Earlier Sunday morning, I wrote about how Juliette Kayyem, a former Department of Homeland Security official in the Obama administration and a lecturer at Harvard University, said on CNN that according to her sources, and what has been “openly reported,” it increasingly looks like Michael Flynn may have a deal with the FBI to provide them with information.
And, then again, in a tweet, she reiterated that according to her “sources,” this claim was true:
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) March 25, 2017
Here’s where I’m troubled by this: I did some digging and could find no other “open reporting” which indicate that Kayyem’s statements are accurate. That’s a pretty bold claim.
I’ve emailed Kayyem for further clarification about where she found this information and what “open reporting” she is referring to. I haven’t heard back from her. The only report that I could find was from Bill Palmer, who runs The Palmer Report. He also surmises that Flynn likely struck a deal with the FBI citing the fact that campaign advisor Carter Page, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and former Trump aide Roger Stone have all agreed to speak with the U.S. House Intelligence Committee which is probing the Russia deal. Flynn is notably absent, which may be an indication he’s working with the feds, Palmer notes.
The claim about Flynn might very well be true, but, unlike Kayyem, Palmer at least prefaces his piece, “I don’t have an inside source on this, just a pretty good gut feeling and some publicly known facts I can point to.”
In a Facebook post over the weekend, Kayyem predictably started to back peddle on her comments saying, “Sources I have talked to in the field also are increasingly wondering the same thing.”
Sources “wondering” (emphasis added) is a lot different than what she first said on CNN and Twitter on Friday. Kayyem continued in Saturday’s Facebook post with more back peddling: “I did not say on this segment that I have any confirmation that he is actually cooperating or that I have talked to anyone who does.” If she had no confirmation about this, why didn’t she say that on CNN and then on Twitter before lodging the accusation?
What she did, instead, only fueled speculation. Her original tweet, which includes the CNN segment, was re-tweeted more than 8,000 times. It has not been deleted.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with speculating. Pundits do that all the time by saying things like “according to my experience, I believe Flynn is working with the feds.” But Kayyem took her claim a step further.
This incident comes on the heels of another wildly irresponsible comment made by another pundit on another network. Earlier this month, Fox’s Judge Andrew Napolitano insinuated that Obama may have used British Intel to spy on Trump. President Trump used Napolitano’s words to bolster his claims that Obama had “tapped” his wires. This claim turned out not to be true.
“Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the FBI… he used the GCHQ,” Judge Napolitano said during an appearance earlier this month. Fox has since walked back these comments, and has even pulled him from the air.
I emailed a spokesperson from CNN to see if they plan to stand by Kayyem’s reporting. They pointed me in the direction of her Facebook post on Saturday further “explaining” the situation. Admittedly, Kayyem’s original comments were a bit more nuanced than Napolitano’s words. But, her comments, nonetheless, left the impression to many that Flynn had struck some kind of deal with the feds, which would be a troubling blow for President Trump if true, and lend even further credence to the claim that there is truth behind the Russian connection rumors.
In a world where the public is constantly confused by what is truth, what is hyperbole, what is punditry, and what is fake news, making speculative and bold claims should be done with the utmost care. I commend Kayyem for at least clarifying her statements on Facebook. Maybe CNN, where her words were broadcast out to hundreds of thousands, should do the same. In this politically charged climate, throwing accusations out there without much backing is troubling, no matter which side does it.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.