While Attorney General Jeff Sessions is laying the law down on leakers in the White House, declaring earlier today that the media could likely find themselves in hot water, as well, if they actively participated in the spreading of leaked information, House Speaker Paul Ryan has a different take.
“Leaks are concerning because leaks can often compromise national security but that’s the problem of the leaker not the journalist,” Ryan said at an event in Muskego, Wisconsin on Friday afternoon.
Sessions had said earlier that journalists who make a story out of leaked information could very well find themselves in a situation where they’re asked to reveal their sources.
“We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity,” Sessions said. “We must balance their role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in our intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law abiding Americans.”
“I have this message for the intelligence community: the Department of Justice is open for business,” he added. “And I have this warning for would-be leakers: don’t do it.”
The Trump White House has leaked like a sieve from the beginning, but Thursday’s Washington Post release of transcripts from Trump’s first calls as president to the prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, and to the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto may have been the limit. The call for a probe by Congress has been bipartisan.
Ryan’s comments seem a bit of a departure, because he seems less willing to lean on the press over stories falling into their laps, or at least being given to them.
It creates several questions.
- Should the press turn down what could be hot stories offered to them?
- Should they be forced to reveal sources, knowing that many would not come forward with information if they knew they didn’t have the safety of anonymity?
- Is this a First Amendment issue?
People will have different opinions. It appears Paul Ryan and Jeff Sessions do.