Some progressives have expressed outrage at the New York Times for publishing its reporting on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s statements at a 2017 DOJ-FBI meeting held immediately following FEPOTUS’S firing of James Comey. Their argument is that the Times should have held the story back because its potential damage to Rosenstein and by extension to the Mueller investigation, which he directs.
Sourcing the Story
Based on interviews of the reporters conducted by Michael Barbaro, also of the New York Times, the article was a well-sourced piece that resulted from their attempt to document the official reaction to Comey’s firing. The reporters can’t be faulted for their practice, and the Times can’t be accused of publishing a story that its detractors could label, “fake news.”
The follow-on from the publication has confirmed that Rosenstein did mention the idea of recording meetings with Trump, and he also mentioned raising the application of the 25th Amendment with a couple of cabinet-level officials. Rosenstein has signaled his intent to step down. Presently, he is scheduled to meet Trump at the White House on Thursday.
National Security Justification
The progressive view is that the Times potentially jeopardized the Mueller probe by printing the story. If Rosenstein departs, he will no longer block Republican attempts to end the special prosecutor’s work, which these progressives consider a matter of national security. There’s precedent for news media holding back stories when such concerns may be adversely affected. There is also precedent, and law, to support publication even if national security interests are implicated. The publication of the Pentagon Papers most readily comes to mind.
Mueller’s probe touches on issues of national security. Within the framework of the investigation, many subjects concerning our security have been publicly reported. A case can be made that almost all the investigation could be deemed classified.
In the Service of Democracy
The investigation itself is vital, but not as a matter of national security. It is vital as a matter of democracy; undertaken to prosecute anyone who conspired to undermine our 2016 elections. Mueller’s investigation is not forward-looking, as the Congressional investigations should be. It is to cite and prosecute past criminal conduct.
The Times has a duty to report stories which address the democratic process. When the Deputy Attorney General and FBI Director are considering the need to conduct surveillance on the president or to assess his constitutional fitness to serve, that’s news and of vital national interest.