become a distraction that hampers his ability to lead the country. There are important things that need to be done quickly. Every discussion about this matter is a waste of valuable time.
America should move forward hoping and assuming the allegations are false. We have to rely on the intelligence community to prove or disprove what’s in the report. Meanwhile, we cannot allow it to distract the government from the important tasks they have ahead of them. For everyone other than the spies, it needs to be business as usual. Yes, that means you too, journalists.