by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Susanne Craig, a New York Times Metro reporter, wrote over the weekend that she received a manila envelope on September 23 — with a New York City postmark and a Trump Tower return address — containing three pages from Donald Trump’s 1995 state tax filings. Craig was able to verify the authenticity of the New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey tax records by talking to Trump’s accountant at the time, but by her own account, she does not know who sent them to her.
It’s probable that the leaker was someone in Trump’s orbit or someone connected to his wife at the time, Marla Maples, who signed the documents and presumably had copies of them. But until the source comes forward, it is impossible to rule out a more insidious scenario: that individuals in the respective state tax agencies chose to reveal Trump’s confidential information without his permission.
Journalists who tsk-tsk the general public’s suspicion and reflexive distrust of the media should ask themselves how often confidential, legally protected documents embarrassing to prominent Democrats get anonymously leaked and published by the press. Because it seems to happen to Republican office-seekers about once every election cycle. …
… Have there been leaks of information damaging to Democratic lawmakers? Sure, on occasion. Back in 1998, a judge ruled prosecutors in Kenneth Starr’s office leaked grand jury information during the investigation of Bill Clinton. And, of course, earlier this year WikiLeaks released a trove of internal e-mails belonging to the Democratic National Committee, apparently obtained by Russian hackers.
Yes, Republicans should be upset by the thought of hackers — possibly working for a hostile foreign government — breaking into the DNC’s servers and leaking their contents to influence the U.S. presidential election. But if journalists wonder why many on the right aren’t all that upset about it, this is why: A significant number of Republicans think the entire celebrated culture of political journalism that relies on anonymous leaks is corrupt and one-sided. They think a lot of people who have jobs that involve handling sensitive information are driven by a partisan passion to expose any information that could harm the GOP. They believe that university staff, court employees, prosecutors, IRS agents, and state employees put partisan loyalty ahead of any other oaths, rules, regulations, or laws. That perception may be an excessive generalization, but it’s not entirely unfounded, either.