Here are three reasons to reject this claim:
1) When Russian spies hacked Democratic emails, and then posted those emails via WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign and its friends noisily insisted that it didn’t matter how information came into the public domain, but only whether the information told Americans something important about a would-be president.
“I love WikiLeaks!” said Donald Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania in October. A Republican congressman who had over-enthusiastically tweeted “Thank God for WikiLeaks” explained himself in a more formal statement: While he did not condone illegal activity, he was “thankful the information was out there.” And this was the line certainly from Trump supporters on air and online: The real news was the content of the leak, not the fact of the leak.
Yet in the WikiLeaks instance, the content of the leak was a series of nothingburgers. Maybe the most exciting revelation was that Donna Brazile had shared with the Clinton campaign one of the questions to be posed to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at a CNN townhall during the Democratic primaries. Now, however, we are dealing with information of truly vital national importance: plausible allegations that a U.S. presidential campaign had contact with a hostile foreign power which had hacked the communications of its political opponents. If there was any coordination, the resulting scandal would blend Watergate with Alger Hiss. The people who “loved WikiLeaks” seem poorly positioned to complain that potentially vastly greater wrongdoing is being brought to light by the same methods they endorsed for their own advantage.
2) If the information about the Trump campaign’s apparent collusion with the Russians were not leaked, it would have been smothered and covered up. Congress refused to act. The Department of Justice has shown zero interest. The president’s occasional remarks about the matter carry all the conviction of O.J. Simpson’s vow to search for the real killers.
What, exactly, were investigators supposed to do with their information if they did not share it with the public? Evidence that close associates of the current president of the United States had contacts with a hostile foreign-intelligence service is not a matter of purely historical interest. It’s not just a law-enforcement matter. The whistle blowers are blowing whistles, at immense professional and legal risk to themselves, because the people in charge of protecting the system against foreign spy penetration are themselves implicated in that penetration.
3) Eli Lake vividly characterized the fate of Michael Flynn as a “political assassination.” It might be more accurate to describe the current struggle as a duel. Well before the latest revelations, Team Trump has unmistakably signaled its intention to purge the intelligence services of people with knowledge of the president’s Russia connection.