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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Washington Post story on Jeff Sessions' meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak proves anonymous sources play a key role in unmasking corruption


Jeff Sessions
(From slate.com)
The Jeff Sessions Russia scandal has been portrayed largely as a story of politics and national security. But it also is a story of journalism -- and that angle has gone mostly unnoticed.

What stands out about the journalism that broke Sessions' communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak? It was based on anonymous sources, and if it brings down the Trump administration, it will be one of the biggest political stories of the past 100 years. Its likely strongest competitor, Watergate, also was based largely on anonymous sources.

We can't help but notice the irony in that. We have taken considerable criticism here at Legal Schnauzer for our infrequent use of anonymous sources. In fact, our use of anonymous sources has been limited mainly to reports on the Rob Riley/Liberty Duke and Luther Strange/Jessica Medeiros Garrison extramarital affairs.

The criticism, especially after we were sued for defamation on both stories, went something like this: "Well, Legal Schnauzer presented no evidence to back up his claims about the affairs." Even The New York Times, in reporting on my unlawful incarceration from the Riley/Duke case, went down that slippery slope. Wrote reporter Campbell Robertson:

For over six years, Roger Shuler has hounded figures of the state legal and political establishment on his blog, Legal Schnauzer, a hothouse of furious but often fuzzily sourced allegations of deep corruption and wide-ranging conspiracy. . . .

Starting in January 2013, Mr. Shuler, citing unidentified sources, began writing that Robert Riley Jr., the son of the former governor, had impregnated a lobbyist named Liberty Duke and secretly paid for an abortion. Both denied it, and Ms. Duke swore in an affidavit that they had never even been alone in the same room.

Fuzzily sourced? Robertson failed to note his own newspaper's regular use of anonymous sources. He also failed to follow up with a report that my reporting, as a matter of law, was found to be neither false nor defamatory in both the Riley/Duke and Strange/Garrison lawsuits.

My sourcing, and the evidence presented, was at the same level of that in the Jeff Sessions reporting. This is the first paragraph from The Washington Post article that broke the Sessions story:

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

Bottom line: Post reporters based their story on anonymous sources. And no one, not even Jeff Sessions, has questioned the accuracy of their story.

Why did the Post grant anonymity to its sources? Probably because the sources, if they were named, would put their careers, maybe their lives, on the line. That's the same reason I've used anonymous sources on certain stories in Alabama's toxic political stew.

Those who are quick to criticize the use of anonymous sources might be wise to remember the Sessions story. It undoubtedly is accurate, and it likely would have never gotten to the public without anonymous sources -- and reporters who were willing to use them.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

People who understand journalism know that anonymous sources can be an important part of the process. They were important in the Sessions story, and they were important when you broke the Luv Guv story in 8/15.

legalschnauzer said...

Glad you brought up "Luv Guv." I broke that story on 8/31/15, and nine days later was evicted in a likely act of retaliation. Seven months later, tapes surfaced to prove my anonymous sources had been right all along. Meanwhile, my blog had been attacked by MSM sycophants, along with Bentley admin.

My sources were proven to be on target, just as the Post's sources were on target, just as my sources were on target in both Riley/Duke and Strange/Garrison case -- not to mention sources who provided docs and background on John Merrill, the docs Kyle Whitmire of al.com had sat on.

Anonymous said...

The Sessions story was so big, and broke so quickly, and Trump sleaze has been coming at such a rapid pace, that I don't think many people even realized it was based on attorney sources.

legalschnauzer said...

I think you are right on, @2:49. I didn't realize it at first either, not until I went back and closely read first paragraph.

Anonymous said...

Why haven't I been invited to a meeting with Sergey Kislyak? I'm starting to feel left out. The guy is everywhere, like Forest Gump.

e.a.f. said...


during Watergate, I recall when they cited an anonymous source, they had their source and two other sources to confirm the story. Anonymous sources, with confirmations, in my opinion, are valid ways to put information out there. The journalist is clear it is an anonymous source so people can make their own judgements. It sometimes then comes down to the integrity of the journalist/media and the person the story is about.

During all of the Sessions story and then Trump's tweets regarding the "wire tap b.s.", and now the Trumpcare bill, what was reported on C.B.C. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) was that Trump's trademarks have been "accepted" in Communist China. some thing they had refused to do for eons. As CNN waxes on each night about the Trumpcare bill and other speculation, no one seems to be covering that little item which in the most populace country in the world is worth a great deal of money. Now I do wonder if Trump's administration will become hawkish on Communist China's expansion, with its islands, into the ocean or will they just forget about it.

Trump may have had the P.M. of Japan over pronto when he was elected, but that may have been to ensure Japan didn't dumb their bonds. After Communist China dumped some of their American bonds, Japan once again became the biggest holder of American debt. Trump and his people might want to pay a little more attention to what goes on with North Korea because if they don't and anymore of those missiles come Japan's way, they may change their constitution and start building an armed forces again and this time count on it to have nuclear weapons, which I'm sure Israeli will be happy to sell them. If Japan starts to cash in their American debt bonds it will not go well for the U.S.A. economically.

Russia and Japan haven't been friends for a long time, so who knows how this will end up. It is a good thing as Martha would say that an anonymous source revealed what Sessions was doing. I do not believe that man when he opens his mouth. Long may anonymous sources live and long may journalists who use them and confirm them, in a meaningful way, continue to do the work they do. Without them a large part of our democracy could be lost. The work this blog does is meaningful and important. Its just too bad it doesn't make you the money it should/could. Long may you blog!

Anonymous said...

Lock him up! Lock him up!

Anonymous said...

Not sure Jeffy will do real well in prison, not with that purty little mouth and that cute little Southern racist behind. I bet some of the prison hardliners would just love to teach him what a real man looks like.

Anonymous said...

Stop it, @4:18, you're killing me. You've got me laughing so hard it hurts, with soda spewing out my nose!

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine a prison lifer, using his 13-inch "sausage" to probe all of Jeffy's various cavities? Of course, Jeffy might like that, up to a point, but I'm guessing it would get tiresome to be someone's prison bee-atch. I feel certain the well endowed lifer would get a kick out of porking a former senator and attorney general.

Anonymous said...

Wow, your commenters are top-notch, Roger. A prison rape joke paired with pink-baiting? Classy.

legalschnauzer said...

Let me guess: You are offended by a comment here, but you voted for Donald "Pussy Grabber" Trump. Or is that Donald "Pee on Me" Trump"? Either way, makes perfect sense. Not sure you are one to be judging what is classy and what is not.

Anonymous said...

I voted for Hillary, and it's honestly baffling that you'd either (1) assume I voted for Trump because I object to your commenter's poor taste or (2) think that it matters whom I voted for as to whether my argument holds. So: your guess is both wrong and irrelevant.

legalschnauzer said...

Nothing baffling about it. In essence, your original comment (in my view) stood up for Jeff Sessions, Trump's AG. Hence, the appearance that you support the chief "Pussy Grabber." If you can't see the irony of a Trump supporter taking offense at an offensive comment . . . well, you must need an irony transplant.

I agree the comment is in poor taste, but if someone wants to take a shot at humor (at Sessions' expense) I'm all for it. That you aren't for it, still makes me think you are a Trumpista. I must say, I don't care who you voted for, or whether you voted at all. But I do have a pretty well-tuned irony meter, and your comment set it off.

You really aren't making an argument. You simply state that you find an anonymous comment here to be in poor taste. I agree with you, but I found the commenter to be making a legit attempt at humor re: a public official, so I let it go. Plus, I think Jeff Sessions is one of the most corrupt and nasty weasels on earth, so I enjoy any attempt to poke holes in his tiny little skin.

Anonymous said...

You dumb shits. Sessions is not going to prison over this and Trump's presidency isn't going to collapse over this. And no, I am not a Trump "supporter." I didn't vote for he or HIllary. Agree with e.a.f that relations with China and Japan raise legitimate concerns.

e.a.f. said...

Sessions may well go to prison, but it won't be any prison. It will be a prison, which is frequently referred to as a country club prison. A British Lord spend time in one after being found guilty of fraud. He then came home to Canada. All the men there looked to be very white and "civilized". its where they send the bankers, white collar crime types.

Regardless of what crimes people have committed, it is not appropriate for them to be raped under any circumstances. There is a criminal code in the U.S.A. and it would be best for all if it were adhered to or you could wind up with some think like ISIS uses when it dispenses their version of justice.