On every new article featuring leaks about the White House, editors should place a disclaimer: Anonymous officials cited in this piece stopped short of justifying the havoc this story is about to create.

A flurry of would-be bombshell reports over the last week appeared to show more ties between President Trump and Russia or further demonstrate the supposed ineptitude of the Trump administration.

The stories depended entirely on anonymous “current and former U.S officials” who share a lot of tantalizing information then, strangely, clam up just as things are about to get good.

The news media spin every “leak” into an ominous warning. But once readers get through these stories they realize something’s missing. Namely, a conclusion.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that “U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised.”

Not until nine paragraphs in did the report admit that their sources “know no instance in which crucial information about security threats or potential plotting has been” withheld from the White House.

Being withheld are intelligence sources and methods of intelligence gathering, which would sound familiar to any reporter who has kept his or her sources secret from a publisher.

Several outlets have reported that, despite earlier denials, ousted White House national security adviser Mike Flynn “discussed” sanctions on phone calls with Russian officials during Trump’s transition period.

White House “officials” have eagerly plied the Washington Post and New York Times with this information and yet no reports say what exactly was “discussed.”

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The Post reported on Feb. 9 that sanctions were “discussed” and that “officials said ­Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit.”


But the report never says what was explicitly “discussed,” other than that it was in some way related to the sanctions.

Flynn may have “discussed” the sanctions by saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t discuss the new, election-meddling sanctions at the moment.” He may have said, “Yes, the sanctions, we’ll talk about those once in office.”

We don’t know.

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If only there were a transcript.

Except there is a transcript. The New York Times reported that its sources “saw” it and described it as “ambiguous enough that Mr. Trump could have justified either firing or retaining Mr. Flynn.”

That’s helpful and cleared up a lot of things for readers who made it to the 20th paragraph. You could read right through to the final period, gaining the clear impression that something nefarious took place, even without a whiff of evidence that that’s the case.

Equally vague but no less anxious was a report last Monday by CNN that portrayed Trump and his staff as a bunch of dummies carelessly passing around confidential documents at a party.

While Trump was hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that weekend at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, news broke that North Korea had launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

Shortly thereafter, Trump and Abe’s team were seen at dinner outdoors discussing something. But without knowing what, CNN suggested it was a “strategy session” regarding North Korea.

“As Mar-a-Lago’s wealthy members looked on from their tables, and with a keyboard player crooning in the background, Trump and Abe’s evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners,” CNN reported.

CNN said that “documents were produced and phone calls were placed to officials in Washington and Tokyo.”

The report, based on “fellow diners, who described [the scene] in detail,” never mentioned what the documents said or what the calls were about.

The Washington Post picked up on the event, calling it an “open-air situation room” and “an al fresco situation room” where “two leaders reviewed documents by the light of an aide’s cellphone.”

That sounds dangerous.

But White House press secretary Sean Spicer later would say that the “situation room” amounted to … discussions about a press conference.

But “documents were produced” and “phone calls were placed”!

These reports are legion and the national media work themselves into a frothy mess feeling good about it.

“For journalists anxious about the state of their profession, there is a renewed sense of mission,” read a proud Times article on Wednesday.

The next day, journalists were shocked Trump spent one hour laying waste to the media during a surprise press conference at the White House. Most people might only be shocked he didn’t spend two.

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