Former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova has become a popular go-to guy lately for Fox News and “deep state” conspiracy theorists hell-bent on disrupting the investigations of former members of the Trump campaign and their ties to Russia.
Now, diGenova is openly cheerleading the targeting of journalists by the Justice Department in leak probes. On Friday, diGenova was a guest on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle to weigh in on the indictment of James Wolfe, the former director of security at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Wolfe was arrested Thursday and accused of lying to FBI agents about his contacts with reporters, including New York Times reporter Ali Watkins, with whom Wolfe had a romantic relationship for three years. Watkins was targeted by the FBI over a story she published last year in BuzzFeed about Russian efforts to recruit former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. In the course of that investigation, authorities secretly had seized Watkins’ phone and email records.
Asked by Fox News host Laura Ingraham what he thought of the Justice Department going after reporters like that, diGenova responded, “I am all for it.” He added that “they should go after the reporters.”
According to a transcript of the interview by Media Matters, diGenova said (emphasis added):
Yeah, well, I am all for it. I think they should go after the reporters, and I hope they are doing the same thing with the leaks of the private conversations that President Trump had with foreign leaders that were leaked by somebody at the NSA or the CIA. This is perfectly legitimate tactics.
At least this administration didn’t label the reporter a criminal co-conspirator like they did with James Rosen. That was outrageous. This is perfectly legitimate stuff, and if a guy wants to leak classified information to a reporter, he should be held accountable for it. By the way, Carter Page has got a new defendant for his civil suit, and it’s the guy who was the head of security for the intelligence committee.
Donald Trump and his collaborators have been openly attacking the press since before he became president, particularly by gaslighting his base by labeling any negative stories “fake news.” On Friday, Trump made a wildly out-of-character claim to reporters outside the White House that he is “a big believer in freedom of the press.” We know this to be untrue because everything Trump has done to this point loudly suggests otherwise.
It’s worth noting that the Obama administration has been strongly criticized for employing the strategy of going after leakers and whistleblowers by targeting journalists. Now, Trump appears poised to ramp up that effort. Vox’s Emily Stewart asked several media and legal experts what they thought of the Justice Department’s targeting of journalists, and the general consensus was, as Stewart writes, “What Obama did was bad, and what Trump is doing is likely worse.”
So, while Trump claims he’s a “big believer” in press freedom, his enablers like diGenova can appear on Fox News calling for law enforcement to go after journalists. And Trump’s base will blindly cheer them on.