Question: Are There Any Fair And Rational Democrats Who Protest The Fake “Bombshells” And “Breaking News” Purporting To Show Trump “Colluded With Russia”?

A day or so ago, I was watching when a CNN crawl said: “Breaking News….Trump Team Had Contact With Russia.” Then I listened to the actual story. That headline was fake news. (Yes, partisan spinners: when the news media uses a misleading headline to  suggest something is true that isn’t, that is fake news.) The Trump team didn’t do anything. Individuals who were involved with Trump’s campaign had contact with Russians (not Russia) that may have had nothing at all to do with Trump or the election. The headline was intentionally constructed to suggest that the Trump campaign was engaged in something sinister.

This was just an especially glaring example. Earlier this week, John Brennan testified that

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,” Brennan said  “And it raised questions in my mind again whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals…”

That statement was similarly spun as a “bombshell,” because to those who have already decided that President Trump must have committed treason to win the election (because why would anyone vote against Hillary Clinton, and besides, Trump is a fascist, evil, scary monster thing elected by deplorable sexistracistxenohobicauthoritarianmorons), so Trump is obviously guilty. In truth, what X is concerned about regarding associates of Y is no evidence of anything regarding Y at all.

The biased media’s’ Brennan spin isn’t an outlier; it exemplifies the entire “Russiagate” narrative.  Another New York Times “bombshell”  reported, based on “three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence,” that

American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

Rachel Stoltzfoos  at The Daily Caller cleanly exposed this bombshell as a dud in her post, “Go Straight To The Fifth Paragraph Of The Latest NYT ‘Bombshell’ On Russia Collusion,” where she wrote,

But the (few) readers who make it to the fifth paragraph and are paying attention will realize there’s not actually much meat to the report. That paragraph hedges on the information collected by the spies, and notes the reporter has no real clue whether Russian officials actually made any attempt to influence the Trump aides in question. Oh yeah and the Trump campaign as well as both aides have consistently denied the longstanding accusations of collusion with Russia.

That fifth paragraph:

The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is ongoing. It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government on the campaign to disrupt the election.

That’s the big news!  The Russian officials wanted to influence Trump associates. And the fact that I want to hair on my head is not evidence that I have any, or ever will. This kind of over-hyped junk is what the Washington Post and New York Times, among others, are trumpeting every day on the front pages, with the express purpose of making readers, both the already biased and the easily misled, distrustful of their own government and the President of the United States. Meanwhile, as The National Review correctly pointed out, real news—especially news that indicts the Obama Administration—  is pushed beneath the fold, buried, or as with the NSA domestic spying story, not mentioned at all…

“Fake news crowds out real news. Here is what we do not read much about: North Korea, long appeased, could well send missiles against our allies, perhaps even with nuclear payloads. Afghanistan is at a crux and will either implode or need more American troops. China’s role is in the balance, and it may or may not help defang North Korea. The greatest tax- and health-reform packages in years are now in the hands of Congress. Executive orders have revolutionized the domestic energy industry and achieved a stunning and historic reduction in illegal immigration. The stock market is soaring, employment is up, and confidence in the economy has returned. Wall Street seems to dip only on talk of impeaching Donald Trump.”
But the mainstream media’s priority right now isn’t reporting the news. The priority is somehow getting President Trump removed from office. Two weekends ago I surveyed an entire  Sunday Times for a post documenting how thoroughly this “resistance” mindset warps that paper’s journalism and the objectivity and reasoning of its writers. The post became  so long, dense and infuriating I couldn’t finish it, but I might yet. Yes, the news media’s betrayal of its institutional duties is the greatest ethics crisis the nation currently is facing, and one of the greatest it has ever faced. Yes, the news media has become an “enemy of the people,” because it has become an enemy of informed and responsible democracy.

And yes, the fact that Democrats and progressives are not condemning and decrying this catastrophic and existential development as much as conservatives, Republicans and lonely ethicists is a crisis as well.

Yesterday’s “bombshell” came from the Washington Post, as the two major newspapers are actively competing to see which can bring down a President, since that is such a patriotic  and most of all, lucrative goal:

“Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin…using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports,” The Washington Post reports…The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest…Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who attended the meeting,[ reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team…Neither the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance, officials said.”

Ann Althouse did a lawyerly and effective job dissecting this one, so I’m going to let her take over for a while. The Socratic blogger writes in part,…

So…Kushner expressed interest in doing something that was never done. It was a bad idea — WaPo stresses — and if a bad idea was floated and then rejected, what is the story? WaPo says the White House disclosed this meeting back in March and “play[ed] down its significance,” but is WaPo playing up its significance? What is the significance?

“The FBI closely monitors the communications of Russian officials in the United States, and it maintains a nearly constant surveillance of its diplomatic facilities. The National Security Agency monitors the communications of Russian officials overseas. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary. “How would he trust that the Russians wouldn’t leak it on their side?” said one former senior intelligence official. The FBI would know that a Trump transition official was going in and out of the embassy, which would cause “a great deal” of concern, he added. The entire idea, he said, “seems extremely naive or absolutely crazy.”

But the “extremely naive or absolutely crazy” idea was rejected, so what is the significance? The meeting, we’re told, took place on December 1st or 2d, and WaPo says it’s part of “a broader pattern of efforts by Trump’s closest advisers to obscure their contacts with Russian counterparts.” And yet, WaPo tells us, “It is common for senior advisers of a newly elected president to be in contact with foreign leaders and officials” and “The State Department, the White House National Security Council and U.S. intelligence agencies all have the ability to set up secure communications channels with foreign leaders, though doing so for a transition team would be unusual.”

Unusual? That means it has happened before. And it ultimately wasn’t done with the Trump team, so when was it done? Which President’s transition team set up secure communications and was it “extremely naive or absolutely crazy”?

Like the other “bombshells,” this is intentional trust-destruction by innuendo, tone and hype. There is no story yet, and may not be any story at all. Every American ought to deeply resent the media’s  campaign of deceit, guesswork, whispers and bias. The news media should pay a high price for it. If it doesn’t, all those smug Trump-haters who sat back and let U.S. journalism become an agency of partisan power and propaganda will live to regret their own dereliction of civic responsibility.

This is a bipartisan crisis, an American crisis. When will the Left realize it and add its voice to the ethics alarm?

 

24 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

24 responses to “Question: Are There Any Fair And Rational Democrats Who Protest The Fake “Bombshells” And “Breaking News” Purporting To Show Trump “Colluded With Russia”?

  1. Phil Alperson

    I am not on the impeachment train. You can’t discuss impeachment until and unless you have hard facts to support it.

    But there clearly is a lot of smoke that definitely merits investigating. A special counsel was an appropriate move and this Administration cannot conduct s fair self-examination. Maybe it will take us to impeachment. I am not going n a position to pre-judge but we simply aren’t there now.

    • That’s a fair position. Simply because the specter of collusion was raised made it imperative to investigate.

      • Of course, if the investigation were to discover that what looked like smoke turned out to be just whispy clouds of steam and concludes that no fire exists, the Left will just lose its mind and demand more investigation. If indeed the investigation discovers fire, the Left will feel like all of its unjustifiable spin up and rabid frothing and unethical screaming is justified and will do it again any time an opposition member is in office anywhere.

        Lose lose for the Republic.

        • Joe Gagliardi

          You are 100% correct. That said, this exact statement could be framed as follows:

          Of course, if the investigation turns up nothing but smoke and no fire exists, the Right will let out a deep sigh of relief and use this failure to block further investigations into possible corruption here or elsewhere. Potentially harmful things to the republic will stay uncovered, dismissed as a witch hunt.

          On the other hand, if there is fire, the Right will simply hit eject on a duly elected president that many of them don’t like that much anyway. The spin will revert to pre-primary rhetoric regarding Trump and the few loyalists will be sacrificed. Return to the status quo and as you said, lose-lose for the Republic.

      • Other Bill

        But hasn’t the FBI been investigating this since at least the middle of last summer? If there was more damning evidence, wouldn’t it, or it’s existence, have been enthusiastically leaked and reported on by now? If the FBI has been monitoring all Russian communications with Americans, how many months or years does it take to read through the transcripts?

  2. Samuel Halverson

    Unfortunately in this ultra-partisan circus the Trump/Obama administration has become; it might actually be more secure to use another countries communication channels. Probably not a near-peer aggressor lIke Russia but maybe the U.K. or another NATO state.

    See the surprise of our ally Britain as their shared intelligence was leaked. They obviously were not expecting such an event and probably don’t have as severe of problems with OPSEC as our home state clearly does.

    Or at least start to compartmentalize classified information again on a need to know basis. No more inter-departmental sharing unless it’s cleared first through a third party to facilitate information sharing but keep prying eyes away as well.

    It’s frustrating none the less.

  3. Other Bill

    Thanks for posting on the media madness, Jack. Particularly the NYT and Washington Post two step that’s playing out every single day. It’s really outrageous and under-reported.

  4. Remember the plot to the James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies”? A brief synopsis is that a media mogul wants to fuck the entire world so he can sell more of his sensational media. Well folks, right now the media in the United States want’s to fuck the entire United States, destroy the sitting President’s ability to govern with propaganda that is intentional subversion, and prop up a leftist ideology that can’t be “sold” to the public any other way. The leftist media is LOVING all this “breaking news”, “bombshells”, it’s lining their coffers with dollars.

    A friend of mine has been stating for a while that the left want’s to win by default, I think he’s correct.

    • Ironically, the media left propelled Trump to the Republican nomination so it could win by default. They knew Hillary was a bad candidate but felt Trump could not possibly beat Hillary. They feared Rubio, and even Jeb. So they laughed while Trump childishly insulted far better men/candidates.

      Now that the plan has backfired miraculously, to the detriment of just about everybody not named Trump, it is far easier for the media left to blame a nefarious and probably non-existent conspiracy then to acknowledge their own role in Trump 2016.

  5. Phil Alperson

    To continue my previous comment…..

    Many news outlets from left, right and center abuse the Breaking News mantra. I have pretty much stopped watching CNN because of this tedious sensationalistic practice. But, Jack, you’re Breaking News complaint is besides the point.

    The real question is whether it is Fake News. You already reveal your bias by deeming it so. How do YOU know it is fake?

    I believe that anything me who actually calls the Trump Administration’s actions toward Russia as “collusion” are overstepping. There’s no solid evidence (yet) but there’s lots of suspicious factoids that require investigation.

    Just as we aren’t ready to call it collusion, neither can we call reports of POSSIBLE collusion fake. By denying the POSSIBILITY of collusion, by calling such suspicions FAkE, it is reasonable for someone to think you are a blinders-wearing right wing nut job.

    As long said previously, I am not on the impeachment train. But we must investigate the many odd signs of some coziness with Russia for whatever reason there might be.

    Remember also the impeachment might res Mike a judicial process, but it isn’t. Impeachment is a political process with no definition of what constitutes High Crines and Misdemeanors. Andrew Johnson was impeached because Congress didn’t like him.

    Also remember that impeachment is only the filing of Charges (Articles of Impeachment) voted on by the House, and a trial ruled over by the Senate. Johnson, and Bill Clinton, were both impeached by neither were convicted (expelled from office). Nixon, had he not resigned, surely would have been both impeached and convicted.

    At this point, we don’t have specific charges against Trump so there’s nothing (yet) on which to impeach him. And without that there’s no way to predict whether he could be convicted of anything.

    So we can’t put the cart before the horse. But this isn’t fake news. It’s quite real.

    • The Observer had a headline yesterday: “NSA Chief Admits Donald Trump Colluded With Russians.” Fake news. Nothing in the story suggested that. The CNN crawl was fake news. There was no evidence that “Trump’s team” did anything. Representing a equivocal evidence as point to a fact that it in fact does not point to is a lie, or a misrepresentation.

      NEWS means facts. Not opinion, not supposition, not innuendo, not rumor. If Not news is published by the news media as news, then it’s fake news. You ask, “How do YOU know it is fake?” Great question. An ethical news organization does publish stories that even prompt that question. If what is represented as news—FACT—isn’t fact when I read it or hear it, then it is fairly called fake news. Your question means, “How do you know it won’t be eventually proven true?” I don’t, and it doesn’t matter, because it should have been represented as fact before then. If opinion, rumor, gossip, supposition, theory or equivocal facts are presented—intentionally, negligently, incompetently, mistakenly— in such a way to suggest to a reader or listener that X is fact when it is not, then that is fake news—news that isn’t news. News that isn’t news is fake news, and it is judged at the time it is published or broadcast.

      From the National Review: Election machines in three states were not hacked to give Donald Trump the election. There was never a serious post-election movement of electors to defy their constitutional duties and vote for Hillary Clinton. Nor, once Trump was elected, did transgendered people begin killing themselves in alarming numbers. Nor were there mass resignations at the State Department upon his inauguration. Nor did Donald Trump seek an order to “ban all Muslims” from entering the U.S. Instead, he temporarily sought a suspension in visas for everyone, regardless of religion, from seven Middle Eastern states that the Obama administration had earlier identified as incapable of properly vetting travelers to the U.S. The first lady did not work for an elite escort or prostitute service. She never said that she and young Barron Trump would not be moving to the White House. Barron does not have autism. Trump’s father never ran racist ads as a supposed candidate in a purported political campaign. Kellyanne Conway denies that in a private conversation between segments on MSNBC, she privately remarked to hosts that she had to take a shower after working for Trump. Donald Trump never suggested to the Mexican president that the U.S. was going to invade Mexico. Nor did Trump plan to mobilize the National Guard to send back illegal aliens. He did not remove a Martin Luther King bust from the White House. There was no evidence that he ever promised to ease Russian sanctions (much less that he promised the Russians he would be “flexible” after he was elected). He did not short the FBI of resources to conduct an investigation into supposed Russian collusion. He did not go to Moscow and watch prostitutes in his bed urinate where Barack Obama had previously slept. His deputy attorney general did not threaten to resign over the Comey firing.

      Saying that “left and right” sources engage in this kind of unethical journalism is evasive. 90% of the mainstream media is left-leaning, and this is a unified effort aimed at one objective: undermining support for the President, bolstering the Democratic opposition, and creating momentum for a non-democratic removal of an elected President. The investigation is, at this point, unavoidable. The hyped coverage of it is not.

    • Otto

      Yes, Phil, we cannot know absolutely that it is fake news. However, the media often leaves us clues (buried deep within or at the end stories). I usually watch the CBS news each morning and evening. They seem to be the least biased of the major networks (that I can receive via my antenna). Not long ago, they headlined (every morning and night for at least a week) with a story about a supposed document purporting to detail all of the evil deeds in which Donald Trump partook for which he could be blackmailed later (e.g., the association with Russian prostitutes Jack included in his response to your comment). In an apparent effort to maintain their credibility, at the end of each piece of “coverage” of this headlining story, it was sheepishly admitted that none of the “news” was actually substantiated (i.e., it was only rumor). That was fake news.

      Whatever happened to that story? What happened to the document? What happened to the supposed former British intelligence agent supposedly responsible? It seems to have simply faded away. Apparently, it wasn’t the story they hoped it would be, and they’ve now moved on to other fake news.

  6. Greg

    There’s a lot to unpack from this Washington Post article. The substance of the story is trivial: somebody had a fleeting thought and expressed it aloud. The author alleges that this thought, never acted upon by anybody, is “part of a broader pattern of efforts by Trump’s closest advisers to obscure their contacts with Russian counterparts,” but nothing in the article supports this allegation. No description of these supposed efforts is given. The meeting itself was attended by a numerous retinue and was disclosed publicly by the Trump administration, although the Post claims that the disclosure “played down the significance” of the meeting, at which apparently nothing significant happened, at least nothing significant that’s mentioned by the Post.

    Although the article’s ostensible bombshells are nonsense, here’s something interesting and important :

    At the meeting, Kushner said something like this: “I think Obama operatives within the FBI and the intelligence apparatus are ‘eavesdropping’ on all of our meetings. They are planning to make selective, distorted leaks of what we say here, in order to smear President-Elect Trump and undermine his ability to conduct foreign policy.” He was right.

    How do we know Kushner said that? (Maybe he didn’t really say it and the whole anonymously sourced story is a lie, but let’s imagine that he did.) Because the FBI has cracked the Russians’ diplomatic codes and is intercepting and reading all of its embassy’s communications with Moscow. Somebody in the FBI leaked that secret to the Washington Post, which has now broadcast it to the world.

    Isn’t that the sort of secret “sources and methods” information that, if revealed, would endanger our ability to collect intelligence? Just last week, Trump was being reviled as a traitor for allegedly hinting about sources and methods to the Russians. That story turned out to be a lie, of course. General McMaster denounced it as completely false. The Post and its intelligence agency leaker were the ones who had endangered our national security. And now they’re doing it again.

    The Post is irresponsible, despicable, a spreader of lies. The leaker is a criminal, should be interrogated under bright lights until he reveals the identities of his co-conspirators, and then should be jailed.

    Here’s something else that’s interesting and important:

    The article claims that sources in the FBI say this meeting is now “of investigative interest.” Again, assuming that claim to be true, what does that statement mean? The Post article specifically reports that nothing illegal was said or done at the meeting. In any case, everything worth know about the meeting is apparently already known to the FBI. They know who was there and what was said, and they even know what was thought but not said by the Russians. So what’s left to investigate? Besides, what does this meeting have to do with any supposed “collusion to interfere with the election”? The election had been over for a month by the time the meeting took place. Once the FBI learned that the no quid pro quo for Russian interference was being delivered at the meeting and the election was not being discussed, shouldn’t they have ceased to have any “investigative interest” in it? And why would this uneventful meeting only begin to be of interest now, six months after the FBI knew all about it?

    What it means is this: The FBI and the intelligence agencies are completely out of control. After a year of investigating the phony collusion accusation, they know that it is a dead end. And they don’t care. They’re going to keep spying on Trump and everybody in his administration anyway, now under the cover of an ostensible “counterintelligence investigation.” Like the secret police in East Germany, they have informers in every meeting, they have recordings or transcripts of every phone call, they are doing the modern equivalent of steaming open envelopes and reading the mail. They are summoning Trump’s aides by subpoena to interrogation sessions where they demand to know every detail of the Trump administration’s internal deliberations. They’re gathering all of this information illegally, and then leaking it illegally to Trump’s enemies in the press, all in an effort to destroy Trump and to prevent peace from breaking out with Russia.

    • Jeez, what a terrific analysis. Althouse touched on some of it, but that was the clearest I’ve read.

      • Other Bill

        “The author alleges that this thought, never acted upon by anybody, is “part of a broader pattern of efforts by Trump’s closest advisers to obscure their contacts with Russian counterparts,” but nothing in the article supports this allegation. No description of these supposed efforts is given.”

        Nice job, Greg. Correctamundo. And the NYT does the same thing. Glad you pointed out the way these headlines and articles make various assertions but never provide anything to back them up. They just throw them out there to hang in the air. Thanks.

  7. Other Bill

    This nonsense has even infected sports writing:

    http://www.morningread.com/features/f91940e1-b1b7-46b5-8661-098a2229f9b8

    Sheesh. Fred Funk is a misogynist because he considers himself a short hitter. He’s always been self deprecating if Christine Brennan knew anything about Fred Funk. When Fred Couples was known as “Boom-Boom,” Fred Funk referred to himself as “Poof-Poof.” Incompetence combined with rabid bias is a bad combination.

  8. I suppose that the NYT, Washington Post and Democrats realize that they are damaging the USA’s reputation as well as that of their own mastheads, if they do they seem not to care. To my way of thinking the longer the inquiry the shorter the evidence uncovered.

    • The usual justification is “but it took years for Watergate to be uncovered!” Yes, but there was an actual domestic crime that sparked Watergate, a burglary by campaign operative with an obvious relationship to the election. Inherent faith in the President and his office placed confirmation bias on Nixon’s side, and it was dismissed much the same way the IRS scandal was dismissed by Obama. In Nixon’s case it didn’t work, because the news media hated him, and because there was real, as opposed to imagined smoke.

  9. fattymoon

    We all appear to be reading many of the same publications, yes? And yet we draw very different conclusions. Two possibilities arise.

    1. Confirmation bias on all sides.
    2. Reality ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

    • It’s what I described to Chris when he kept applying an inconsistent set of premises to all the Trump narratives. He couldn’t apply a consistent set of filters to interpret the available information in order to reach the conclusion he wanted to reach.

      1) reality is reality.
      2) depending on your method of approaching facts and method of interpreting them and worldview and hoped-for-conclusion will all cloud your evaluation of available information.

  10. Chris

    I am agog at how incurious you can be.

    The Trump campaign is being investigated for potential inappropriate ties with Russia. Now it comes to light that Trump’s son-in-law requested a secret and possibly illegal back channel with Russia. This occurred, by the way, at a meeting which he later lied about, and did not reveal on his security clearance forms.

    And you think that newspapers, upon receiving this information, shouldn’t report on it?

    Where am I?

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