World

'So much distrust in Washington': How a leaky White House might actually make the media's job harder

U.S. President Donald Trump has been unflinchingly clear on one point this week: he views leaks from his White House as illegal, even treasonous, and means to hunt down those behind them. So how then will reporters handle leaks when they get them?

'It's quite a scary time for us as journalists to be in the middle of it,' says Washington Post reporter

The Investigators with Diana Swain - Adam Entous on the role of leaks in covering Trump

News

4 years agoVideo
3:26
Diana speaks to a Washington Post reporter about how investigative journalists uncovered the facts that led to Michael Flynn's resignation. Watch The Investigators Saturdays at 9:30 pm ET (replays Sundays at 5:30 pm ET) on CBC News Network 3:26

U.S. President Donald Trump has been unflinchingly clear on one point this week: he views leaks from his White House as illegal, even treasonous, and means to hunt down those behind them.

"It's a scary thing to hear," says Adam Entous, a Washington Post reporter whose byline has accompanied many of the stories this week that have been the focus of Trump's anger.

The stories have focused on the most devastating White House leaks so far, quoting multiple unnamed sources who confirmed the government had records of telephone conversations last December between Michael Flynn, the man Trump had tapped to be his national security adviser, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.

By some accounts, the conversations included discussion about sanctions imposed against Russia by former president Barack Obama. The White House has confirmed the phone calls took place, but not talk about the sanctions.

The issue is a sensitive one, because conversation about undoing the sanctions by an incoming administration, while Obama was still president, could violate the law.

"We as journalists increasingly take precautions to try to protect our sources and to protect ourselves," Entous told CBC's The Investigators this week, acknowledging Trump's words, "could have an impact, to make it harder for us to do our jobs."

Trump takes aim at press

News

4 years agoVideo
1:06
Trump takes aim at press 1:06

Entous's beat includes the intelligence community, the source for the leaks that led to Flynn's resignation after the stories broke. Trump says he asked Flynn to resign over concerns his senior adviser had misled the vice-president about the nature of those phone conversations. It was the first high-profile resignation from Trump's team.

"The environment is a very tense one right now. You know, there's a lot of paranoia going on, I think on all sides," Entous said. "There's just so much distrust in Washington right now and frankly I've never seen anything like it. It's quite scary for us as journalists to be in the middle of it."

The Obama administration aggressively went after leaks, too, involving itself in more legal challenges against leakers and whistleblowers than all previous U.S. administrations combined.

Asked whether he thinks Trump's threats will cause White House staff to be any more cautious than before, Entous said, "I think it could come in phases where … maybe things quiet down for a bit and things open up again. It's really hard to know how this is going to play out."

Watch the full episode:

The Investigators with Diana Swain - Donald Trump Leaks and Journalists

News

4 years agoVideo
22:20
Donald Trump's National Security Adviser is forced out after being accused of discussing U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador, and then lying about it. Diana speaks to a Washington Post reporter about how investigative journalists uncovered the facts that led to Michael Flynn's resignation. Plus - we'll hear from a Canadian professor who's challenging FBI data that suggests suspected terrorists are trying to get into the U.S. from Canada. Watch The Investigators Saturdays at 9:30 pm ET (replays Sundays at 5:30 pm ET) on CBC News Network. 22:20

Also this week, the Toronto Star's Washington correspondent Daniel Dale talks about the similarities between covering Donald Trump and his old Toronto City Hall beat covering Rob Ford.

About the Author

Multi-award-winning journalist Diana Swain is the senior investigative correspondent for CBC News and host of The Investigators on CBC News Network.

now