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.”
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.”
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?