Our Shameless Media
As a result of the widespread declassification of documents connected to the investigation of President Trump and his 2016 campaign for possible electoral collusion with Russia, we now know what was previously only suspected.
First, it is beyond cavil that former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice are bald-faced liars. Each of them testified before the House Intelligence Committee that they possessed no evidence of collusion.
Yet each of them has appeared on national cable news multiple times, as expert commentators presumed to have direct knowledge of the subject, and said the exact opposite. John Brennan implied that Trump was guilty of treason, and James Clapper suggested Trump is a Putin asset.
And if they are brazen liars, Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is a "pathological liar," in the words of left-wing journalists Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone and Aaron Mate of The Nation. Schiff asserted repeatedly that he had viewed powerful evidence implicating President Trump, even as he successfully resisted all attempts to declassify the House testimony that would have exposed his lie.
His House committee also heard testimony from Shawn Henry, president of Crowdstrike, a cyber security firm hired to investigate breaches of the Democratic National Committee's computers, that his company had no solid evidence of Russian hacking of the DNC. (Remarkably, the FBI never conducted an independent investigation of the computers.)
THE JUST DECLASSIFIED transcripts of Mike Flynn's conversations with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak make clear Flynn told the truth when he told the FBI that he had not discussed (or did not remember discussing), Obama administrations sanctions placed on Russia with Kislyak. The sanctions referred to, as specified in the government's statement of offense, were those imposed on nine companies pursuant to President Obama's Executive Order 13757.
But the quotations in the statement of offense against Flynn, in which he quite properly requested the Russians not to escalate matters, had to do with the expulsions of Russian diplomats and not with the sanctions. The only mention of sanctions was perfunctory. Kislyak mentioned them twice, but Flynn only responded, "Yeah, yeah."
No wonder prosecutor Brandon Van Grack refused to provide Flynn's attorneys with the transcripts, despite a court order that the prosecution do so. They refuted his case.
Lastly, we are now privy to the document that triggered the entire Trump collusion investigation. Drafter by counterterrorism agent Peter Strzok, it constitutes the "insurance policy"against Trump's election about which Strzok tweeted senior FBI attorney Lisa Page.
Styled as a FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) investigation, the report contained no evidence that any member of the Trump team had been engaged by the Russians to advocate for Russian government goals. It quotes verbatim an email from Australian diplomat Andrew Downer, in which he writes that low level Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos had "suggested" that the Trump campaign had received "some kind of suggestion" of assistance from Russia with respect information damaging to Hillary Clinton. As Kevin Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI describes it, "a suggestion of a suggestion."
Moreover, Downer had explicitly written there was no indication that the Trump team had responded positively and, secondly, that the Russians would do what they wanted for their own reasons, regardless of the Trump team response. No FBI squad commander, writes Brock in The Hill, would have ever initiated an investigation on such thin gruel.
In addition to the recent revelations, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that the FBI lied about the veracity of its central informant, Christopher Steele, in its first FISA application to put the Trump campaign under surveillance. And even worse, the FBI never noted in subsequent applications that Steele's claimed Russian informant for his DNC-financed dossier had thoroughly repudiated the dossier. Further, within a few months of commencing its investigation, the Mueller team knew that there had been no collusion, but kept its investigation going for another year hoping to create an obstruction case against President Trump.
ONE MIGHT EXPECT that the mainstream media would display a bit of anger at having been duped by senior Obama officials and Schiff for years. Or that we would hear a few mea culpas for breathlessly hyping the flimsiest of investigations for three years. Perhaps even that someone would return a Pulitzer Prize won for reporting leaks from senior Obama administration officials that relied on media credulity.
For instance, when news of Flynn's December 29 conversation with Kislyak was dangled in front of the Washington Post's Adam Entous, he was not interested. The incoming national security advisor should be talking to the Russian ambassador, he reasoned. But on January 12, Post columnist David Ignatius revealed the December 29 conversation, and asked pointedly, whether Flynn had undercut U.S. sanctions. Flynn's current attorney, Sydney Powell, claims James Clapper was the source of the leak – itself a federal crime – and told Ignatius "to take the kill shot on Flynn."
That's just one example of the ways in which the media was a willing and necessary accomplice in fanning the collusion narrative being put out by the Obama administration.
In short, the mainstream media went along with government spying on an opposition political party and a deliberate effort to hamstring the incoming political party without a peep. Yet a smooth transition of power, notes University of Chicago Professor Charles Lipson, is the "hallmark of a stable democracy."
And, even today, when the entire collusion narrative has been thoroughly exploded, that same media shows no second thoughts about its complicity. Rather the MSM is fully engaged in what Taibbi and Mate call the "privilege protection racket." And if Donald Trump is re-elected, they charge, the person most responsible will be Adam Schiff and his willing accomplices in the media.
The Politics of Self-Destruction
A Michael Ramirez political cartoon says it all. In frame one, President Trump is looking at his Twitter feed and says, "See this one likes my tweets about investigating Joe Scarborough . . . ." In frame 2, his aide tells him, "Yes, but its Joe Biden's campaign manager."
Why can't the president figure out that with every tweet he loses voters who would be inclined to support him on policy grounds? His devoted fan base do not constitute close to fifty percent of likely voters, and many of the remainder are repulsed by his Twitter persona.
Even if he just wanted to throw red meat to his base, why not keep a laser focus on the daily revelations of Obamagate, which represents a Watergate-level political scandal, rather than re-circulate the rantings of lunatics to strike back at Joe Scarborough for saying mean things about him on TV.
Among the qualities that people seek in a leader are dignity, a modicum of self-control, an ability to appeal to the "better angels of our natures," the feeling that the national interest occupies at least as large a place in his heart as his personal vanity.
Trump cannot meet those standards, and won't try. As a consequence, even in the flushest of economic times, his approval rating never passed the fifty per cent mark.
During the coronavirus crisis, our thoroughly decent and greatly underappreciated former president George W. Bush broke his usual rule that ex-presidents should be seen not heard, to offer words of uplift: "Finally, let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat. In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants, we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of G-d."
Who could object? Well, President Trump managed to, demanding to know why Bush hadn't called for non-partisanship during his impeachment hearings. The answer was obvious: Impeachment represents the height of partisanship, and Bush did not see his involvement as appropriate to his current role. But most appalling was the way Trump automatically made Bush's uplifting words about him, as if the country were not facing a real crisis. Even narcissism has its limits.
I can easily identify numerous critical areas of policy where where President Trump is vastly superior to his opponent. And I hope he will be re-elected. But it saddens me that my native land has come to this point.