Actually, Barack Obama was far worse on press freedom than Donald Trump has been

President Barack Obama gestures as he answers questions during a news conference following the conclusion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders summit at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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While Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters blathers on about how President Donald Trump is an “incompetent” leader, it’s worth pointing out that Trump’s approach to White House leakers has been shrewd and moderate. In fact, it’s been far more moderate than the one employed by his predecessor.

In 2013, the Obama administration seized the phone records of more than 100 Associated Press reporters. One week later, we learned that Obama’s Justice Department spied extensively on Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2010, tracking his movements, collecting his telephone records, even seizing his personal emails.

Prior to Obama taking office, the United States federal government had only ever used the 1917 Espionage Act against three individuals for leaking classified information to the media. Of those three, Samuel Loring Morison was the only one convicted after he was found guilty of leaking classified photographs of USSR warships to a British publication in the 1980s.

After Obama took office in 2008, his Justice Department indicted six individuals for leaking classified information to the media, twice as many as all prior administrations combined.

President Trump has not once taken that egregious step. In fact, his Justice Department has expressed a respect for journalists who want to hold their government accountable. That might yet change—he’s only been in office seven months—but so far he’s been much better on preserving press freedoms than was Barack Obama.

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“We’re after leakers, not journalists,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Sunday. Indeed, Trump’s entire policy toward leakers is far less hostile than that of his predecessors in almost every way imaginable. Obama and Eric Holder, his attorney general, had no problem trampling on Americans’ civil liberties and aggressively spying on journalists as if they were Cold War spies trying to infiltrate the U.S. government.

While media outlets like Politico peddle stories titled “Jeff Sessions’ Attack on the Media Is Worse Than You Think,” Rosenstein, presumably at the behest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump, was asserting that “Reporters who publish information are not committing a crime.”

President Trump all too often elicits criticism for his wrongdoings yet never receives any credit for implementing smart, effective policy. Even when he aims to honor freedom of the press, the media immediately assumes the worst in him.

Sure, Trump is often whimsical and sometimes loose with facts on certain issues, but it’s hard to argue that he is somehow in the wrong for wanting to protect our national security. A recently released report from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs details the unprecedented wave of leaks against the Trump administration, further underscoring how many in the government are trying to derail Trump’s presidency for political purposes.

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The report says that in his first 126 days of office, the Trump administration suffered 125 leaks that were “potentially damaging to national security.”

In comparison, during the first 126 days of the Bush and Obama administrations, there were only a total of 36 combined leaks.

If the media wants to regain its shattered credibility, they should begin by covering reports that actually detail real abuses of power. Congressional hearings have indicated that several former Obama administration officials possibly “unmasked” hundreds of American’s identities – and possibly several Trump campaign officials – during the incidental collection by our intelligence services.

Much of the media gave Obama a pass for eight years. They owe it to us now to adequately cover reports suggesting several of that administration’s former officials abused their power for political purposes.

What do you think?

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