The New Yorker has a story in which it describes, what it claims, is a law-enforcement official, a broad category that includes plenty of Obama people embedded in the government, “leaking” Michael Cohen’s financial records to the media.
1. The grotesque abuse of the term “leak” has been going for some time. But when you pass along the private financial records of a person you don’t like, that’s not a leak. Just as if the burglary of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office had succeeded, that would not have been a leak. It would have been a criminal act.
You can argue that releasing government records is a leak. Stealing and distributing the records of people in the political opposition whom you don’t like, isn’t a leak. It’s doxxing. Call it what it is.
2. If this is the game we’re playing, would leaking the financial records of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders’ wife (currently under FBI investigation) be fair play?
Somehow I don’t think it would. And a Bush appointee who did that sort of thing wouldn’t expect any safe harbor from the media. The media complains about Wikileaks, but it plays the same game, picking and choosing damaging materials based on its own political agenda and those of its masters.
3. Beyond the inherent abuses here, tactics like these are a way to try a case in public. The campaign of smear stories creates an impression of guilt without a single actual crime being proven. Tie in a network of government officials, media allies and private opposition research mercs like Fusion GPS and the picture gets very ugly.