MTP: Tom Cotton Schools Chuck Todd About Relying Too Much on Anonymous Sources

Things arguably got a little embarrassing for NBC moderator Chuck Todd during Sunday’s Meet the Press, after Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton had to explain to him that the claims of anonymous sources should be taken with a grain of salt. “Anonymous sources said Steve Bannon drove from the White House to the Department of Homeland Security to confront John Kelly, which we now know is not the truth,” Cotton reminded Todd, “That’s not like the tone of a conversation, that’s someone’s physical whereabouts.”

Cotton’s schooling of Todd came as the NBC moderator pressed the Senator on when the media could expect the Senate to call for a special prosecutor to investigate Russian ties to the Trump administration. “What point is it in the best interest of the country to sort of take it away from elected partisans at this point,” Todd wanted to know.

According to Cotton, Todd was putting the cart way before the horse. “There are no allegations of any crime occurring,” he explained to Todd, “There's not even indication that there's criminal investigations under way by the FBI as opposed to counter intelligence investigations.” He also tried to make it clear to Todd that as the FBI investigation progressed it would be up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make the call for a special prosecutor.

But before Cotton could finish his thought, Todd interjected reminding the Senator that he once called for a special prosecutor to look into the IRS for politically motived actions against Tea Party organizations. “That's something that can be decided down the road, but right now there's no credible evidence of these contacts beyond anonymous sources in the media,” Cotton clarified.  

“And I’ve got to tell you, anonymous sources can't always be trusted,” Cotton quipped at the end of that thought. That didn’t sit well with Todd, who defended the practice, noting, “Anonymous sources are how we find out about a lot of scandal in this country.” It was then when Cotton reminded Todd of the false accusations made about Bannon’s interaction with Secretary Kelly. The earlier point Cotton described was excellent, an observer could read into all sorts of body language and misinterpret the tone and motivation in a conversation.

Todd seemed befuddled as Cotton continued to caution about relying on such sources, “You cannot credit stories that are based on anonymous sources. You should look into them especially if you're in a position of responsibility, but you can't simply credit them.” Todd seemed to give up and moved on to talking about health care.

Todd’s pushing for a special prosecutor to investigate Trump came off as lusting for it to happen. Todd talked about it as though it was something that was going to happen as a matter of fact. That’s a narrative that the liberal media has been pushing for a while now. They even overlooked CNN’s own reporting that when the FBI brief the White House on the investigation they said the media’s reports were overstating the facts. That’s an important fact Cotton had to remind Todd of. 

Transcript below:

<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>

NBC
Meet the Press
February 26, 2017
10:37:51 AM Eastern

TOM COTTON: So Chuck, let's take the CNN article on face value. I'm not going to confirm or deny obviously anything in these stories because these leaks of classified information could do real harm to our national security, but let's take it at face value. So it says the FBI went to President Trump and Reince Priebus and said that reports of contacts between Trump associates last year and Russian intelligence officials were grossly overstated. Isn't it reasonable for the chief of staff to then say to the FBI director “Well, are you going to say anything to correct the record on this since everyone is running around Washington making these allegations?” I think that's a perfectly reasonable response. Now the FBI and other intelligence agencies have reasons that they don't go out and call balls and strikes on news stories because we don't want to let our adversaries know what we do know and what we don't know, or how we know it. But again, if you take everything in that story at face value I don’t think there’s that much alarming in it

...

10:40:39 AM Eastern

CHUCK TODD: And finally, I want to ask you about the Darrell Issa being open to a special prosecutor. What point is it in the best interest of the country to sort of take it away from elected partisans at this point? Whether it's a commission-- I know a select commission, outside commission or a special prosecutor. Where are you in that?

COTTON: Well, I think that's way, way getting ahead of ourselves here, Chuck. There are no allegations of any crime occurring. There's not even indication that there's criminal investigations under way by the FBI as opposed to counter intelligence investigations, which the FBI conducts all the time as our main counter-intelligence bureau. If we get down that road that's a decision that Attorney General Sessions can make at the time. But I think that’s—

TODD: Senators can call for it on their own. I mean, you called during your campaign against Mike prior. You called for a special prosecutor for the IRS. When does-- How does this Russia allegation, when does that rise to that level in your mind?

COTTON: Well, I think that's far down the road from what our inquiry might reveal in the Intelligence Committee or what the FBI’s inquiries might reveal. That's something that can be decided down the road, but right now there's no credible evidence of these contacts beyond anonymous sources in the media. And I’ve got to tell you, anonymous sources can't always be trusted.

TODD: Anonymous sources are how we find out about a lot of scandal in this country.

COTTON: Anonymous sources said Steve Bannon drove from the White House to the Department of Homeland Security to confront John Kelly, which we now know is not the truth. That’s not like the tone of a conversation, that’s someone’s physical whereabouts.

TODD: I – I – I

COTTON: You cannot credit stories that are based on anonymous sources. You should look into them especially if you're in a position of responsibility, but you can't simply credit them.

TODD: Let me talk to you about healthcare. 

Nicholas Fondacaro
Nicholas Fondacaro
Nicholas C. Fondacaro