Look, look at the shiny thing

Grand jury? What grand jury? Never mind that: it’s all about THE LEAKS.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that the Justice Department has more than tripled the number of leak investigations compared with the number that were ongoing at the end of the last administration, offering the first public confirmation of the breadth of the department’s efforts to crack down on unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information.

Sessions made the announcement at a long-anticipated news conference with his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, as well as Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina.

Yeah, man. Never mind all the ethics violations. Never mind the torrent of lies. Never mind That Meeting. Never mind the fact that Trump personally wrote the lying statement for Junior. Never mind all this pesky obstruction of justice. Never mind the Russians. It’s about THE LEAKS.

Though he did not say if it resulted in a criminal referral, Sessions cited in particular a recent disclosure to The Washington Post of transcripts of President Trump’s conversations with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and another with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

We need to know about those. It’s in the public interest to know how Trump talks to foreign heads of state.

Sessions also said he was devoting more resources to stamping out leaks — directing Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray to actively monitor every investigation, instructing the National Security Division and U.S. attorneys to prioritize such cases and creating a new counterintelligence unit in the FBI to manage the work. He said he was reviewing the Justice Department’s policy on issuing subpoenas to reporters.

Now why would they want to change what the FBI considers a priority? Any guesses?

Several prominent conservatives lauded Sessions’s announcement, while open government and free press groups said it was worrisome. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said it would “strongly oppose” revising department guidelines on issuing subpoenas to reporters, and Danielle Brian, executive director at the Project On Government Oversight, said leak investigations might inappropriately target well-intentioned whistleblowers.

“Whistleblowers are the nation’s first line of defense against fraud, waste, abuse, and illegality within the federal government, the last thing this administration wants to do is to deter whistleblowing in an effort to stymie leaks,” Brian said.

Leak cases are difficult to prove and prosecute, and they almost always come with political controversy — especially when the leaks involve providing information to reporters that is arguably in the public interest.

Quite so. Trump lies and cheats and steals whenever he can get away with it, so it’s in the public interest to keep a very close watch on him.

It has long been Justice Department practice in leak investigations to try to avoid investigating journalists directly to find their sources. Instead, the policy has been for investigators to first focus on government employees. In some cases, when the scrutiny of government employees has been exhausted, senior Justice Department officials may authorize an investigation of journalists, possibly by examining their phone records.

As a result, leak investigations are often slow moving, and many never lead to any charges. Within the FBI and the Justice Department, agents and prosecutors who handle leak cases have long argued that if they could investigate journalists earlier and more aggressively, they could be more successful in prosecuting leak cases.

“We are reviewing the entire process of how we conduct media leak investigations by responding to issues that have been raised by our career prosecutors and agents,’’ said Rosenstein. “We’re taking basically a fresh look at it… We don’t know yet what if any changes we want to make but we are taking a fresh look.’’

Sessions said the Justice Department must “balance the press’s role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in the intelligence community, the armed services and all law abiding Americans.”

Yeeaah national security is not the issue here. It’s all about Trump security.

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