The New York Times and the Washington Post are being credited Friday afternoon with releasing two big scoops regarding Trump administration scandals.
The Times report, which alleges the president told the Russians that firing former FBI director James B. Comey had relieved a "great pressure" on him, is a legitimately big story.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer didn't challenge the Times report, which only increased the appearance that the president improperly fired Comey to wave off an investigation into his campaign.
The Post's Friday scoop, however, which alleges federal officials have identified a top White House official as being a "person of interest" in the FBI's investigation into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election, should be handled with caution.
The Post's report is thin on details, and it makes use of a great deal of suspiciously vague language.
Here's how the story opens:
The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.
The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.
That's not saying a whole lot about anything. First off, the sources are implicating a whole group of people (White House advisers close to the president) while deliberately not naming the one "person of interest." Secondly, that term—"person of interest"—is hopelessly vague.
Attorney Ken White, who also manages the popehat.com law blog, saw the same issues in the Post's story.
"So today's WaPo story about a 'person of interest' in the White House is a little odd. 'Person of interest' is a deliberately ambiguous term, evasive. WaPo reporters are smart and know that. Yet they don't comment on it," he remarked on social media.
"'Subject' or 'target' would be far more precise terms, suggesting that the source has more knowledge and credibility," he added. "But it's odd and a bit disappointing that WaPo writers don't highlight that their source is using notoriously wobbly language with them."
He concluded with the final thought, "Because 'person of interest' could mean 'target' or 'subject' or could mean 'person mentioned once speculatively.' And no, adding 'significant' doesn't make it less ambiguous. That's like saying 'no, I STRENUOUSLY object!'"
Another big difference between the Times and Post is that the White House basically confirmed the former, while saying not a whole lot about the latter.
Spicer said this about the Times' article: "The President has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia as it relates to Syria, Ukraine, defeating ISIS and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the American people."
"By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia. The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations," Spicer added.
Now here is what he had to say about the Post: "As the President has stated before – a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity."
Of the two reports released Friday afternoon, we recommend you focus your attention on the Times' handiwork.