The Washington Post issued a shocking report on Thursday. The paper reported about the FBI raiding former President Donald Trump’s estate specifically to look for “classified documents related to nuclear weapons,” after speaking with “people familiar with the investigation.”
The paper neglected to confirm that rumor… but it spread anyway.
Some commentators compared Trump to Ethel Rosenberg, a spy convicted of giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. Others mocked the Republicans’ argument about the FBI allegedly abusing its power.
The phrase “nuclear” even trended on Twitter.
Take a look —
What’s scary is that all of this could happen to any of us who stole nuclear documents.
— Kashana (@kashanacauley) August 12, 2022
Rosenbergs were convicted for giving U.S. nuclear secrets to Moscow, and were executed June 1953: pic.twitter.com/0Ox1JXoNDf
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) August 12, 2022
In reality, the Post was reporting only on hearsay. It even acknowledged that fact in the report.
“Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation,” the paper wrote.
The paper neglected to specify the exact number of “people familiar.”
In fact, The Washington Post spoke to only one named source about the raid., The paper tapped a former official at the Justice Department’s unit for investigating leaks of classified documents.
The named source didn’t reveal much. He said only that a nuclear football could explain the FBI’s decision to raid.
“If that is true, it would suggest that material residing unlawfully at Mar-a-Lago may have been classified at the highest classification level,” David Laufman, the former chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence unit, told the Post. “If the FBI and the Department of Justice believed there were top secret materials still at Mar-a-Lago, that would lend itself to greater ‘hair-on-fire’ motivation to recover that material as quickly as possible.”
In other words, liberal commentators were credulously parroting a report based on hearsay, without acknowledging it as hearsay.
Trump himself has denied the report. “Nuclear weapons issue is a Hoax, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a Hoax,” the former president wrote Friday on Truth Social.
Some observers remained skeptical from the beginning. On Twitter, a high-profile defender of President Joe Biden described the report as “unconfirmed.” Instead of focusing on the nuclear report. he urged the media to blame Republicans for the atrocious violence against an FBI office in Ohio.
Take a look —
The nuclear news is batshit, but still unconfirmed. What is confirmed is that today Trump and Republicans incited a man to attempt a terrorist attack against the FBI and then die in a shootout in a field.
We shouldn't let that get buried by the news.
— What Biden Has Done (@What46HasDone) August 12, 2022
Little is known about what the FBI found or what it was seeking.
Neither Trump nor the FBI has said anything about what documents the FBI might have recovered, or what precisely agents were looking for.
That may change. There’s been a bipartisan push to make the warrant public. If it succeeds, more information may become publicly known.
Large numbers of Trump supporters have called for the warrant to be released hoping they it will show that Trump was unfairly targeted.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department formally petitioned federal judges to release the warrant.
“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” the Justice Department wrote in a motion filed in federal court in Florida on Thursday.
Some media organizations, like CNN, reportedly filed their own motion to release the warrant.
Should the warrant be released, it could disclose useful information about the former president and about FBI scrutiny of his handling of sensitive government documents right as he prepares for another run for the White House. A federal judge in Florida will decide whether to approve the disclosure request.
It’s unclear at this point how much information would be included in the documents, if made public, or if they would encompass an FBI affidavit that would presumably lay out a detailed factual basis for the search. The department specifically requested the unsealing of the warrant as well as a property receipt listing the items that were seized, along with two unspecified attachments.
To obtain a search warrant, federal authorities must prove to a judge that probable cause exists to believe that a crime was committed. Garland said he personally approved the warrant, a decision he said the department did not take lightly given that standard practice where possible is to select less intrusive tactics than a search of one’s home.
In any case, the nuclear rumor from the Post remains unconfirmed as of Friday morning.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.