The sting that helped furious White House plumbers unmask the National Security Council official driving them crazy with snarky Tweets is a time-honored device often employed at high levels of government to identify leakers.
“It’s an easy way to nail somebody who talks too much,” laughed a former senior political adviser to a Republican president expert in such ploys. “You drop a harmless little nugget into a meeting where everyone is in on the scam except the suspected leaker. Then when the information pops up somewhere - bingo.”
National Security Council staffer Jofi Joseph was fired last week after being exposed as the creative talent behind @natsecwonk, an anonymous Twitter account that routinely trashed such Obama heavy-hitters as counselor Valerie Jarrett (“vacuous cipher”), NSC chief Susan Rice and UN ambassador Samantha Power - not to mention former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and other ObamaWorld stalwarts.
Published reports say that top Obama advisers, enraged and embarrassed by the commentary, decided to leak innocuous material to Joseph to see if it turned up on the notorious snark-site. It’s not clear the ploy produced the proverbial “smoking gun,” but suddenly Joseph was fired. In a statement, he admitted to being the anonymous agent- provocateur and apologized to “everyone I insulted.”
There’s a famous corollary to this practice that helped undermine White House chief of staff Donald Regan. During Ronald Reagan’s second term, some senior White House officials eager to grease the skids under Regan concocted snappy one-liners certain to make it into print from appreciative journalists. But there was a twist: the anonymous quotes often contained a favorite Regan phrase (“and the like”). When Nancy Reagan, never a Regan fan, saw some of the provocative quotes she immediately assumed Regan was the leaker. Nancy’s rage was a prime factor in Regan being forced out of his job in 1987.
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Paul Ryan told CNN today he's "not ready" to back Donald Trump at this time. "I'm not there right now," he said. Ryan said Trump needs to unify "all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement" and then run a campaign that will allow Americans to "have something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of. And we've got a ways to go from here to there."
In The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin gives Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the longread treatment. The scourge of corrupt New York pols, bad actors on Wall Street, and New York gang members, Bharara learned at the foot of Chuck Schumer, the famously limelight-hogging senator whom he served as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff. No surprise then, that after President Obama appointed him, Bharara "brought a media-friendly approach to what has historically been a closed and guarded institution. In professional background, Bharara resembles his predecessors; in style, he’s very different. His personality reflects his dual life in New York’s political and legal firmament. A longtime prosecutor, he sometimes acts like a budding pol; his rhetoric leans more toward the wisecrack than toward the jeremiad. He expresses himself in the orderly paragraphs of a former high-school debater, but with deft comic timing and a gift for shtick."
President Obama has announced another round of commutations of prison sentences. Most of the 58 individuals named are incarcerated for possessions with intent to distribute controlled substances. The prisoners will be released between later this year and 2018.
The Daily Beast has unearthed a piece that Donald Trump wrote for Gear magazine in 2000, which anticipates his 2016 sales pitch quite well. "Perhaps it's time for a dealmaker who can get the leaders of Congress to the table, forge consensus, and strike compromise," he writes. Oddly, he opens by defending his reputation as a womanizer: "The hypocrites argue that a man who loves and appreciates beautiful women (and does so legally and openly) shouldn't become a national leader? Is there something wrong with appreciating beautiful women? Don't we want people in public office who show signs of life?"