Did reporters violate the law in giving gifts to FBI employees in exchange for leaks?

One of the swampiest revelations in the swampy I.G. report on the FBI investigation into Clinton emails is the bombshell news that reporters were known to give gifts to FBI employees – possibly in exchange for leaks.

Daily Caller:

Although public details of these exchanges are scant, they could constitute prosecutable violations of federal gift-giving rules.

The gifts in question included "tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events."

"We will separately report on those investigations as they are concluded, consistent with the Inspector General Act, other applicable federal statutes, and OIG policy," the report reads.

Gift-giving rules for federal employees are quite specific.

The rules define a prohibited source as a person who:

  • Is seeking official action by, is doing business or seeking to do business with, or is regulated by the employee's agency; or
  • Has interests that may be substantially affected by performance or nonperformance of the employee's official duties.

The problem for the I..G is in the letter of the law – the definition of a "prohibited source," for example:

These rules apply to government officials, and it is not clear if any reporters involved in these dealings could face any sort of punishment.

It's also not clear a reporter should be considered a "prohibited source" within the meaning of the provided definitions.

Violations of gift-giving rules are sometimes prosecuted as violations of the honest services fraud (HSF) statute.  High profile office-holders indicted for gift violations under this law include Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and former GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia.  Jack Abramoff, the notorious Washington lobbyist, was convicted of honest services fraud.

When Trump talks about "the swamp," this is exactly what he means: the cozy, incestuous relationship between federal employees and officials and the media, lobbyists, and those who stand to benefit in some way from that relationship.

These relationships breed corruption – even if, according to the definition of the law, they aren't technically illegal. 

The leaking from DoJ employees in the Mueller probe has been incredible.  Even when the leaks prove to be fake news, the press rarely corrects the record.  The avalanche of information that should be secret but isn't constitutes a clear case of bias at the DoJ to "get Trump" at all costs, with the media as willing accomplices.

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