President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey is now a subject of the federal probe being headed by special counsel Robert Mueller, which has expanded to include whether the president obstructed justice, a person familiar with the matter said.
The rest of the article continued in that vein: no real-world sources cited, only this deliberately unidentified one. The Wall Street Journal‘s article at the link also cited a Washington Post article on the same subject; that bit also only cited “sources”—five of them in WaPo‘s case—whose identities were carefully withheld.
“…a person familiar….” “…five officials….” The WaPo piece even said their “five officials” demanded anonymity because they were speaking without authorization.
This raises two questions and a concern. The questions are these. First, with no substantiation, how are we to know these sources even exist? How can we do our own checking?
Second, these sources—if they exist—begin as liars: they’re speaking without authorization, and so they have broken the terms of their employment and possibly their oaths of office. How can we believe the claims of liars? Why would WaPo or WSJ take such claims seriously?
And this, at the end of the WSJ piece, with no trace of irony on the part of the authors:
At a June 13 hearing at a House of Representatives panel, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein declined to say who asked him to write a memo justifying Mr Comey’s firing. … Mr Rosenstein said he wasn’t at liberty to discuss the matter.
“The reason for that is that if it is within the scope of Director Mueller’s investigation, and I’ve been a prosecutor for 27 years, we don’t want people talking publicly about the subjects of ongoing investigations,” Mr Rosenstein said.
So much for that.
The concern is this: why WaPo and especially WSJ have walked away from basic, foundational journalist standards—that allow for anonymous sources but require them to be substantiated by two or more on-the-record sources—and descended themselves to rumor-mongering.