Accuracy in Media

Fresh off a raft of stories based on nothing but anonymous sources that claimed falsely President Trump “tried to fire” special counsel Robert Mueller, the media is at it again.

NBC News ran a story on Thursday declaring the president intends to fire Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, but Mike Pence, who, like Coats, hails from Indiana, continues to talk him out of it – all, again, based totally on anonymous sources.

“Mike Pence talked Dan Coats out of quitting the Trump administration,” read the headline on the piece by Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube. Subhead: “Whenever Trump is souring on Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, whom he calls “Mr. Rogers,” Pence encourages him to stick with Coats.”

Coats “was on the verge of resigning at the end of last year over his frustrations with President Donald Trump but was talked out of it by his closest ally in the administration, Vice-President Mike Pence, according to current and former senior administration officials,” Lee and Kube wrote.

The same nameless officials are quoted as saying that “among the tensions” that have “marred the relationship between the president” and Coats are Trump having “pushed Coats to find evidence that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him; he demanded Coats publicly criticize the U.S. intelligence community as biased; and he accused Coats of being behind leaks of classified information. More recently Trump also fumed to aides after Coats publicly defending the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in countering Russian aggression.”

Coats’ determination to leave was ramped up in December, according to Lee, Kube and their unidentified sources, by “Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, and the contentious departure of former Defense Secretary James Mattis after protesting the policy.”

Pence, “who has repeatedly played the role of envoy between Trump and Coats,” had to step in then and convince his “longtime Indiana friend to stay until at least the summer.”

Lee and Kube went on to assert, based only on anonymous sources, that Trump refers to Coats as “Mr. Rogers” because “he won’t implement a directive or has left the impression he thinks the president is irrational.”

Pence recruited Coats to the job, and he was confirmed with bipartisan support, but “the dynamic between Coats and Trump quickly came to mirror the president’s relationship with the U.S. intelligence community as a whole, which had been fraught from the start,” they wrote.

Lee and Kube do not mention why Trump might have felt uneasy around intelligence officials given information now public that they may have been behind an “insurance policy” of a plan to get him removed from office.

Indeed, the reporters seem not to recognize how or why Trump came to view the intelligence with suspicion at all, writing “Coats tried to navigate the national security approach of a president officials say sees intelligence professionals as simply extra advisers whose advice he’s free to ignore.” (They are advisers he is free to ignore.)

If you go looking for this alleged hostility, you won’t find it, Lee and Kube wrote, because “Officials said the dynamic between Trump and Coats has stabilized for now. Yet they note that Trump could decide the date of Coats’s departure at any time.” This is true of all presidential appointees.

Trump ordered new procedures developed to protect against the politically motivated “unmasking” that has been discovered took place late in the Obama administration – forcing intelligence agencies to identify Americans caught up in wire intercepts without probable cause.

Coats carried out the order in what Lee and Kube characterized as “steps that appeared designed to appease Trump” and wrote without evidence that the Obama administration’s “use of unmasking” is something “common in any administration.” It is, in fact, rare.

It did permit Coats a chance to react at the end. “I am focused on doing my job, and it is frustrating to repeatedly be asked to respond to anonymous sources and unsubstantiated, often false rumors that undercut the critical work of the intelligence community and its relationship with the president,” he said.


Photo by SMPAGWU

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