Yves here. Get a cup of coffee. Taibbi’s Russiagate piece is epic.
By Matt Taibbi, author of The Divide, Griftopia, The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing, and Hate, Inc. Originally published at Substack
Note to readers: in light of news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation is complete, I’m releasing this chapter of Hate Inc. early, with a few new details added up top.
Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media.
As has long been rumored, the former FBI chief’s independent probe will result in multiple indictments and convictions, but no “presidency-wrecking” conspiracy charges, or anything that would meet the layman’s definition of “collusion” with Russia.
With the caveat that even this news might somehow turn out to be botched, the key detail in the many stories about the end of the Mueller investigation was best expressed by the New York Times:
A senior Justice Department official said that Mr. Mueller would not recommend new indictments.
The Times tried to soften the emotional blow for the millions of Americans trained in these years to place hopes for the overturn of the Trump presidency in Mueller. Nobody even pretended it was supposed to be a fact-finding mission, instead of an act of faith.
The Special Prosecutor literally became a religious figure during the last few years, with votive candles sold in his image and Saturday Night Live cast members singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” to him featuring the rhymey line: “Mueller please come through, because the only option is a coup.”
The Times story today tried to preserve Santa Mueller’s reputation, noting Trump’s Attorney General William Barr’s reaction was an “endorsement” of the fineness of Mueller’s work:
In an apparent endorsement of an investigation that Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked as a “witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said Justice Department officials never had to intervene to keep Mr. Mueller from taking an inappropriate or unwarranted step.
Mueller, in other words, never stepped out of the bounds of his job description. But could the same be said for the news media?
For those anxious to keep the dream alive, the Times published its usual graphic of Trump-Russia “contacts,” inviting readers to keep making connections. But in a separate piece by Peter Baker, the paper noted the Mueller news had dire consequences for the press:
It will be a reckoning for President Trump, to be sure, but also for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for Congress, for Democrats, for Republicans, for the news media and, yes, for the system as a whole…
This is a damning page one admission by the Times. Despite the connect-the-dots graphic in its other story, and despite the astonishing, emotion-laden editorial the paper also ran suggesting “We don’t need to read the Mueller report” because we know Trump is guilty, Baker at least began the work of preparing Times readers for a hard question: “Have journalists connected too many dots that do not really add up?”
The paper was signaling it understood there would now be questions about whether or not news outlets like itself made galactic errors by betting heavily on a new, politicized approach, trying to be true to “history’s judgment” on top of the hard-enough job of just being true. Worse, in a brutal irony everyone should have seen coming, the press has now handed Trump the mother of campaign issues heading into 2020.
Nothing Trump is accused of from now on by the press will be believed by huge chunks of the population, a group that (perhaps thanks to this story) is now larger than his original base. As Baker notes, a full 50.3% of respondents in a poll conducted this month said they agree with Trump the Mueller probe is a “witch hunt.”
Stories have been coming out for some time now hinting Mueller’s final report might leave audiences “disappointed,” as if a President not being a foreign spy could somehow be bad news.
Openly using such language has, all along, been an indictment. Imagine how tone-deaf you’d have to be to not realize it makes you look bad, when news does not match audience expectations you raised. To be unaware of this is mind-boggling, the journalistic equivalent of walking outside without pants.
There will be people protesting: the Mueller report doesn’t prove anything! What about the 37 indictments? The convictions? The Trump tower revelations? The lies! The meeting with Don, Jr.? The financial matters! There’s an ongoing grand jury investigation, and possible sealed indictments, and the House will still investigate, and…
Stop. Just stop. Any journalist who goes there is making it worse.
For years, every pundit and Democratic pol in Washington hyped every new Russia headlinelike the Watergate break-in. Now, even Nancy Pelosi has said impeachment is out, unless something “so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan” against Trump is uncovered it would be worth their political trouble to prosecute.
The biggest thing this affair has uncovered so far is Donald Trump paying off a porn star. That’s a hell of a long way from what this business was supposedly about at the beginning, and shame on any reporter who tries to pretend this isn’t so.
The story hyped from the start was espionage: a secret relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian spooks who’d helped him win the election.
The betrayal narrative was not reported as metaphor. It was not “Trump likes the Russians so much, he might as well be a spy for them.” It was literal spying, treason, and election-fixing – crimes so severe, former NSA employee John Schindler told reporters, Trump “will die in jail.”
In the early months of this scandal, the New York Times said Trump’s campaign had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence; the Wall Street Journal told us our spy agencies were withholding intelligence from the new President out of fear he was compromised; news leaked out our spy chiefs had even told other countries like Israel not to share their intel with us, because the Russians might have “leverages of pressure” on Trump.
CNN told us Trump officials had been in “constant contact” with “Russians known to U.S. intelligence,” and the former director of the CIA, who’d helped kick-start the investigation that led to Mueller’s probe, said the President was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” committing acts “nothing short of treasonous.”
Hillary Clinton insisted Russians “could not have known how to weaponize” political ads unless they’d been “guided” by Americans. Asked if she meant Trump, she said, “It’s pretty hard not to.” Harry Reid similarly said he had “no doubt” that the Trump campaign was “in on the deal” to help Russians with the leak.
None of this has been walked back. To be clear, if Trump were being blackmailed by Russian agencies like the FSB or the GRU, if he had any kind of relationship with Russian intelligence, that would soar over the “overwhelming and bipartisan” standard, and Nancy Pelosi would be damning torpedoes for impeachment right now.
There was never real gray area here. Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a “reckoning for the media.”
Of course, there won’t be such a reckoning. (There never is). But there should be. We broke every written and unwritten rule in pursuit of this story, starting with the prohibition on reporting things we can’t confirm.
#Russiagate debuted as a media phenomenon in mid-summer, 2016. The roots of the actual story, i.e. when the multi-national investigation began, go back much further, to the previous year at least. Oddly, that origin tale has not been nailed down yet, and blue-state audiences don’t seem terribly interested in it, either.
By June and July of 2016, bits of the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, which had been funded by the Democratic National Committee through the law firm Perkins Coie (which in turn hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS), were already in the ether.
The Steele report occupies the same role in #Russiagate the tales spun by Ahmed Chalabi occupied in the WMD screwup. Once again, a narrative became turbo-charged when Officials With Motives pulled the press corps by its nose to a swamp of unconfirmable private assertions.
Some early stories, like a July 4, 2016 piece by Franklin Foer in Slate called “Putin’s Puppet,” outlined future Steele themes in “circumstantial” form. But the actual dossier, while it influenced a number of pre-election Trump-Russia news stories (notably one by Michael Isiskoff of Yahoo! that would be used in a FISA warrant application), didn’t make it into print for a while.
Though it was shopped to at least nine news organizations during the summer and fall of 2016, no one bit, for the good reason that news organizations couldn’t verify its “revelations.”
The Steele claims were explosive if true. The ex-spy reported Trump aide Carter Page had been offered fees on a big new slice of the oil giant Rosneft if he could help get sanctions against Russia lifted. He also said Trump lawyer Michael Cohen went to Prague for “secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers.”
Most famously, he wrote the Kremlin had kompromat of Trump “deriling” [sic] a bed once used by Barack and Michelle Obama by “employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show.”
This was too good of a story not to do. By hook or crook, it had to come out. The first salvo was by David Corn of Mother Jones on October 31, 2016: “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump.”
The piece didn’t have pee, Prague, or Page in it, but it did say Russian intelligence had material that could “blackmail” Trump. It was technically kosher to print because Corn wasn’t publishing the allegations themselves, merely that the FBI had taken possession of them.
A bigger pretext was needed to get the other details out. This took place just after the election, when four intelligence officials presented copies of the dossier to both President-Elect Trump and outgoing President Obama.
From his own memos, we know FBI Director James Comey, ostensibly evincing concern for Trump’s welfare, told the new President he was just warning him about what was out there, as possible blackmail material:
I wasn’t saying [the Steele report] was true, only that I wanted him to know both that it had been reported and that the reports were in many hands. I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook. I said it was important that we not give them the excuse to write that the FBI has the material or [redacted] and that we were keeping it very close-hold [sic].
Comey’s generous warning to Trump about not providing a “news hook,” along with a promise to keep it all “close-held,” took place on January 6, 2017. Within four days, basically the entire Washington news media somehow knew all about this top-secret meeting and had the very hook they needed to go public. Nobody in the mainstream press thought this was weird or warranted comment.
Even Donald Trump was probably smart enough to catch the hint when, of all outlets, it was CNN that first broke the story of “Classified documents presented last week to Trump” on January 10.
At the same time, Buzzfeed made the historic decision to publish the entire Steele dossier, bringing years of pee into our lives. This move birthed the Russiagate phenomenon as a never-ending, minute-to-minute factor in American news coverage.
Comey was right. We couldn’t have reported this story without a “hook.” Therefore the reports surrounding Steele technically weren’t about the allegations themselves, but rather the journeyof those allegations, from one set of official hands to another. Handing the report to Trump created a perfect pretext.
This trick has been used before, both in Washington and on Wall Street, to publicize unconfirmed private research. A short seller might hire a consulting firm to prepare a report on a company he or she has bet against. When the report is completed, the investor then tries to get the SEC or the FBI to take possession. If they do, news leaks the company is “under investigation,” the stock dives, and everyone wins.
This same trick is found in politics. A similar trajectory drove negative headlines in the scandal surrounding New Jersey’s Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who was said to be under investigation by the FBI for underage sex crimes (although some were skeptical). The initial story didn’t hold up, but led to other investigations.
Same with the so-called “Arkansas project,” in which millions of Republican-friendly private research dollars produced enough noise about the Whitewater scandal to create years of headlines about the Clintons. Swiftboating was another example. Private oppo isn’t inherently bad. In fact it has led to some incredible scoops, including Enron. But reporters usually know to be skeptical of private info, and figure the motives of its patrons into the story.
The sequence of events in that second week of January, 2017 will now need to be heavily re-examined. We now know, from his own testimony, that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had some kind of role in helping CNN do its report, presumably by confirming part of the story, perhaps through an intermediary or two (there is some controversy over whom exactly was contacted, and when).
Why would real security officials litigate this grave matter through the media? Why were the world’s most powerful investigative agencies acting like they were trying to move a stock, pushing a private, unverified report that even Buzzfeed could see had factual issues? It made no sense at the time, and makes less now.
In January of 2017, Steele’s pile of allegations became public, read by millions. “It is not just unconfirmed,” Buzzfeed admitted. “It includes some clear errors.”
Buzzfeed’s decision exploded traditional journalistic standards against knowingly publishing material whose veracity you doubt. Although a few media ethicists wondered at it, this seemed not to bother the rank-and-file in the business. Buzzfeed chief Ben Smith is still proud of his decision today. I think this was because many reporters believed the report was true.
When I read the report, I was in shock. I thought it read like fourth-rate suspense fiction (I should know: I write fourth-rate suspense fiction). Moreover it seemed edited both for public consumption and to please Steele’s DNC patrons.
Steele wrote of Russians having a file of “compromising information” on Hillary Clinton, only this file supposedly lacked “details/evidence of unorthodox or embarrassing behavior” or “embarrassing conduct.”
We were meant to believe the Russians, across decades of dirt-digging, had an emptykompromat file on Hillary Clinton, to say nothing of human tabloid headline Bill Clinton? This point was made more than once in the reports, as if being emphasized for the reading public.
There were other curious lines, including the bit about Russians having “moles” in the DNC, plus some linguistic details that made me wonder at the nationality of the report author.
Still, who knew? It could be true. But even the most cursory review showed the report had issues and would need a lot of confirming. This made it more amazing that the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, held hearings on March 20, 2017 that blithely read out Steele report details as if they were fact. From Schiff’s opening statement:
According to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence, Russian sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin (SEH-CHIN), CEO of Russian gas giant Rosneft… Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a 19 percent share of the company.
I was stunned watching this. It’s generally understood that members of congress, like reporters, make an effort to vet at least their prepared remarks before making them public.
But here was Schiff, telling the world Trump aide Carter Page had been offered huge fees on a 19% stake in Rosneft – a company with a $63 billion market capitalization – in a secret meeting with a Russian oligarch who was also said to be “a KGB agent and close friend of Putin’s.”
(Schiff meant “FSB agent.” The inability of #Russiagaters to remember Russia is not the Soviet Union became increasingly maddening over time. Donna Brazile still hasn’t deleted her tweet about how “The Communists are now dictating the terms of the debate.” )
Schiff’s speech raised questions. Do we no longer have to worry about getting accusations right if the subject is tied to Russiagate? What if Page hadn’t done any of these things? To date, he hasn’t been charged with anything. Shouldn’t a member of congress worry about this?
A few weeks after that hearing, Steele gave testimony in a British lawsuit filed by one of the Russian companies mentioned in his reports. In a written submission, Steele said his information was “raw” and “needed to be analyzed and further investigated/verified.” He also wrote that (at least as pertained to the memo in that case) he had not written his report “with the intention that it be republished to the world at large.”
That itself was a curious statement, given that Steele reportedly spoke with multiple reporters in the fall of 2016, but this was his legal position. This story about Steele’s British court statements did not make it into the news much in the United States, apart from a few bits in conservative outlets like The Washington Times.
I contacted Schiff’s office to ask if the congressman if he knew about Steele’s admission that his report needed verifying, and if that changed his view of it at all. The response (emphasis mine):
The dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and which was leaked publicly several months ago contains information that may be pertinent to our investigation. This is true regardless of whether it was ever intended for public dissemination. Accordingly, the Committee hopes to speak with Mr. Steele in order to help substantiate or refute each of the allegations contained in the dossier.
Schiff had not spoken to Steele before the hearing, and read out the allegations knowing they were unsubstantiated.
The Steele report was the Magna Carta of #Russiagate. It provided the implied context for thousands of news stories to come, yet no journalist was ever able to confirm its most salacious allegations: the five year cultivation plan, the blackmail, the bribe from Sechin, the Prague trip, the pee romp, etc. In metaphorical terms, we were unable to independently produce Steele’s results in the lab. Failure to reckon with this corrupted the narrative from the start.
For years, every hint the dossier might be true became a banner headline, while every time doubt was cast on Steele’s revelations, the press was quiet. Washington Post reporter Greg Miller went to Prague and led a team looking for evidence Cohen had been there. Post reporters, Miller said, “literally spent weeks and months trying to run down” the Cohen story.
“We sent reporters through every hotel in Prague, through all over the place, just to try to figure out if he was ever there,” he said, “and came away empty.”
This was heads-I-win, tails-you-lose reporting. One assumes if Miller found Cohen’s name in a hotel ledger, it would have been on page 1 of the Post. The converse didn’t get a mention in Miller’s own paper. He only told the story during a discussion aired by C-SPAN about a new book he’d published. Only The Daily Caller and a few conservative blogs picked it up.
It was the same when Bob Woodward said, “I did not find [espionage or collusion]… Of course I looked for it, looked for it hard.”
The celebrated Watergate muckraker – who once said he’d succumbed to “groupthink” in the WMD episode and added, “I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder” – didn’t push very hard here, either. News that he’d tried and failed to find collusion didn’t get into his own paper. It only came out when Woodward was promoting his book Fear in a discussion with conservative host Hugh Hewitt.
When Michael Cohen testified before congress and denied under oath ever being in Prague, it was the same. Few commercial news outlets bothered to take note of the implications this had for their previous reports. Would a man clinging to a plea deal lie to congress on national television about this issue?
There was a CNN story, but the rest of the coverage was all in conservative outlets – the National Review, Fox, The Daily Caller. The Washington Post’s response was to run an editorial sneering at “How conservative media downplayed Michael Cohen’s testimony.”
Perhaps worst of all was the episode involving Yahoo! reporter Michael Isikoff. He had already been part of one strange tale: the FBI double-dipping when it sought a FISA warrant to conduct secret surveillance of Carter Page, the would-be mastermind who was supposed to have brokered a deal with oligarch Sechin.
In its FISA application, the FBI included both the unconfirmed Steele report and Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 Yahoo! story, “U.S. Intel Officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.” The Isikoff story, which claimed Page had met with “high ranking sanctioned officials” in Russia, had relied upon Steele as an unnamed source.
This was similar to a laundering technique used in the WMD episode called “stove-piping,” i.e. officials using the press to “confirm” information the officials themselves fed the reporter.
But there was virtually no non-conservative press about this problem apart from a Washington Post story pooh-poohing the issue. (Every news story that casts any doubt on the collusion issue seems to meet with an instantaneous “fact check” in the Post.) The Post insisted the FISA issue wasn’t serious among other things because Steele was not the “foundation” of Isikoff’s piece.
Isikoff was perhaps the reporter most familiar with Steele. He and Corn of Mother Jones, who also dealt with the ex-spy, wrote a bestselling book that relied upon theories from Steele, Russian Roulette, including a rumination on the “pee” episode. Yet Isikoff in late 2018 suddenly said he believed the Steele report would turn out to be “mostly false.”
Once again, this only came out via a podcast, John Ziegler’s “Free Speech Broadcasting” show. Here’s a transcript of the relevant section:
Isikoff: When you actually get into the details of the Steele dossier, the specific allegations, you know, we have not seen the evidence to support them. And in fact there is good grounds to think some of the more sensational allegations will never be proven, and are likely false.
Isikoff: I think it’s a mixed record at best at this point, things could change, Mueller may yet produce evidence that changes this calculation. But based on the public record at this point I have to say that most of the specific allegations have not been borne out.
Ziegler: That’s interesting to hear you say that, Michael because as I’m sure you know, your book was kind of used to validate the pee tape, for lack of a better term.
Isikoff: Yeah. I think we had some evidence in there of an event that may have inspired the pee tape and that was the visit that Trump made with a number of characters who later showed up in Moscow, specifically Emin Agalarov and Rob Goldstone to this raunchy Las Vegas nightclub where one of the regular acts was a skit called “Hot For Teacher” in which dancers posing as college Co-Ed’s urinated – or simulated urinating on their professor. Which struck me as an odd coincidence at best. I think, you know, it is not implausible that event may have inspired…
Ziegler: An urban legend?
Isikoff: …allegations that appeared in the Steele dossier.
Isikoff delivered this story with a laughing tone. He seamlessly transitioned to what he then called the “real” point, i.e. “the irony is Steele may be right, but it wasn’t the Kremlin that had sexual kompromat on Donald Trump, it was the National Enquirer.”
Recapping: the reporter who introduced Steele to the world (his September 23, 2016 story was the first to reference him as a source), who wrote a book that even he concedes was seen as “validating” the pee tape story, suddenly backtracks and says the whole thing may have been based on a Las Vegas strip act, but it doesn’t matter because Stormy Daniels, etc.
Another story of this type involved a court case in which Webzilla and parent company XBT sued Steele and Buzzfeed over the mention their firm in one of the memos. It came out in court testimony that Steele had culled information about XBT/Webzilla from a 2009 post on CNN’s “iReports” page.
Asked if he understood these posts came from random users and not CNN journalists who’d been fact-checked, Steele replied, “I do not.”
This comical detail was similar to news that the second British Mi6 dossier released just before the Iraq invasion had been plagiarized in part from a thirteen year-old student thesis from California State University, not even by intelligence people, but by mid-level functionaries in Tony Blair’s press office.
There were so many profiles of Steele as an “astoundingly diligent” spymaster straight out of LeCarre: he was routinely described as a LeCarre-ian grinder, similar in appearance and manner to the legendary George Smiley. He was a man in the shadows whose bookish intensity was belied by his “average,” “neutral,” “quiet,” demeanor, being “more low-key than Smiley.” One would think it might have rated a mention that the new “Smiley” was cutting and pasting text like a community college freshman. But the story barely made news.
This has been a consistent pattern throughout #Russiagate. Step one: salacious headline. Step two, days or weeks later: news emerges the story is shakier than first believed. Step three (in the best case) involves the story being walked back or retracted by the same publication.
That’s been rare. More often, when explosive #Russiagate headlines go sideways, the original outlets simply ignore the new development, leaving the “retraction” process to conservative outlets that don’t reach the original audiences.
This is a major structural flaw of the new fully-divided media landscape in which Republican media covers Democratic corruption and Democratic media covers Republican corruption. If neither “side” feels the need to disclose its own errors and inconsistencies, mistakes accumulate quickly.
This has been the main reportorial difference between Russiagate and the WMD affair. Despite David Remnick’s post-invasion protestations that “nobody got [WMD] completely right,” the Iraq war was launched against the objections of the 6 million or more people who did get it right, and protested on the streets. There was open skepticism of Bush claims dotting the press landscape from the start, with people like Jack Shafer tearing apart every Judith Miller story in print. Most reporters are Democrats and the people hawking the WMD story were mostly Republicans, so there was at least some political space for protest.
Russiagate happened in an opposite context. If the story fell apart it would benefit Donald Trump politically, a fact that made a number of reporters queasy about coming forward. #Russiagate became synonymous with #Resistance, which made public skepticism a complicated proposition.
Early in the scandal, I appeared on To The Point, a California-based public radio show hosted by Warren Olney, with Corn of Mother Jones. I knew David a little and had been friendly with him. He once hosted a book event for me in Washington. In the program, however, the subject of getting facts right came up and Corn said this was not a time for reporters to be picking nits:
So Democrats getting overeager, overenthusiastic, stating things that may not be [unintelligible] true…? Well, tell me a political issue where that doesn’t happen. I think that’s looking at the wrong end of the telescope.
I wrote him later and suggested that since we’re in the press, and not really about anything except avoiding “things that may not be true,” maybe we had different responsibilities than “Democrats”? He wrote back:
Feel free to police the Trump opposition. But on the list of shit that needs to be covered these days, that’s just not high on my personal list.
Other reporters spoke of an internal struggle. When the Mueller indictment of the Internet Research Agency was met with exultation in the media, New Yorker writer Adrian Chen, who broke the original IRA story, was hesitant to come forward with some mild qualms about the way the story was being reported:
“Either I could stay silent and allow the conversation to be dominated by those pumping up the Russian threat,” he said, “or I could risk giving fodder to Trump and his allies.”
After writing, “Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic,” poor Blake Hounsell of Politico took such a beating on social media, he ended up denouncing himself a year later.
“What I meant to write is, I wasn’t skeptical,” he said.
Years ago, in the midst of the WMD affair, Times public editor Daniel Okrent noted the paper’s standard had moved from “Don’t get it first, get it right” to “Get it first and get it right.” From there, Okrent wrote, “the next devolution was an obvious one.”
We’re at that next devolution: first and wrong. The Russiagate era has so degraded journalism that even once “reputable” outlets are now only about as right as politicians, which is to say barely ever, and then only by accident.
Early on, I was so amazed by the sheer quantity of Russia “bombshells” being walked back, I started to keep a list. It’s well above 50 stories now. As has been noted by Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept and others, if the mistakes were random, you’d expect them in both directions, but Russiagate errors uniformly go the same way.
In some cases the stories are only partly wrong, as in the case of the famed “17 intelligence agencies said Russia was behind the hacking” story (it was actually four: the Director of National Intelligence “hand-picking” a team from the FBI, CIA, and NSA).
In other cases the stories were blunt false starts, resulting in ugly sets of matching headlines:
“Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility”
Washington Post, December 31, 2016.
“Russian government hackers do not appear to have targeted Vermont utility”
Washington Post, Jan. 2, 2017.
“Trump Campaign Aides had repeated contacts with Russian Intelligence,” published by the Times on Valentine’s Day, 2017, was an important, narrative-driving “bombshell” that looked dicey from the start. The piece didn’t say whether the contact was witting or unwitting, whether the discussions were about business or politics, or what the contacts supposedly were at all.
Normally a reporter would want to know what the deal is before he or she runs a story accusing people of having dealings with foreign spies. “Witting” or “Unwitting” ought to be a huge distinction, for instance. It soon after came out that people like former CIA chief John Brennan don’t think this is the case. “Frequently, people who are on a treasonous path do not know they’re on a treasonous path,” he said, speaking of Trump’s circle.
This seemed a dangerous argument, the kind of thing that led to trouble in the McCarthy years. But let’s say the contacts were serious. From a reporting point of view, you’d still need to know exactly what the nature of such contacts were before you run that story, because the headline implication is grave. Moreover you’d need to know it well enough to report it, i.e. it’s not enough to be told a convincing story off-the-record, you need to be able to share with readers enough so that they can characterize the news themselves.
Not to the Times, which ran the article without the specifics. Months later, Comey blew up this “contacts” story in public, saying, “in the main, it was not true.“
As was the case with the “17 agencies” error, which only got fixed when Clapper testified in congress and was forced to make the correction under oath, the “repeated contacts” story was only disputed when Comey testified in congress, this time before the Senate Intelligence Committee. How many other errors of this type are waiting to be disclosed?
Even the mistakes caught were astounding. On December 1, 2017, ABC reporter Brian Ross claimed Trump “as a candidate” instructed Michael Flynn to contact Russia. The news caused the Dow to plummet 350 points. The story was retracted almost immediately and Ross was suspended.
Bloomberg reported Mueller subpoenaed Trump’s Deutsche Bank accounts; the subpoenas turned out to be of other individuals’ records. Fortune said C-SPAN was hacked after Russia Today programming briefly interrupted coverage of a Maxine Waters floor address. The New York Times also ran the story, and it’s still up, despite C-SPAN insisting its own “internal routing error” likely caused the feed to appear in place of its own broadcast.
CNN has its own separate sub-list of wrecks. Three of the network’s journalists resigned after a story purporting to tie Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund was retracted. Four more CNN reporters (Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper and Brian Rokus) were bylined in a story that claimed Comey was expected to refute Trump’s claims he was told he wasn’t the target of an investigation. Comey blew that one up, too.
In another CNN scoop gone awry, “Email pointed Trump campaign to WikiLeaks documents,” the network’s reporters were off by ten days in a “bombshell” that supposedly proved the Trump campaign had foreknowledge of Wikileaks dumps. “It’s, uh, perhaps not as significant as what we know now,” offered CNN’s Manu Raju in a painful on-air retraction.
The worst stories were the ones never corrected. A particularly bad example is “After Florida School Shooting, Russian ‘Bot’ Army Pounced,” from the New York Times on Feb 18, 2018. The piece claimed Russians were trying to divide Americans on social media after a mass shooting using Twitter hashtags like #guncontrolnow, #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting.
The Times ran this quote high up:
“This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” said Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns. “The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically.”
About a year after this story came out, Times reporters Scott Shane and Ann Blinder reported that the same outfit, New Knowledge, and in particular that same Jonathon Morgan, had participated in a cockamamie scheme to fake Russian troll activity in an Alabama Senate race. The idea was to try to convince voters Russia preferred the Republican.
The Times quoted a New Knowledge internal report about the idiotic Alabama scheme:
We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet…
The Parkland story was iffy enough when it came out, as Twitter disputed it, and another of the main sources for the initial report, former intelligence official Clint Watts, subsequently said he was “not convinced” on the whole “bot thing.”
But when one of your top sources turns out to have faked exactly the kind of activity described in your article, you should at least take the quote out, or put an update online. No luck: the story remains up on the Times site, without disclaimers.
Russiagate institutionalized one of the worst ethical loopholes in journalism, which used to be limited mainly to local crime reporting. It’s always been a problem that we publish mugshots and names of people merely arrested but not yet found guilty. Those stories live forever online and even the acquitted end up permanently unable to get jobs, smeared as thieves, wife-beaters, drunk drivers, etc.
With Russiagate the national press abandoned any pretense that there’s a difference between indictment and conviction. The most disturbing story involved Maria Butina. Here authorities and the press shared responsibility. Thanks to an indictment that initially said the Russian traded sex for favors, the Times and other outlets flooded the news cycle with breathless stories about a redheaded slut-temptress come to undermine democracy, a “real-life Red Sparrow,” as ABC put it.
But a judge threw out the sex charge after “five minutes” when it turned out to be based on a single joke text to a friend who had taken Butina’s car for inspection.
It’s pretty hard to undo public perception you’re a prostitute once it’s been in a headline, and, worse, the headlines are still out there. You can still find stories like “Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan” online in the New York Times.
Here a reporter might protest: how would I know? Prosecutors said she traded sex for money. Why shouldn’t I believe them?
How about because, authorities have been lying their faces off to reporters since before electricity! It doesn’t take much investigation to realize the main institutional sources in the Russiagate mess – the security services, mainly – have extensive records of deceiving the media.
As noted before, from World War I-era tales of striking union workers being German agents to the “missile gap” that wasn’t (the “gap” was leaked to the press before the Soviets had even one operational ICBM) to the Gulf of Tonkin mess to all the smears of people like Martin Luther King, it’s a wonder newspapers listen to whispers from government sources at all.
In the Reagan years National Security Adviser John Poindexter spread false stories about Libyan terrorist plots to The Wall Street Journal and other papers. In the Bush years, Dick Cheney et al were selling manure by the truckload about various connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, infamously including a story that bomber Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague.
The New York Times ran a story that Atta was in Prague in late October of 2001, even giving a date of the meeting with Iraqis, April 8, or “just five months before the terrorist attacks.” The Prague story was another example of a tale that seemed shaky because American officials were putting the sourcing first on foreign intelligence, then on reporters themselves. Cheney cited the Prague report in subsequent TV appearances, one of many instances of feeding reporters tidbits and then selling reports as independent confirmation.
It wasn’t until three years later, in 2004, that Times reporter James Risen definitively killed the Atta-in-Prague canard (why is it always Prague?) in a story entitled “No evidence of meeting with Iraqi.” By then, of course, it was too late. The Times also held a major dissenting piece by Risen about the WMD case, “C.I.A. Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports,” until days after war started. This is what happens when you start thumbing the scale.
This failure to demand specifics has been epidemic in Russiagate, even when good reporters have been involved. One of the biggest “revelations” of this era involved a story that was broken first by a terrible reporter (the Guardian’s Luke Harding) and followed up by a good one (Jane Mayer of the New Yorker). The key detail involved the elusive origin story of Russiagate.
Mayer’s piece, the March 12, 2018 “Christopher Steele, the Man Behind The Trump Dossier” in the New Yorker, impacted the public mainly by seeming to bolster the credentials of the dossier author. But it contained an explosive nugget far down. Mayer reported Robert Hannigan, then-head of the GCHQ (the British analog to the NSA) intercepted a “stream of illicit communications” between “Trump’s team and Moscow” at some point prior to August 2016. Hannigan flew to the U.S. and briefed CIA director John Brennan about these communications. Brennan later testified this inspired the original FBI investigation.
When I read that, a million questions came to mind, but first: what did “illicit” mean?
If something “illicit” had been captured by GCHQ, and this led to the FBI investigation (one of several conflicting public explanations for the start of the FBI probe, incidentally), this would go a long way toward clearing up the nature of the collusion charge. If they had something, why couldn’t they tell us what it was? Why didn’t we deserve to know?
I asked the Guardian: “Was any attempt made to find out what those communications were? How was the existence of these communications confirmed? Did anyone from the Guardian see or hear these intercepts, or transcripts?”
Their one-sentence reply:
The Guardian has strict and rigorous procedures when dealing with source material.
That’s the kind of answer you’d expect from a transnational bank, or the army, not a newspaper.
I asked Mayer the same questions. She was more forthright, noting that, of course, the story had originally been broken by Harding, whose own report said “the precise nature of these exchanges has not been made public.”
She added that “afterwards I independently confirmed aspects of [Harding’s piece] with several well-informed sources,” and “spent months on the Steele story [and] traveled to the UK twice for it.” But, she wrote, “the Russiagate story, like all reporting on sensitive national security issues, is difficult.”
I can only infer she couldn’t find out what “illicit” meant despite proper effort. The detail was published anyway. It may not have seemed like a big deal, but I think it was.
To be clear, I don’t necessarily disbelieve the idea that there were “illicit” contacts between Trump and Russians in early 2015 or before. But if there were such contacts, I can’t think of any legitimate reason why their nature should be withheld from the public.
If authorities can share reasons for concern with foreign countries like Israel, why should American voters not be so entitled? Moreover the idea that we need to keep things secret to protect sources and methods and “tradecraft” (half the press corps became expert in goofy spy language over the last few years, using terms like “SIGINT” like they’ve known them their whole lives), why are we leaking news of our ability to hear Russian officials cheering Trump’s win?
Failure to ask follow-up questions happened constantly with this story. One of the first reports that went sideways involved a similar dynamic: the contention that some leaked DNC emails were forgeries.
MSNBC’s “Intelligence commentator” Malcolm Nance, perhaps the most enthusiastic source of questionable #Russiagate news this side of Twitter conspiracist Louise Mensch, tweeted on October 11, 2016: “#PodestaEmails are already proving to be riddled with obvious forgeries & #blackpropaganda not even professionally done.”
As noted in The Intercept and elsewhere, this was re-reported by the likes of David Frum (a key member of the club that has now contributed to both the WMD and Russiagate panics) and MSNBC host Joy Reid. The reports didn’t stop until roughly October of 2016, among other things because the Clinton campaign kept suggesting to reporters the emails were fake. This could have been stopped sooner if examples of a forgery had been demanded from the Clinton campaign earlier.
Another painful practice that became common was failing to confront your own sources when news dispositive to what they’ve told you pops up. The omnipresent Clapper told Chuck Todd on March 5, 2017, without equivocation, that there had been no FISA application involving Trump or his campaign. “I can deny it,” he said.
It soon after came out this wasn’t true. The FBI had a FISA warrant on Carter Page. This was not a small misstatement by Clapper, because his appearance came a day after Trump claimed in a tweet he’d had his “wires tapped.” Trump was widely ridiculed for this claim, perhaps appropriately so, but in addition to the Page news, it later came out there had been a FISA warrant of Paul Manafort as well, during which time Trump may have been the subject of “incidental” surveillance.
Whether or not this was meaningful, or whether these warrants were justified, are separate questions. The important thing is, Clapper either lied to Todd, or else he somehow didn’t know the FBI had obtained these warrants. The latter seems absurd and unlikely. Either way, Todd ought to been peeved and demanded an explanation. Instead, he had Clapper back on againwithin months and gave him the usual softball routine, never confronting him about the issue.
Reporters repeatedly got burned and didn’t squawk about it. Where are the outraged stories about all the scads of anonymous “people familiar with the matter” who put reporters in awkward spots in the last years? Why isn’t McClatchy demanding the heads of whatever “four people with knowledge” convinced them to double down on the Cohen-in-Prague story?
Why isn’t every reporter who used “New Knowledge” as a source about salacious Russian troll stories out for their heads (or the heads of the congressional sources who passed this stuff on), after reports they faked Russian trolling? How is it possible NBC and other outlets continued to use New Knowledge as a source in stories identifying antiwar Democrat Tulsi Gabbard as a Russian-backed candidate?
How do the Guardian’s editors not already have Harding’s head in a vice for hanging them out to dry on the most dubious un-retracted story in modern history – the tale that the most watched human on earth, Julian Assange, had somehow been visited in the Ecuadorian embassy by Paul Manafort without leaving any record? I’d be dragging Harding’s “well placed source” into the office and beating him with a hose until he handed them something that would pass for corroborating evidence.
The lack of blowback over episodes in which reporters were put in public compromised situations speaks to the overly cozy relationships outlets had with official sources. Too often, it felt like a team effort, where reporters seemed to think it was their duty to take the weight if sources pushed them to overreach. They had absolutely no sense of institutional self-esteem about this.
Being on any team is a bad look for the press, but the press being on team FBI/CIA is an atrocity, Trump or no Trump. Why bother having a press corps at all if you’re going to go that route?
This posture has all been couched as anti-Trump solidarity, but really, did former CIA chief John Brennan – the same Brennan who should himself have faced charges for lying to congressabout hacking the computers of Senate staff – need the press to whine on his behalf when Trump yanked his security clearance? Did we need the press to hum Aretha Franklin tunes, as ABC did, and chide Trump for lacking R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the CIA? We don’t have better things to do than that “work”?
This catalogue of factual errors and slavish stenography will stand out when future analysts look back at why the “MSM” became a joke during this period, but they were only a symptom of a larger problem. The bigger issue was a radical change in approach.
A lot of #Russiagate coverage became straight-up conspiracy theory, what Baker politely called “connecting the dots.” This was allowed because the press committed to a collusion narrative from the start, giving everyone cover to indulge in behaviors that would never be permitted in normal times.
Such was the case with Jonathan Chait’s #Russiagate opus, “PRUMP TUTIN: Will Trump be Meeting With his Counterpart – or his Handler?” The story was also pitched as “What if Trump has been a Russian asset since 1987?” which recalls the joke from The Wire: “Yo, Herc, what if your mother and father never met?” What if isn’t a good place to be in this business.
This cover story (!) in New York magazine was released in advance of a planned “face-to-face” summit between Trump and Putin, and posited Trump had been under Russian control for decades. Chait noted Trump visited the Soviet Union in 1987 and came back “fired up with political ambition.” He offered the possibility that this was a coincidence, but added:
Indeed, it seems slightly insane to contemplate the possibility that a secret relationship between Trump and Russia dates back this far. But it can’t be dismissed completely.
I searched the Chait article up and down for reporting that would justify the suggestion Trump had been a Russian agent dating back to the late eighties, when, not that it matters, Russia was a different country called the Soviet Union.
Only two facts in the piece could conceivably have been used to support the thesis: Trump met with a visiting Soviet official in 1986, and visited the Soviet Union in 1987. That’s it. That’s your cover story.
Worse, Chait’s theory was first espoused in Lyndon Larouche’s “Elephants and Donkeys” newsletter in 1987, under a headline, “Do Russians have a Trump card?” This is barrel-scraping writ large.
It’s a mania. Putin is literally in our underpants. Maybe, if we’re lucky, New York might someday admit its report claiming Russians set up an anti-masturbation hotline to trap and blackmail random Americans is suspicious, not just because it seems absurd on its face, but because its source is the same “New Knowledge” group that admitted to faking Russian influence operations in Alabama.
But what retraction is possible for the Washington Post headline, “How will Democrats cope if Putin starts playing dirty tricks for Bernie Sanders (again)?” How to reverse Rachel Maddow’s spiel about Russia perhaps shutting down heat across America during a cold wave? There’s no correction for McCarthyism and fearmongering.
This ultimately will be the endgame of the Russia charade. They will almost certainly never find anything like the wild charges and Manchurian Candidate theories elucidated in the Steele report. But the years of panic over the events of 2016 will lead to radical changes in everything from press regulation to foreign policy, just as the WMD canard led to torture, warrantless surveillance, rendition, drone assassination, secret budgets and open-ended, undeclared wars from Somalia to Niger to Syria. The screw-ups will be forgotten, but accelerated vigilance will remain.
It’s hard to know what policy changes are appropriate because the reporting on everything involving the Russian threat in the last two to three years has been so unreliable.
I didn’t really address the case that Russia hacked the DNC, content to stipulate it for now. I was told early on that this piece of the story seemed “solid,” but even that assertion has remained un-bolstered since then, still based on an “assessment” by those same intelligence services that always had issues, including the use of things like RT’s “anti-American” coverage of fracking as part of its case. The government didn’t even examine the DNC’s server, the kind of detail that used to make reporters nervous.
We won’t know how much of any of this to take seriously until the press gets out of bed with the security services and looks at this whole series of events all over again with fresh eyes, as journalists, not political actors. That means being open to asking what went wrong with this story, in addition to focusing so much energy on Trump and Russia.
The WMD mess had massive real-world negative impact, leading to over a hundred thousand deaths and trillions in lost taxpayer dollars. Unless Russiagate leads to a nuclear conflict, we’re unlikely to ever see that level of consequence.
Still, Russiagate has led to unprecedented cooperation between the government and Internet platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, all of which are censoring pages on the left, right, and in between in the name of preventing the “sowing of discord.” The story also had a profound impact on the situation in places like Syria, where Russian and American troops have sat across the Euphrates River from one another, two amped-up nuclear powers at a crossroads.
As a purely journalistic failure, however, WMD was a pimple compared to Russiagate. The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess. Worse, it’s led to most journalists accepting a radical change in mission. We’ve become sides-choosers, obliterating the concept of the press as an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.
We had the sense to eventually look inward a little in the WMD affair, which is the only reason we escaped that episode with any audience left. Is the press even capable of that kind of self-awareness now? WMD damaged our reputation. If we don’t turn things around, this story will destroy it.
On Election Night, 2016, as soon as Trump was declared the winner, I did a quick check of all the main stations – ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS…. The body language and facial expressions of every single person on the air were identical to those seen on the day of JFK’s assassination.
They’re all still fluttering between Stages 1 and 2 of Grieving.
I skipped CNN and MSNBC because I didn’t want to witness live suicides on the air.
“I skipped CNN and MSNBC because I didn’t want to witness live suicides on the air.”
For the 1st time in quite a while, I tuned in CNN this a.m. – no such luck.
We live in a psyops a go-go world.
The capacity of most people to blindly accept preposterously self serving, incredible b*llshit always exceeds my ability to believe they will. Of course, there is a very steep cost in questioning the official story or in thinking for yourself that most are unwilling to assume.
In related news, the US began bombing Serbia twenty years ago yesterday.
Two months after the Racak incident, for which Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International rushed to publicly condemn Serbia, knowing and seemingly not caring that the U.S. was looking for a casus belli.
This is a major structural flaw of the new fully-divided media landscape in which Republican media covers Democratic corruption and Democratic media covers Republican corruption. If neither “side” feels the need to disclose its own errors and inconsistencies, mistakes accumulate quickly.
Artificial intelligence (propaganda) + augmented reality (fake news) = Mass conformity
Asch Conformity Experiment
To anyone outside the US, and capable of basic reading, it doesn’t look like a psyops programme. It looks like the majority of the US media and it’s punditry being unable to grapple with the implications of the long-term drift of American political and cultural life, and the consequent monstrous elevation of a gifter, crook, repeat failure, and poster child for the Dunning-Krueger effect to the presidency. The issue isn’t Trump specifically – it’s that the choice of a candidate like Trump is not particularly unusual on the American political scene, and that his rhetoric is entirely mainstream for the tea-party approved Republican. Not that I’m saying you did this, but reacting to a tidal wave of cognitive dissonance by flipping from a conspiracy on Trump’s part to a conspiracy on the part of the security apparatus is just a coping mechanism. As long as there’s a conspiracy, there’s a concrete explanation and being able to delineate that conspiracy provides a sense of control. And it means not having to open a long term national discussion about how bad things have become: about how the US has become structured in service of the wealthy only, how the economy is sustained entirely through forced externalities whose consequences are formally treated as “blowback”, about how the degradation of any form of social safety net is branded as “the gig economy” or “my side hustle” and lionised as positive, and about how – through all of this – the basic stats that a developed country is measured on, decline: mortality, poverty, health care provision, quality of private medical care as a function of cost, and so on. Honestly, this entire media clown show, and the one before it, and the one before that, reek of desperation and denial. It’s been astonishing to watch from outside. And sad.
Try watching if from the inside. #my-life-on-the-Overton-window-sill
This has not been “unable to grapple”.
This has been an attempted coup d’etat by ‘other means’.
I still have faith Nancy and Chuck will make this right.
Nancy is on the case! /s
…You suppose they’ll issue an apology???
… thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. George Carlin, Jesus or Gandhi, I’m not sure which?
I have never worked as a prosecutor, but I have taught criminal law
at an accredited state university law school.
Mueller’s report states: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
This is the first time I ever heard such a statement.
I have never heard of a criminal investigation that concluded
that the defendant was “not exonerated”.
It seems to be a 100% political statement, 100% extralegal comment.
The purpose of a criminal investigation is to find crime
and prosecute it. It is NOT to exonerate or “not exonerate”.
If insufficient evidence is found to proceed with criminal prosecution,
then the job is done, the prosecutor is not empowered to comment
about ifs, buts, or maybes, or about exoneration.
Such comments are contrary to our system of criminal justice,
which supposedly assumes innocence until guilt is proven
beyond reasonable doubt.
If some prosecutor or judge reads this comment, and can contradict what I am saying,
please provide some examples where such prosecutorial comment was considered appropriate.
That _isn’t_ what Mueller said…it’s how Barr summarized it.
Mueller looked into obstruction of justice by Trump, and found plenty of things that appear to be it, but might be hard to clear the threshold for it in court.
Barr and Rosenstein decided it did not, in fact, meet that threshold and have declined to recommend any sort of prosecution. Barr was explaining that.
This is not particularly confusing. Trump has been doing things that look like obstruction of justice pretty much in the public view of everyone. The DoJ thinks they do not _technically_ qualify as obstruction, or at least require intent that cannot be proven.
It is what Mueller said. That’s why it’s in quotation marks in Barr’s report:
Okay, that is a quote doesn’t really change my point. As Barr’s summary says in literally the next line, the report is not designed to come to investigatory conclusions.
I.e., it is unreasonable to assert the job of _Muller_ was to find ‘The purpose of a criminal investigation is to find crime and prosecute it.’. It was the job of Mueller to investigate what happened, and he did so (And uncovered a lot of random incidental crime that he turned over to other prosecutors), and wrote a report on it.
In this report, he lists evidence of things that could be obstruction of justice. (Which is not that weird, considering, again, we know of many of those that Trump did in public.) Barr and Rosenstien declined to prosecute.
Pretending that Mueller is committing a miscarriage of justice by summarizing (presumably correctly) what the rest of his report says is nonsense. His report has things in it that could be prosecuted as obstruction of justice.
I will also point out that quoting half a single sentence out of context, or other tiny snippets out of context, rather implies that Barr _is_, in fact, trying to hide some stuff in the report, so this site pretending like this has all been shown to be nothing is utter nonsense.
Attorney General William Barr’s Summary of the Mueller Report here for what it is worth-
So the US has Scottish law?
It is what Mueller said. Barr lifted that quote directly from the report so as to leave out any possibility of misunderstanding. This has been widely reported, even on BBC:
Mueller’s report was confidential.
Barr made a political decision to release that direct quote, not Mueller.
I was a prosecutor for 32 years, and the four District Attorneys who I worked for were elected officials. This sort of thing isn’t unusual when an investigation of a politician doesn’t result in charges. Just because a jury of 12 is unlikely to reach unanimous agreement doesn’t mean that the politician who was subject to investigation should be exonerated in the court of public opinion.
The deputy DA conducting the investigation would make a confidential recommendation to the elected DA. The elected DA might then decide to seek political cover by releasing such a statement. I can think of more than one incidence of this over the course of my career.
thank you David
so, to be clear,
1. You make a distinction between elected prosecutors other prosecutors who are not elected. Yet in this case the prosecutor making the statement was NOT elected.
2. You think it IS appropriate for prosecutors (such as yourself)
to make statements for political reasons, statements that are made to influence “the court of public opinion”, which statements are irrelevant to the conduct of the prosecutor’s job as defined by law.
and the fact that prosecutors have done it (so you say) is hardly a legal
William Barr and Rod Rosenstein are “politicals,” even if not elected.
A prosecutor, such as Mueller is here, should never make statements intended to influence “the court of public opinion,” especially as in this circumstance, with possibly dozens of criminal investigations still ongoing. Robert Mueller did no such thing — his memo, including his opinion about exoneration, was appropriately drafted for internal consumption and he did not release it. Barr chose to excerpt from it in his letter to Congress, perhaps as a warning to Trump.
That being said, my point is that “politicals” often do make such public statements. Sometimes they simply want to quell public outrage at non-prosecution of a case of great notoriety; whether that is in the public interest or their own self-interest I leave to readers. I’m just saying that in my lengthy experience the “politicals” have often considered such prosecutorial comment to be “appropriate” — where I might not.
That tension is a natural feature in a system in which the chief prosecutors are political animals chosen by frequent cycles of election or political appointment.
What is truly problematic is that some push back on clearly unjustified prosecution where the victim, because of he knows he’s not guilty, is technically viewed as obstruction of justice. Given the circumstances, the push back was justified, though done pretty poorly especially in the firing of Comey, where Donald should have just kept his trap shut and relied wholly on the deputy AG justification. Actually charging obstruction of justice would have yielded lot more fun and games.
It may be the only possible way to bring out the entire sordid goings on with the FBI out into the open.
(This may be a repeat comment. Something happened to the comments window while I was typing, and being on a phone, I’m not good at managing edits.)
To anyone outside the US, and capable of basic reading, it doesn’t look like a psyops programme. It looks like the majority of the US media and it’s punditry being unable to grapple with the implications of the long-term drift of American political and cultural life, and the consequent seemingly monstrous elevation of a hopeless charlatan, gifter, crook, repeat failure, and poster child for the Dunning-Krueger effect to the presidency. The issue isn’t Trump specifically – it’s that the choice of a candidate like Trump is not particularly unusual on the American political scene, and that both his rhetoric and his incompetence are entirely mainstream for a tea-party approved Republican, and not uncommon in American life.
Not that I’m saying you did this, but reacting to the tidal wave of cognitive dissonance this causes by flipping from a conspiracy on Trump’s part to a conspiracy on the part of the security apparatus is just a coping mechanism. As long as there’s a conspiracy, there’s a concrete explanation and being able to delineate that conspiracy provides both a sense of control and a means of avoidance. It means not having to open a long-term (and serious) national discussion, usually elided, about how bad things have become: about how the US has become structured solely in service of the wealthy, about how the economy is sustained entirely through forced externalities whose consequences are formally treated as “blowback”, about how the degradation of any form of social safety net has been rebranded as “the gig economy” or “my side hustle” and lionised as positive, and about how – through all of this – the basic stats that a developed country is measured on, continue to decline: mortality, poverty, pervasive provision of basic health care, the quality of private medical care as a function of cost, the extent of random mass violence, and so on.
Honestly, this entire media clown show, and the one before it, and the one before that, reek of desperation and denial. It’s been astonishing to watch from outside. And genuinely sad. I’m 47. I also grew up on the notion of America being somehow an attempt at a different type of state, so I understand and sympathise with the sense of shock that confronting evidence to the contrary induces. But watching the institutional impotence at play, when trying to correct the appointment of an incompetent, a career fraud, and a charmless hack to significant political office has really highlighted how accepted those qualities must have been in American political life, and for how long.
Yes. While IANAL, I did read that as a political statement as well meaning that the punt is not to Barr but to Congress. Given the number of well documented questionable things Trump and his team did (see Emptywheel), I suspect the house could impeach using a similar tack as on Bill Clinton. The question is, do they want to?
One of the problems with “OMG Russia” is Trump is now immune. Much like trying to attack Trump for all of his many faults in 2016, it doesn’t work when Team Clinton is on the ballot.
Not is only every Republican and conservative independent is 110% behind Trump, but too many leaders of the nominal left are clowns who spent three years punching the left and glorifying right wing nuts including people who should be in prison. Then of course, the people who were taken advantage of by the likes of Emptywheel are not going to settle for a 1998 Clinton style impeachment process when the main event is “treason” in their minds…hearts…their minds went bye bye a long time ago.
Clinton wasn’t going after the White Flight Republicans because that was her idea alone. Easily a 1/3 of the Democratic caucus is desperate for the approval of White Flight Republicans who will all be decisively pro-Trump now with the few exceptions of people who are too associated with the Bush Crime family as they can’t sell access anymore.
Its also important we understand Trump isn’t the only threat to this country. The people who misled the country for almost 3 years on a goose chase with promises of monarchial restorations instead of working to reform the organizations that lost to Donald Trump also need to be held accountable. Their judgement and values are insufficient for any kind of leadership roles. If they had any morality, they would join Jimmy Carter and help build houses for the homeless.
Well said. The Dems best strategy would be to rally behind Bernie now and sell his policies to win new voters. Unfortunately, the Resistance would clearly rather lose to Trump again than win with a progressive. The grifters want to keep milking TDS and the third way types will never give up their dreams of winning white suburban Republicans by being Republican lite. These people can’t simply be jettisoned when they constitute most leadership positions in the DNC, DCCC, and influential think tanks.
That’s because the #Resistance is not an actual movement but a brand that is more catchy than #SexyCentrism and is powered by donors who fear actual policy change of the type that Sanders and Occasio-Cortez would deliver more than any climate-wrecking savagery of Trump.
I disagree with your comment about “being taken advantage of by the likes of Emptywheel”. If you look closely at the commentary there they were clear in documenting what was known about cover up and also clear it not getting excited about links that aren’t there.
You are right that it has granted Trump some measure of immunity. Certainly the folks at CNN, MSNBC, and others will be tarred by this and for those who believe in Trump it will only reinforce their belief, and for those who do not, their cynicism.
Speaking personally I don’t think that anyone should “settle” for a Clinton style impeachment. That was a circus. Now it serves as a key lesson for just how tribal Republicans are in that they were willing to expend every effort on that and Bhengazi with less than they want to give Trump a pass on now. And it speaks to how much the Dems risk becoming that way if they follow MSNBC’s lead.
At the end of the day the only real winner in this is the donor class.
The Dems risk becoming that way? I’m sorry but that horse left the barn many years ago. Ralph Nader and many others were right about the fairly nonexistent difference between the two major parties.
Emptywheel was one of the worst offenders, squandering the good reputation they’d built up over long painful years in return for dubious leaks from politically motivated hucksters which may have been ego-gratifying but weren’t material, interesting, or true. Every time I stopped by I found the comments section crawling with debate police who’d memorized a labyrinthine zoo of “facts” they required all new commenters to chant in unison. They’ve created a stultifying bubble where outside ideas are banned. And they’re still there, getting high on their own CO2.
I really did not understand Marcy Wheeler’s getting on this bandwagon and savagely insulting critics. It didn’t seem like she was cashing in in any way, she’s not an idiot, not a Dem hyperpartisan…so…?
Not Dem partisan particularly, but more specifically, she got behind Hillary Clinton. Doing that requires total surrender of any critical faculties a person might have, like in Orwell’s 1984 where they break people down until they believe 2+2=5. Once they do that, the person has no resistance left and will love Big Brother (or in this case Big Sister) forever.
Matt Stoller put his finger on it: What Democrats really wanted from Mueller is evidence Clinton was a good candidate.
Once we realize two things, all will be clear:
1) The real crimes are being committed by all parties involved- and must be covered up to “save the system”. Barr vs. Mueller vs. Trump vs. Democratic Party “dossiers” vs. the Constitution – the pattern is obvious, but the LEGAL system allows for just enough “doubt” to feed opinion and division.
2) Both Dems and Repugs are combining with the media and trending toward a regime that cannot be questioned. This “failure” by the media and “opposition” speaks to that trend, is part of that process.
How can we “trust” media or the government after the Iraq run-up? After the Qaddafi/Libya blowup? After the Sanders take-down? Why is it so hard for us to realize this is war by other means, and WE are the enemy? We’re close to frogs legs…
Word. Thank you.
If we ordinary citizens are the enemies of the state and state media
and it is hard to disagree with you on that point
(J.Dore often makes the point that the state/corporate media organs aren’t lying to or trying to deceive our official enemies, they are lying to us, the people they are supposed to inform and advocate for)
it might be useful to think about why that is so and what it implies
Our state media perhaps don’t see us as “news consumers” as they like to pretend
making democratic choices
but more like serfs
Most of the time it feels like we’re interlopers at a court function
watch you you say! and expect to heat only lie after lie
dropping upon you in layers of oligarchic self-interest
muffling your cries
“you expect to be heard? you’re not even supposed to be here!”
we are the enemy indeed
“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
It’s clear to me that this statement was the price either Mueller or the DOJ had to pay for finally bringing the farce to a close. It *is* an extralegal statement with zero evidential authority and so its purpose is wholly political: it will enable the media and Democrat True Believers to continue their Russiagate insinuations rather than being forced to confront the mendacity of the operation–for this is what Russiagate was, a domestic disinformation operation carried out against the civilian populace by certain elements of the US and UK Intelligence agencies, deep-state connected politicians like Clinton and McCain, and their bought and paid for (Luke Harding) or merely cynically idiotic (Joy Reid and Rachel Maddow) journalistic mouthpieces.
The whole point is to prevent us from engaging in the review Taibbi argues is necessary, and that, indeed, is what “does not exonerate” will accomplish.
The end of an era. Politics disintegrates before your very eyes. I think I know how the Russians felt in 1991. What should we call it? This new era of disabuse. I guess it will have to evolve a bit before we can give it a nickname.
Just as in court, a jury never says ‘he’s innocent’, they say ‘he’s not guilty’.
As was pointed out today in another thread, it is disappointing that Taibbi says that he is “content to stipulate … for now” that Russia hacked the DNC. He should have listed the technical objections put forth by the VIPS group that called BS on Bush and Cheney’s Iraq-WaWMDr intel:
Their case cannot be said to be conclusive, but it certainly calls into question the official narrative.
As for the whole Wikileaks saga…I’m hoping he’s saving that topic for another chapter down the road. I think he punted for now because it’s a rabbit hole.
I agree. I did a double take on that sentence at first, too. But the rest of that paragraph implies skepticism and leaves him room to revisit the issue. Certainly Taibbi knows that Crowd Strike is at least as dodgy as New Knowledge. And he mentions Adrian Chen’s semi-debunking of the breathless Internet Research Agency story. Someone should get him to acknowledge the VIPS work, though.
Mr. Taibbi was interviewed by Jordan Chariton over the weekend and implied he had a future story regarding Assange and Wikileaks, which could be why he chose to phrase it that way. Here is the link to that interview. It is well worth the time.
March 25, 2019 at 1:35 am
Thanks for posting that link. I posted that one along with this one:
in Links yesterday. Personally, I think the forensics from VIPS are dispositve when it comes to the DNC hack/leak.
I agree with pjay above that someone needs to give Taibbi a clue.
The VIPS findings are compelling and evidence based, but there is another strong piece of meta-evidence, in the dog-that-didn’t-bark sense: The ‘Reality Winner’ leak. That leak shows what purports to be an internal NSA document about the source of the wikileaks emails. It shows that the sourcing of the Russian connection comes solely from CrowdStrike, the Ukrainian-Nazi company hired by the DNC to
blame Russiainvestigate their cybersecurity lapses. If there had been an electronic intrusion into the DNC, particularly from overseas, the NSA would have had a record of it. The fact that they didn’t, according to their internal document at least, means that the DNC emails were probably smuggled out of the DNC by an insider, possibly the same Russky spook who convinced the Clinton campaign to ignore Wisconsin and focus on Arizona… my money’s on Robbie Mook (which rhymes with spook, BTW).
March 25, 2019 at 8:54 pm
“the Ukrainian-Nazi company”
Such a thing does not exist.
Stop spewing lies and attempting to start another ball of lies rolling.
A great piece but I do have one concern – as with pretty much every mention in the mass media of the DNC emails the question of whether they were hacked or leaked or who did it comes up but as usual the revelations those emails gave about corruption and the manipulation of the primaries and by extension democracy as a whole in the US are completely ignored.
I think this was one of the two main objectives from the beginning–the other being the continued securing of NATO money/power that the UK and US MIC was very much afraid of losing.
Now that we can all agree that Russia is a threat to “democratic instituitons” it doesn’t make any sense for us to point out the established fraud of the DNC. That doesn’t fit the narrative, and so it can be counted on to be excluded from coverage without having to be explicitly denied. This is the aim of a disinformation campaign; you don’t want to have to deny the truth outright, as that makes the issue front and center in the public eye. You want to create a narrative that leads to the *real* lie–the real truth you want to hide–being ignored or, even better, being taken for granted by all parties who are debating the merits of your created narrative.
>>> corruption and the manipulation of the primaries
The hacks revealed nothing of the sort. Gotta love people using Mueller’s findings to revive their own unfounded fantasies: “FINALLY! Proof that Russiagate was a hoax! Now let’s go back to discussing how a few snarky emails from DNC staffers proves that Bernie didn’t cost himself the nomination by ignoring the South!”
If the hacks were such an “unfounded fantasy” why did DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resign in disgrace?
Why did DNC CEO Amy Dacey, CFO Brad Marshall, and Communications Director Luis Miranda also resign?
The DNC duped their own voters. They pretended to be unbiased while in their own words, in their own emails, they set out to destroy Sanders. The DNC justified this in the inevitable court case by telling the judge they have no actual duty to be fair. Maybe we should believe them when they say this.
Then there’s this:
“[I]n August 2015, almost a year before the 2016 Democratic National Convention, the DNC signed a secret deal with the Clinton campaign that gave Clinton virtual ownership over the DNC in return for raising money to pay off the debt” (source: Donna Brazile’s book)
Go kick the victim some more.
>>> why did DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resign in disgrace?
Cuz the hacked stuff looked bad and the Bernie wing lost its shit and had to be appeased, lest they split the party and get Trump elected.
>>> The DNC duped their own voters … they set out to destroy Sanders
Bullshit. Sanders lost because he didn’t try to win; as his own staff explain in this piece from 4/16, Bernie didn’t realize he could win until it was too late. Initially he assumed HRC would win, like everybody else; he just wanted to win enough states to influence HRC’s platform. That’s why he didn’t bother to even try to win the South, and that’s why he lost. The DNC didn’t hurt him, & claiming it did lets him off the hook. (FYI I voted for him in the PA primary.)
Any argument over the strategy and tactics of the Sanders campaign is completely beside the point I was making. The point is that, regardless of the effect the DNC did manipulate the primary in favor of a particular candidate. When taken to court on this their defense was not that they didn’t do it but that they claimed they did not need to run a fair election or even follow their own rules. Even if they weren’t effective at altering the election the act of attempting to do so is still deeply wrong.
So, according to you, the DNC was totally legit and had zero effect on the race. Well, that’s kind of pathetic, isn’t it, considering how hard they were trying to cheat. Shoveling money at the Clinton campaign — in a succesful attempt to evade contribution limits — scheduling the debates in Clinton’s favor, trying to drum up fake scandals via VAN or suggesting Sanders was an atheist and whatever else they could get to stick. Stuff we know from the hacked emails.
Who was it that decided to front load southern states in the primary, even though Dems have no chance of winning them in the general? Oh, right. The DNC.
Sanders had 43% of the vote and won most of the battleground states. Considering he started out with 4% name recognition, the DNC didn’t need much of a thumb on the scale, but it was there. To place the entire blame on Sanders’ campaign is malicious ignorance.
Why do we think the US legal, political system and press are a paragon of transparency and ethics? As a Nation , we have drunk the coolaid of absolute power for a long time( impunity of Iraq war and now talk of invading other sovereign nations like Iran and Venezuela) and the society has accepted this as a norm.
The worst part is the millions of stupid true blue democrats who will refuse to believe any of this no matter how much evidence they see. There is a segment of society that just refuses to believe they have ever made in error in judgment and there is no longer any institutions willing to or capable of holding people to account.
Nothing has changed.
The real mother jones has rolled over in her grave so many times by now she’s halfway to China.
My plan is to laugh in the face of anyone who insists on continuing to argue the Collusion trope (which includes friends and family members), and liken them to 9/11 Truthers, who have inoculated Trump against any future allegations, whether real or not.
Having been called a Putin stooge and/or a Trump supporter for suggesting that actual evidence might be in order before gleefully (and idiotically, given the lack of evidence) assuming the President will be impeached for Treason, I look forward to seeing how those oh-so virtuous Meritocrats (since that’s how the demographics tend to skew for those with Trump Derangement Syndrome) like some of their own medicine.
As Caitlyn Johnstone says, never stop mocking them, or let them deny the consequences of their malign hysteria and self-deception.
Amazing how many people believe what they see in a press release
“and liken them to 09/11 Truthers ….”
Could you elaborate ??
Historical analogies are more persuasive when they resemble history. Regardless of one’s opinion about Mueller or Trump, the real Mother Jones would have spotted Trump a mile away – he’s such a well-documented friend of unions and the working woman. Her problem with the quote from David Corn would be that she would have so many competitors for the status of greatest scandal in American history.
If lots of people feel they never made an error in life, it is a sign that mental health professionals should be fully employed. Exhibit 1-A would be the seventy-two year-old Donald Trump and his claim that he has never made an error, a belief he shares with a fair number of C Suite executives, whom American institutions so fully, faithfully and repeatedly hold to account.
To quote the esteemed Arthur Bishop, “Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
Glaringly true, yet humorous title. Unfortunate that is was tied to such a needlessly long rant recounting almost every act of media infotainment hype. We live here too ya know.
You seem confused… “needlessly long?” Perhaps you didn’t notice all those living “here too” who actually believe, still, that Trump is Putin’s puppet. And I would add that an accurate history (“rant?”) of this crime against journalism (speaking of “needlessly long”) can only benefit from recording as many of the appalling details therein as are available. Try to convince a Maddow-inspired true believer that the title is “glaringly true.” And there’s nothing funny about it. Do you actually consider the WMD lies that led to Shock-and-Awe, and the chaos of human suffering it created, humorous?
I appreciate the thoroughness of Taibi’s account.
“…every act of media infotainment hype.”
This was disinfotainment, which a very different beast.
It’s an excerpt from a book. Probably necessary to document the atrocities.
A couple of years ago, Rob Reiner made a small movie — Shock and Awe — about the journalists at McClatchy (nee Knight-Ridder) who got the Iraq WMD story right: a couple of youngish non-celebrity reporters doing the job under the tutelage of an old school editor. By the time the movie was released, Reiner was collaborating with the likes of Max Boot and James Clapper and David Frum. He was associated with a heinous short film narrated by Morgan Freeman that was released around the time The Committee to Investigate Russia launched.
I thought Shock and Awe was disappointing. They didn’t seem to be able to grasp how getting the story right was founded in the professional practice of journalism: methodical seeking out of trustworthy sources and double-checking for sense and context. That professional process was there, but it was threatening to slip away in a fog of righteous speechifying about good guys and bad guys.
The juxtaposition of the movie with Reiner’s work with The Committee to Investigate Russia (the name alone is like a parody of McCarthyism) just emphasized for me how the political-cultural moment had shifted, how even the possibility of sound judgment has been lost.
The WMD story was not primarily about the “oops” of Judith Miller — it was about how favored narratives were allowed to dominate the 24/7 of the news cycle. And, about how “sources” came to dominate the game they play with journalists, both journalists in a reporting role and editors and pundits supposedly in a more reflective roles.
Journalism as a profession is slipping into a process that is enveloping the culture of political decision-making at one end of the democracy pipeline thru which elites communicate with the hoi polloi and the culture of political spectator-sport and what used to be called “public opinion” at the other end. Journalists are mere intermediaries between the two ends, and increasingly inconsequential ones, apparently. But, the whole process has decayed — what has happened to journalism is just one part of it. And, as the process has decayed, somehow people seem to be decaying with the process.
the narratives that dominate now are so ridiculously hackish — Russiagate was always built around a bad re-run of a half-remembered Watergate. But, while Watergate itself was driven by the possession of some hard evidence and the pursuit of more, against a background of genuinely serious Constitutional issues no one could confront because they were suffused with partisan disputes. Above all, the players were serious.
I have been struck by the extent to which none of the players driving Russiagate were serious about anything they said or did. And, much the same could be said about the WMD justification for the Iraq War. It was all cynical manipulation. Puzzling in a way that elites could be so amorally cynical and puzzling that so many ordinary people would find meaning or entertainment in going along with the premise of the play.
Your comment reminded me of a Stoller tweet from yesterday.
“What Democrats really wanted from Mueller is evidence Hillary was a good candidate.”
Trump’s election win in the only contest we hold for President was the direct result of eight years of Obama worship followed by certainty of the Restoration of the Queen. This was never about “OMG Russia” as much as it was about Reiner’s behavior for eight years.
Yes. The Democrats have created a new Cold War, more dangerous than the first, for the sole purpose of defending the loathsome Hillary Clinton. There is no defense against the fact that she lost to Donald Trump, but they’ll keep it up and risk losing to President Comb-over again.
I’ve seen Shock and Awe. Presumably Reiner would say that the press not going after George W. Bush justified going after Trump. But of course both wrong paths arise from the same thing: the post Watergate media sense of themselves as power players. Shock and Awe barely scratched the surface of what was going on. Taibbi, often an MSM defender, is finally admitting that the whole edifice may be rotten.
There will no doubt be a lot of bitter-enders as far as Russiagate is concerned but this campaign is over. People like Maddow may get teary-eyed and there may be much rendering and tearing of garments but you can just about stick a fork into this bird. It is done. As a plot to cripple Trump’s Presidency, it has had mixed success but this particular phase is done. You had involved the Democrats, the CIA, the FBI, British intelligence as well as the involvement of other countries as well – none of which happened to be Russia.
It may be time now to do a Damage Assessment for the past two years as you would for any failed intelligence operation – and they are immense. Let’s cut to the chase and say that the biggest result of Russiagate will be four more years. That’s right – Trump will be there til 2024 because after the past two years, nobody is going to pay the MSM too much attention and this will not only mean for Trump voters but lots of other ordinary American voters who can recognize a stitch-up when they see one. Trump will be able to use Russiagate as a massive bludgeon to hit his opponents with next year.
On the world stage, America’s reputation is swirling around a toilet. Yes, Trump is an egotistical attention-deficit thug but you can make allowances when you have a President like that. It was not that long ago that America had to cope with a President with Alzheimers. What you cannot make allowances for is when the political establishment and media organs all lose their critical thinking skills and bamboozle the people into believing all sorts of agitprop in reaction to a President like that. How do you deal with a country like that?
There used to be an unspoken rule too that Americans could criticize Americans all they like but when a President went overseas on a working tour, then it was time to knock it off until he got back. Well that rule went out the window when Trump met Putin. Wasn’t even the first time that an American President had met a Russian one without an entire entourage but this time the US political establishment and media came out and called him a traitor and that this was high treason. Simply unbelievable. God knows what the other countries and their professional diplomats thought but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. I would love to know what Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov thought on this one.
You know what the worse of it all is? This whole clown-car has been sucking up massive amounts of political attention the past two years. Imagine if all that energy had been devoted instead to fighting against Trump’s decisions such as his billionaire’s tax cuts and freeing up corporations to pollute more or any other number of battles that could have been fought. Instead, people chose to die on the hill of Russiagate and discovered too late that there was no there there. I hope that all the groups and people responsible for this massive clusterf*** are happy. History will not be kind to them as time goes by but in the meantime there is a banquet of consequences to look forward too.
This makes it all the more frustrating that Sanders never really managed to put daylight between himself and the TrumpRussia crusade.
Bernie Sanders is going to have to answer for that, one way or another. Is he now among those whose reputation has been given a “death blow”? Hard question, for Sander and for Taibbi.
Is he? It sure seems like Bernie spends most of his time talking about a lot of other stuff. I don’t think he’ll have any trouble pivoting from this, since he never really spent any time crusading on the subject.
I don’t know how his overall reputation will fare. Remains to be seen, but I’m sure not impressed with his participation in this circus. Like everyone else who made that bed he’s going to have to lie in it now. We’ll see.
Putin has occult powers, and this is all part of his Plan: to discredit the Russiagate story so much that his REAL puppet, Bernie Sanders, escapes scrutiny and gets elected!!!!!!
What’s the over/under on when some member of the McResistance floats this one?
No, he’s not. Advocating for a full and unobstructed investigation was and remains reasonable. That said, I have no doubt the same people whose reputations should have been given a death blow (centrist democrats primarily) will now busy themselves trying to slant and twist their folly against him.
good point… I never believed the Russiagate from the get-go but as you say Sanders call for a full investigation was possibly a politically-savvy response, especially for someone who, as a socialist, is vulnerable to red-baiting.
I was far more unsettled by his jumping on regime change in Venezuela: “No Trump, No Maduro” – there’s only one thing he could have meant by “No Maduro” and it doesn’t sit well with me at all. IMHO, it’s telling that he has dropped that line… and not a minute too soon.
Bernie is a smart guy.
At the People’s Summit, he was actively booed when he said some Russia clap-trap. He knows as well as anyone else that HRC was a fundamentally flawed individual that could not possibly pick up fly-over states, nor be bothered to campaign there. Obviously her running-mate was also a deeply charismatic and skilled orator, who drew large crowds of 10-15 people on the campaign trail.
I am 100% certain that Bernie knows that Russia-gate is pure unadulterated baloney.
If he alienates the media, they will go anti-Bernie 24/7, and he knows it. He also needs the people who likely still believe “Russia hacked the election” people to still vote for him. So he has two options.
1.) Say Russigate was a conspiracy theory and Jimmy Dore/Aron Mate/Blumenthal was right.
This simply alienates the system-manager class, the 10% that help keep the 89% down for their 1% overlords. Most of these people can’t understand how truly awful it is to live in the US, and how capitalism is a fundamentally flawed system. The system-manager class has money, and they vote.
2.) Tepidly support, the MSM narrative
This irritates the minority of people who are extremely politically literate, it won’t cost him many votes when it really comes down to the line. This also allows the system-manager class to hold their beliefs intact, that they got in their position because of merit, and not the fact that they are essentially the concentration camp guards.
Bernie knows that he *HAS* to tepidly support the MSM narrative, the other option is political exile from the news. They already do that now, but it will be worse if he calls them out.
Trump *is* going to milk the “Fake News” for a long time, and the MSM apparently never heard about the boy who cried wolf.
Sadly, Sanders is tarred with his identification with the Democratic Party, whose brand has been self-destroyed. The leaders of the party have shown themselves to be frauds who care little for Constitutional government. They will continue to pursue investigations of Trump that will further alienate most of the electorate.
I shudder at the specter of a Pence presidency should Trump, at his age, not live to the end of his second term.
I’m with you on that sentiment. I really think that Sanders — and this country — would be a lot further ahead if he disassociated himself from the Democrats and ran an indie campaign. Y’know, kinda-sorta like what Ross Perot did back in 1992.
Ross Perot proved what was already an ugly truth: third parties just can’t win in our rotten duopoly. The only way to create a successful third party is to shatter the two rotten ones into enough pieces that a thin plurality wins, like Lincoln did, or to split them both and bind pieces of each, as Teddy Roosevelt tried to.
I don’t put much hope in taking over the Democratic Party, even with Bernie and Santa AOC wearing the bonnet and raising the flag–but that’s our only hope. I think that’s what Bernie thinks too.
I suspect that for Sanders and folks like AOC this will be a problem but not a huge problem. While the “centrist” Dems, particularly some running for office, devoted all their energy to this they have been steadily focusing on actual policy. As a consequence he and she can point to things they actually worked to get done and point to their few, rather measured, statements on the matter.
Senator Sanders is familiar with speaking truth to power, don’t you think??
That honesty turned millions of people and dollars to his messaging.
I don’t look for him to duck or game this issue but go directly at it as an example of why the whole body politic is losing its wheels.
News hosts and news opinionators in MSM haven’t done him (us) right to date so why not just point out how and why–some more.
Sanders followed the same playbook he did with Obama. In the primary campaign Sanders was stuck tiptoeing around Obama’s terrible record. Because most of the primary voters loved Obama. Same calculation applies here.
Sanders hates talking about anything but policy. He utters the ritual denunciation then proceeds to his campaign speech. He’s like a finite state machine with one destination.
First thing I thought too, the Democrats are so overarching incompetent that they just made Trump a God. For me, this disaster, the equal of a failed coup, not Trump’s election will go down in history as the transition from republic to empire. Now just imagine DNC and allied media had spent the last two years attacking Trump’s heinous, bigoted, misguided, unjust, stupid, unconstitutional policies as un-American – not HIM as un-American, but his arch-conservative policies as un-American. IMO they’d be on top today. Problem? GOP arch-conservative equals DNC neoliberalism. Big problem that.
The Dems probably didn’t think they could win on policy. Maybe they were right no matter the policy. For one thing there is rampant corruption of the political system by money which makes most decent policies hard to implement. Second the system is extremely undemocratic (the Senate) which makes policy hard to implement.
But also maybe there is just not much support for Dem, social democratic or any such ideas. Or there is but only among the young and they are only so much of the vote for now (many boomers still too comfortable). I don’t know. They can win if the economy tanks regardless though.
“It may be time now to do a Damage Assessment for the past two years as you would for any failed intelligence operation – and they are immense. ”
And the “damage” includes the intelligence agencies themselves. Every intelligence operation carries the risk of failure and when they fail the consequences often unfold slowly in a series of waves. This failed operation was a huge gambit to de-legitimize an elected president with the full force of the world’s largest and until recently, most feared, intelligence agencies (US, UK, Australia).
Now the operation has failed, the first wave of discrediting has started with its focus on the media but it isn’t over. The conspiracy kooks who have been wittering about how “project mockingbird” is alive and well looked like loons to your average armchair voter two weeks ago, Now they look smarter than they were. Similarly, the “mad conspiracy peddlers”, Jim Jordan and Trey Gowdy, who were ignored or smeared when they said “this is as bad as it gets” now look more reasonable.
Trump is really angry and the questions about how this conspiracy was started have not yet been answered. It’s likely the second wave will carry the questions of How was the “dodgy dossier” created? Who leaked it? Was it the primary or sole document used to secure FISA warrants? Who authorized the unmasking of surveillance targets? Why was Trump derided as a paranoid lunatic when he said his campaign was being bugged but ignored when it was discovered that he was right after all?
All of this questioning can now be resumed, but instead of being ignored as the workings of a deranged Orang-Utang’s mind, it will carry the stamp of respectability because he was proven right when he said the Russian collusion inquiry was a hoax.
I’m sure Taibbi is correct in tracing a line back to the WMD fiasco, but there’s more to it than that. And of course governments and parts of governments have always tried to manipulate the media and journalists have always been credulous and careerist. But there’s more to it than that as well.
From the 1990s, a new orthodoxy grew up among younger journalists that journalism should be “engaged” that it should be “on the side of the victim”, and that it should expose the dark deeds of governments around the world, and support calls for military “intervention”, if necessarily by manufacturing evidence. The very notion of journalistic objectivity was dismissed as old-fashioned and pro-establishment. I can’t remember how many times I read or heard journalists say “you can’t be objective between good and evil.” This led to some appallingly bad and unbalanced coverage of the great humanitarian crises of the 1990s, for example, which has still not been acknowledged by most of those responsible. It also enabled governments to manipulate the media even further, by cynically claiming human rights violations as an excuse for invading other countries.
You can see where this is going, I think. Overwhelmingly, the journalists who have been pushing the Russia nonsense are of this generation. Many have grown up in the unreflective bubble of liberal commonplace pieties generally inhabited by educated people today, in an environment where competing narratives are scarce and often ineffective. The idea that Trump, who gleefully trashed all their deepest convictions, could actually be fairly elected, was simply unacceptable. Even if he had been elected fairly, that simply leant that the people had made a mistake, which needed to be corrected. In such a situation, accuracy and integrity are much less important than the nobility of the cause. If you believe your heart is in the right place, you can tolerate your head being out to lunch.
I’d recommend that anyone read Seymour Hershs wonderful memoir ‘Reporter’ to see what a real journalist looks like. He doesn’t over-egg it, but its pretty clear he has very little respect for the current generation of reporters, those who came of age from the 1990’s on.
And despite his reputation for exposing dark doings in high places, he remains refreshingly level headed and sceptical about conspiracy theories. He knows conspiracies exist (and knows more about them than almost anyone alive), but he never commits until he has multiple sources and he knows they are genuine.
I’ll second that! I am reading it now and and I find it difficult to put down! This man has been in some very dark places and lived to tell the tale. His detective work makes Sherlock Holmes look like a piker!
The reputation of the American media as free, independent and truth seeking may have never been very believable.
The unjustified Spanish-American war (“Remember the Maine”) was more than 100 years ago and it was promoted by the press (Hearst papers).
Then there was that small matter of the Vietnam War, which the US press supported for years.
The formula for US media success is to first, fall in line with what the powerful want to do (maybe removing some skeptics such as MSNBC-Phil Donahue/ NYT-Chris Hedges), second, support this effort as long as it goes well (Tom Friedman), third, provide mild criticism when it starts to go poorly (again Tom Friedman), fourth, increase the criticism when things go really bad (recycle Tom Friedman) and lastly, have a retrospective on “how we got it wrong” (Bill Keller).
As I have mentioned before, in the Vietnam war the USA actually had a reasonable amount of popular music questioning the war effort such as “1,2,3,4, what are we fighting for”, and even Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”.
But that is either not being produced or allowed to be promoted now.
I have told people before, perhaps Trump is so bad he is good because he may force the Democrats to actually do something to benefit the country in response.
But, instead, the Democrats gave us the Russia-gate nonsense.
I see it as a case of religious wars.
At the moment, we have an internecine war in our “church of democracy” as practiced by the USA. Somehow we let an interloper become leader of our church. Once that evilness is cast out, we’ll be cleansed. In the mean time, we need to resist him on all fronts, including whatever attempts he has at “normalizing” or resetting relationships with other countries, even other countries we consider evil.
Unless of course, he’s seeking to regime change those evil countries, so that they’re more in our likeness. Then by all means, we need to be united with our leader.
I don’t think it’s more complex than that. And thankfully for our church, our reporters are helping to spread the message. Praise to all those who help us to cleans our own house. And praise to all those who help us to spread the word abroad, to achieve one world religion. When we’re all speaking from the same hymnal, peace will truly be achieved.
Yes, I agree and will offer the past 10+ years of NPR News as an example.
The damage has been done, unfortunately. I went out for drinks with some academics from another university a couple of days ago, just after the news about there being no further indictments came out. There was an American PhD student there. She was ranting about the “Traitor in Chief.” I avoided talking to her. Later, I heard her opine that her perfect politician would be a love child of Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau. Someone else piped up that they’d want a “little bit of Macron in there too.” Everyone else at the table loved it. I just kept quiet.
Many of my colleagues are like this now. They trade paranoid conspiracy theories, but would be utterly aghast if you told them that’s what they were doing. Conspiracy theories are something right-wingers have, after all. Uneducated people. Not us.
Ever since 2016, the professional-managerial class has been flailing around psychologically. A sense of complacency and meritocratic entitlement was rudely disrupted by the events of that year. Suddenly, a class of people raised to believe they were on the right side of history and in charge of the narrative based on their credentials and education had the rug pulled out from underneath them. The response—and especially the desire to believe that they have been stabbed in the back; victims of nefarious conspiracies—has been telling. It’s that sense of entitlement curdling into something ugly. The belief that there simply can’t be any honest or legitimate opposition to their interests out there. That anyone who doesn’t buy their dreary utopia of means-tested liberal individualism and technocratic control is stupid, or a bigot, or under foreign control, or perhaps all three.
Meanwhile, they hang out on Twitter and participate in an extreme, cultish, and psychologically damaging culture of competitive victimhood, guilt, and anxiety, one that’s always upping the ante and demanding new postures of abjection and collective responsibility. They socialise only with the like-minded, and can’t see how odd they appear to anyone outside their narrow circles. Every month, it seems to get worse. I genuinely don’t know where we go from here.
#musicismath, so true. I think of the lost opportunities and wasted time when we could have been instead investigating, analyzing and addressing real issues.
FWIW: I’m in a similar position and I repeat this Gramsci quote to myself regularly. “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born; now is the time of monsters…” The social-psychological manifestation of this time of death, monsters, and the struggle for rebirth is what you’ve described.
excellent comment. I would add the tendency to bring up politics early in every conversation to elicit the required mantra that you hate Trump. Because, you know, only the ideologically respectable can enjoy the pleasure of their wit.
Any comment that could be construed in any way to be doubtful of the narrative is enough to put you in the category of racist, rape apologist, Russian bot, fascist sympathizer (check as desired). Even the banality that “yep he’s awful but he won so we have to live with it” is enough to mark you as a traitor.
And now their Russia conspiracy has turned to dust, they are doubling down on the theme with the “he wasn’t exonerated” trope. All to keep it going while Ignoring that their lunacy is becoming clear to more and more rational people. Extremely dangerous times.
So now, Trump can say, with no small amount of impunity … that he can grab the democrats .. and throttle them hard … as the pussies they have made themselves out to be .. for all the wrong reasons !
I guess now we’ll have to see if these feckless twits reap what they sow ..
I think treason trials are in order.
An excellent class based analysis that actually looks at the credentialed as a class.
Here’s where the credentialed are going: down.
The billionaires are coming from one side and Berniecrats from the other. M4A and free college will mean a lot fewer middle managers. The younger ones are already downwardly mobile. Hence the psychosis.
Same at my uni. Too many academic Dems, who I once thought relatively sane, are starting to remind me of Moonies… in need of an intervention and de-programming.
My wife and I have a saying. “You can’t help someone who is not prepared to help themselves”. If they are not expressing doubts about their own positions, then you may as well save your breath. In fact, they may attack you as a way to cover their insecurities. Sorry.
And, flora, I saw the same behavior on Faceborg during the fall of 2016 and early 2017. It’s one of the main reasons why I logged off the Borg on March 5, 2017. Haven’t been back since.
Thanks for this very relevant comment. It’s all good, but this seems especially appropriate today:
“Conspiracy theories are something right-wingers have, after all. Uneducated people. Not us.”
Thanks, everyone. I’ve had those thoughts in my head a long time and haven’t had anywhere to put them. There’s just not anyone in day-to-day life I feel comfortable sharing my actual (Left) politics with at the moment. If I read Streeck or Taibbi, I feel like I’m peeking at samizdat. No one in my world does that.
It really makes me laugh when people assume that academia is full of left wingers.
you might enjoy today’s Democracy Now! show debate with Glenn Greenwald vs. David Cay Johnston, both Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who have mutual respect for their works but have some differences on this russiagate, except that they agree this is the most corrupt president. maybe some students should watch this.
What about the media supporting the official narrative of the Vietnam War? Haven’t trusted the media since 1968 Tet Offensive. Except for Walter Cronkite.
More interesting, for those of us who enjoy observing the pack of half-evolved apes making up the bulk of the Democratic “Party”, is where it goes from here. There are two basic reasons for cerebrally-challenged Russiagate peddling:
1) The liberal class is incapable of accepting any responsibility for its fuckups. When Russiagate was hatched in Robby Mook’s office immediately following Clinton’s poltroonish defeat, it was with one goal in mind: protecting the Clinton campaign staff’s careers and paychecks. Later it became an outlet for mass denial from a class that views itself as morally and intellectually infallible.
2) Russiagate was extremely useful for distracting low-information liberals (which is most) from noticing the Democratic Party is MAGA country. They separate families, put children in cages, bomb civilians, start gratuitous wars, take bribes, beat up immigrants, complain about anchor babies and deny climate change. Most Democrats in D.C. are one paycheck away from doing Prager U infomercials on the threat of gay adoption.
This calculus hasn’t changed, so where do they go from here? These are people who need a target. Lack of a foreign offender means they will begin looking at themselves, which is, of course, completely unacceptable. They have doctorates. They have expertise. They have sophisticated tastes. Of course they can’t have lost to an orange ape. Someone else, someone foreign, someone other is to blame. And given the average libbo’s historical memory ends five minutes ago, we can expect that:
A) Russiagate will be very quickly forgotten, as though it never happened.
B) They will turn their attention to their left. Expect a renewed, sustained and fanatical attack on Bernie Sanders, Berniebros, socialism, and anything else they can identify as a vector for a foreign influence on their “purity”. It will be of even greater scale than Russiagate, and even less concerned for fact and reason. I for one am looking forward to testing the hypothesis.
Ben Wolf: Astute observations. Yep, now that the foreign threat has been “eliminated,” it is time to turn to disloyal Americans, the internal threat trying to ruin America with Medicare for All / Mental Dental, plus redistribution of wealth plus curtailment of those endless wars and the endless war profiteering.
Let the red-baiting go into high gear! Where is Claire McCaskill when we need her to “speak truth to power”?
I cannot wait for them to prove once and for all that Frank Herbert was correct:
When they press back supporting the status quo and preseving their place in it, no matter how corrupt and damaging it is to others, their desire for aristocracy will be plain for all to see.
+100 Let me add one further point. Note what the Mueller report forces the reader to *affirm*:
“T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The still-unproven assertion that the “Russian government” engaged in “election interference activities” is the assumptive truth *everybody* must agree upon. That tells you a lot about what the true aims of the operation were.
Plan B, the slow-motion coup, has failed. Will they revert to Plan A and have the bugger shot?
MSM has *deriled* (sic) own bed!!!
From an email to a friend last night:
What are the odds the president rides this into a second term, if he runs, absent indictment for an obvious felony and a total meltdown of Mr. Market? 9:1
(insert links to The Guardian story, Taibbi, and Caitlin Johnstone)
unless the Dims nominate Bernie and Tulsi, with Senator Professor Warren promised for Treasury…so the odds remain 9:1.
But my tribe of dead-ender Democrats is still grasping at tiny straws as they/we are swept towards the waterfall…Yes, we are well and truly (family blogged).
Don’t you know .. since straws are being outlawed, the establishment democrats, as well as their toadies, will have to resort to grasping their tiny • little • hands ..
Even though Russiagate has now been unequivocally debunked, the Mueller investigation has succeeded in destroying any possibility of rapprochement with Russia for the foreseeable future. I think that was one of its primary objectives, and it’s a big win for the CIA and neocons.
Yes. Anti-Trump derangement and pro-Hillary grief might have been the primary motivation for a lot of Democrats and/or “liberals”. But there is more going on here that just the desire to get rid of Trump. For that reason, I would *really* like to see some investigation of what to me was clearly criminal behavior by elements the intelligence community. That won’t happen, of course.
I have this vision of a party insider opening the kimono …
“Every dem wants to regime change Trump. Real dems want to regime change Russia.”
This wouldn’t be “the bizzarro world” if the reactions to this weren’t as they are….
But really …. WTF?
Who the hell would actually think mueller was going to do a real investigation?
He was in charge of the FBI, who is the worlds number 1 terrorist organization…. 2/3 to 3/4 of the terror plots in the last twenty years all involved fbi informants… and that includes both attacks on the world trade towers in ’93 and ’01. One thing for certain , is that mueller is an insider…. he is not a “law man”… he doesn’t do “law” he works for “the party” which has a left wing(democratic party) and a right wing(republican)…. always has , always will..
so the likelyhood of him actually doing a good investigation, was virtually nill. And the meaning of his investigation not finding anything, is also meaningless.
This is the fbi, the group who couldn’t find horse manure at the kentucky derby., if they were’t supposed to.
But really WTF?
So this russia stuff is ?what?
someone is subverting our electorate by spreading misleading information… really.. well I’ll be…. oh wait… who the hell ISN’T spreading misinformation…. And what makes the russians so important. And I can’t even begin to list who is spreading propaganda, I would rather ask who isn’t. It is the only list that is actually short enough to make.
wasn’t russia gate about the emails that the dcc and the clinton campaign shared that showed they conspired against the sanders campaign… and who couldn’t tell the slander and derision the sanders group got FROM ALL SIDES.. fox to npr…. We all get lied to every day. no one seemed to care.
What about the clinton foundation, there was exposure to show that the clinton foundation was accepting major donations from every sort of persons of ill repute… violating campaign rules.. no one seemed to care.
wikileaks is still under attack…. they are the vehicle many people had to find out the numerous ways the american government was /is conspiring against the american people while violating international treaties…. no one seems to care.
trumps and the kushners business dealings and financial involvement with numerous russian oligarchs and their banks,effectively bailing them both out of money jams.. are widespread enough…. it is what it is…. 666 ?fifth ave? and many others…. all been reported on…. as a matter of fact… let the “meaning” be your own… no one seems to care. Trump may be a russian stooge, or he is just a moron who russia is playing like a fiddle… either way he is an obvious “weak link”.
does mueller not finding anything change this?
Hell his selling the brand trump from the oval office… doesn’t seem to be an issue for most people….(except those smart enough to realize he is a schmuck).
But really, who had their hopes and dreams hitched to this horse and pony show? and why the hell would anyone think meuller “laid anything to rest”… he was a great distraction. and that was his job. and he did it well. so what is the new distraction going to be…. because we all know now isn’t the time to get to something serious.
I guess the hive mind of the Russiagate-truthers has settled on its response – this proves that nothing didn’t happen, because we haven’t seen the full report, and I guess the conspiracy has extended to Barr. The full report should be released – if it is, I woudn’t be surprised if the “truthers” claimed that there’s a super-secret report that proves everything they have fervently hoped for over the past few years, so of course it’s being hidden, etc.
This has become an article of faith for them, so I don’t think they will ever give up, sort of like climate change deniers, or JFK conspiracy nuts. It’ll never end, but hopefully fewer people will actually pay any attention to them.
>>> The full report should be released
Was cool how you made fun of people and called them stupid before agreeing with them
The collusion between the liars and soft coup operatives, leaders and cheerleaders… the cover up is what we desperately need to investigate, hold to account and do our best to make sure ‘we’ don’t operate that way any longer.
I’m going to list two “must reads” from Pat Lang’s blog. The first closely related to this post.
Larry Johnson over at Pat Lang’s place mentions names, dates and other great detail that the FBI had a plant inside Trumps organization since 2003. Felix Sater was a childhood friend of Cohen. The FBI would have known long ago of any Trump Co. / Russia shenanigans. They were manufacturing this soft coup as much as anything else.
The second link. Both the short post and thread are must read, imo. We had fox guarding and investigating/evading their own bloody hen house all along. The fox should be prosecuted. This isn’t just WMD all over again, it’s Water Gate, Iran Contra, Libya, Syria and so much more all over again.
… the accountability that must follow Mueller’s report.” The Hill
Thanks for this. I was going to post that last quote myself. As much as I hate him, Trump is not the only issue, or even the most important one here.
Thank you for reposting Taibbi’s piece. It should be circulated as widely as possible. As many have already noted, it will probably have little effect on the true believers. Nevertheless, having someone with Taibbi’s visibility and reputation document the media’s miserable performance is valuable. I think because of that reputation, Taibbi is cautious and does not go quite as far as some of us might in challenging the entire narrative (and for me, the *criminal* behavior of elements of the intelligence community). But it is a very good opening response to the Mueller decision.
I’m sure others have had my experience in posting the Taibbi piece on several “lib/prog” sites, only to be dive-bombed with calumny and invective. No attempt was even made to engage with Taibbi’s central points, nor did many readers even get past the title of the article. The sheer intensity of The Closed Mind was stunning, and to try to debate a contrarian POV was a monumental waste of time, as one’s comments were dismissed with vulgarities or “troll-shaming”. What is even more remarkable is that this sort of behaviour is usually ascribed to the alt-right – raving loonies, fanatics, and boors pushing nonsensical conspiracy theories, not the righteous, “evidenced-based” lefty community.
One reader here yesterday caught the phenomenology just exquisitely when he/she said,
“Russia-collusion is the liberals’ birtherism”, an appraisal I simply could not improve upon.
Perhaps all this is but a symptom of the intense polarization of political postures, a Bushian
“With us, or against us” binary division, but as one who is always keen to take up a debate in a thoughtful, objective, and rational manner, the “collusionist community” is a tough nut to crack, I must confess.
“Russia-collusion is the liberals’ birtherism” — you are right; I’m definitely going to file that away for future use.
One point that bears considering in all of this. As Taibbi’s description shows in reporting this became all about Trump the man, not Trump the campaign or Trump the business. The investigation as chartered however was about Trump the campaign not about “Individual 1”.
With respect to the campaign Trump’s campaign chair, finance director (also deputy finance director of the RNC), personal lawyer, and first national security advisor are already under indictment or convicted of crimes related to this and others are in court. In that respect Trump the man meets the Chris Christie test, even if he is unaware of their actions he chooses to surround himself with sketchy people.
While this won’t be enough for most it is in the bounds of what was actually supposed to be investigated, even if doing so doen’t make Muller “A modern day Atticus Finch” according to the WaPo.
It has been in your face obvious that the Dems would much rather see Trump in office than any democratic socialist no matter how mild and the pushing of a Russiagate angle was always going to be a win win for them.
If by some miracle it did turn out Trump had some clear nefarious relationship with Russia he could be excised from the equation and a predictable Republican like Pence would be a predictable foil for them……
or…… Trump would come out of the special counsel’s investigation relatively unscathed and all ‘on the fence’ for Trump Republicans would breathe a sigh of relief and bear hug him straight to 2020 victory…..
thereby letting the Democratic Party breathe their own sigh of relief that they could deep six any pretense of respecting the leftist end of the party.
All got exactly what they wanted here. All except the people who actually need a decent government whose goals are only to take care of its people ……
Well lets be clear if by “The Dems” you mean the DCCC, the DLC, and the other “Sexy Centrists” who answer to the donor class then yes. For them Sanders was always a bigger threat than Trump. Trump they can fundraise off of. Sanders would actually change the way the game is played. That is why they have moved so hard against primary challenges and why they fought, and partially won, a rearguard action against changes to the party rules to cut superdelegates.
If by “The Dems” you mean most Democratic party voters that is not entirely clear. But since parties are businesses I suspect that the voter’s interests are secondary.
There is an important part of this story that I want to know about but will never be told. It is beyond even the best investigative journalist. Who exactly put together the successful FISA warrant and what exactly was in it?
The FISA warrant was an investigation by who exactly? What agencies and personnel were responsible for coordinating and crafting this complete and utter fantasy? The FISA warrant was clearly a huge hoax perpetrated by legal authorities at the highest level of government.
Adding to this massive, misleading cock-up was the role of our very own Star Chamber…the FISA court itself. Who are these people? What are their qualifications? Who appointed them? Does it concern them that they are so easily coerced, abused and hoodwinked into precipitating such a giant, world-class red herring?
I’m guessing that the FISA court can do two things. They can haul the Russiagate miscreants before them and publicly out them and their bogus “warrant,” or they can all go play golf together.
Once again.. it’s probably all just fox guarding hen house kabuki. And this is from the Moonie Washington Examiner. That said there is some sort of “investigation” ongoing on the FISA issue.
I believe that the original FISA warrant issued to the FBI was pursuant to the infamous “Steele dossier”, but I may be wrong here.
Remember the thing making the rounds a few years ago about people interested in pink flowers listening attentively to news about pink flowers whilst excluding any mention of red flowers? I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you get my gist. The point being I once watched MSNBC. No longer. Ditto CNN. In fact, I’m no longer exposed to the automobile and drug commercials on any of these outlets. They choose to drive me away by painting me as stupid and racist for voting for the President. Now it’s Reuters, AP (with a grain of salt), DW, and a small handful of other sites doing the heavy lifting for me news-wise. Their loss. Me? I have little respect for a business that is so eager to gain new customers they ignore their existing customers and thus, loose them . . . and zero sympathy for their predicament.
Great piece. Let’s be sure to tune in today to watch US Concern Troll in Chief Chris Matthews clutch his pearls in an hour-long Having-the-Vapors rant.
I don’t know if anyone remembers this, but shortly after the election, the DNC created a war room. They just lost to the most unpopular major party nominee in history. The person in their party that lost, the DNC itself obviously did a lot to make sure she won, and they stacked the decks against a much stronger candidate. All the polls show that Sanders stood a much better chance at winning in 2016 than Clinton. She ran a horrible campaign, but Trump said a bunch of things during the campaign that should have destroyed his campaign. If he was running against a politician not as bad as Clinton, he would have been done for. When the DNC was asked about what the war room would focus on, you would think policy. Not only did their candidate lose to someone that was doing WWE matches a few years ago, but their party was getting destroyed nationally by the Republican Party. That alone is astonishing, as the Republicans support deeply unpopular policies, and only about a quarter of the country now identifies with the party. The war room, the DNC let it be known, would focus on Trump’s ties to Russia, his personal business dealings and how bad of a person he was.
This Russia nonsense took the place of actual introspection among those running the party, it took the place of focusing on policy and it was clearly a means of not taking responsibility for the 2016 outcome. And many on the left called it, it was obvious that this was going to blow up in their faces. Now, what nonsense will they turn to, because they clearly don’t want the focus to be on policy? Trump will now come out and will look like a victor in this, and for what? They focused on this nonsense and not policy, which Trump and the right are vulnerable on. But, that is what happens when the Democrats are run by empty people like Pelosi, Hoyer and Schumer. They offer nothing, no alternatives, no solutions.
I liked Jeb. When he was knocked out of the running I briefly toyed with the idea of Cruz but just couldn’t stomach him. I rather liked Kasich, but he obviously wasn’t going to be the guy. Frankly, I thought Trump a braggart and basically not the kind of guy I wanted to have at my dinner table. Thing is, despite some of the ludicrous things, some of what he said made sense. I wondered if he could get anything done (politically). However, with HRC as the opposition I didn’t feel I had any choice. Bottom line? This FL-registered voter could have crossed party lines and (and voted for a Democrat for the first time since 1976) with either Senator Sanders or Governor O’Malley in the general – but once the nominee became Secretary Clinton – I couldn’t bring myself to support her under any circumstances.
I think a lot of people felt the way you do. I didn’t vote for Clinton either (I was in a safe state at the time and I knew it didn’t matter anyway). I couldn’t vote for Trump, but I also don’t agree with demonizing those that did. It is important to listen to people and to acknowledge the difficult situation we are all in with this political system. We often have really crappy choices.
“They offer nothing, no alternatives, no solutions.”
Not if you AIPAC ..
But then, we have Trump ceeding the Golan, as a gift hearst to his bud Bibi … so it’s bad dealings on all counts !
Nice job by MT of interpreting the Trump administration’s press release about something we haven’t seen
Do you honestly think there is still some slim hope that there is some “there” there? Because if there was actually something important, it would be the first time in history of DC investigations that the details were not leaked. This investigation has going on for two years and every detail that was publicized turned out to be a yuuuuuge nothing burger.
We still haven’t seen a report but the “completely exonerated” machine has reached full spin cycle. Anyone declaring victory on AG Barr’s word is misguided. The more apt parallel with WMD here is Barr’s letter being more like a “Mission Accomplished!” banner hanging behind the president on an aircraft carrier.
It’s great the president isn’t a manchurian candidate, OTOH missing in all the hoopla is the clear attack on our election by a coordinated clandestine operation taking advantage of our ripe for exploitation social media, technology systems, crony capitalism military industrial complex, advertisement fueled media pedaling corporations and absurd loophole filled anonymous campaign financing laws. The coordinated attack on western democracy is not fake news or WMD’s north south east west of Tikrit as many are misconstruing from Taibbi’s poor analogy. Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear are real Russian versions of a landscape of increasingly emboldened persistent state sponsored threats.
There is a really real global technology and influence cold war going on which has been escalating for over a decade. It’s not only Russia involved though the success of these operations on the 2016 US election as well as Brexit (whether you think those operations swung those elections or not) in addition to Estonia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Crimea and Ukraine will lead to more of these types of attacks and have taught our enemies effective ways to attack western style democracies that are currently bearing fruit. Barr’s letter in no way signals a move towards taking real threats seriously and we all continue to lose as a result. This is the worst time to declare victory and pretend all is good in the free world.
Oh come on. There is zero evidence that “Russia” had any impact on the 2016 elections. Analysts who have a track record on presidential elections like Tom Ferguson are unified on this view. You trying to sell that is cargo cultism.
As for the exonerated bit, I agree “completely” is a bit much but you are generally wrong here too. This is from the BBC, which can hardly be accused of being on Team Trump:
>>> there is zero evidence that “Russia” had any impact on the 2016 elections.
All we know is that a billionaire bent over backwards to get a politician elected, and that politician now bends over backwards to help that billionaire.
Funny old world, maybe it’s just a coincidence.
Which billionaire are you referring to here (there were a number of them)? Sheldon Adelson?
I’m not sure how your statement responds to “zero evidence that ‘Russia’ had any impact on the 2016 elections.” Could you elaborate?
Making shit up is a violation of our written site Policies, and you are persisting despite being called out.
You have zero evidence that Putin did squat. Broken recording is also a violation of our site Policies.
Mark Ames, who reads Russian, points out that the official Russian newspapers (ones that are recognized as mouthpieces) were very much divided in 2016 in their reporting as to whether Trump winning, if he were to win, would actually be good for Russia
As Glenn Greenwald describes long form on DemocracyNow!, Trump has engaged in a raft of anti-Russian policies, including ones that Obama refused to execute, like attacking Russia’s ally, Syria (remember the missile strikes on an airfield); tightening sanctions against Russia and Russia’s ally Iran; trying to block Nord Stream 2 by pressuring Germany; trying to overthrow the government in Venezuela. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved their Doomsday clock closer to midnight as a result of Trump’s escalation with Russia.
RE exoneration, it wasn’t my intention to imply Trump would ever be found to have colluded or ever did colluded with Russia. I meant collusion (like WMD’s) was a canard yet Trump’s troubles aren’t over and now like during the Iraq war after mission accomplished…it only gets messier from here.
RE Cargo Cultism, there are Mueller indictments against the Internet Research Agency and GRU. There was enough evidence to convince a grand jury to indict Russian hackers so that means impact on the election (while perhaps subjectively determined to be insignificant by some) absolutely did happen. I’d at least like to hear Mueller’s take on those cases before I’m ready to say nothing to see here. It’d be great to see the unredacted versions of those indictments and several other related court filings too.
Putin has clearly used technology to great effect on his surroundings like in Ukraine. This isn’t just a Russia/USA problem, western democracies are vulnerable to influence campaigns using technology together with a mix of other more traditional methods. That’s the important issue out of this entire 2 year investigation IMHO. Our Intelligence pro’s keep getting called before congress testifying about flashing red warnings with no legislative traction. If there are flashing red warnings than we need to do more, if there isn’t then we need to know why our intelligence pro’s are saying such things.
Did you take civics in high school An indictment does not mean someone is guilty. But the advantage of indicting foreigners in countries with no extradition treaty with the US is that you won’t have to prove up your charges.
Google is refusing to cough up an article I read where a legal expert was making fun of Mueller for filing his charges on the assumption no one would respond….and then being caught with his underwear down when some defendants did file a brief. This is as close as I could come:
And there is no evidence that the Russian troll farm was connected to the Russian government. See Aaron Mate have fun with a CIA mouthpiece in this interview:
“The coordinated attack on western democracy is not fake news”
Except for the part that it is.
>>> Do you honestly think there is still some slim hope that there is some “there” there?
Nah, couldn’t be, they’re bending over backwards to hide the actual report just because …. because …. because ….. uh ….. because …..
What *do* you think “they” might be hiding? And who is “they”? Barr? We’ll see if the report is made public; everyone seems to want “them” to.
I realize you are purposely tweaking commentators here. But I’m actually trying to understand what you are arguing, if anything.
Nice job by MT of interpreting the Trump administration’s press release about something we haven’t seen
Guys, you have a _summary_ created by a Trump appointee of something . A summary, as I said above, that literally quotes tiny snippets and half-sentences of the report.
Taking a victory lap at this point is…really really idiotic.
MAGA taking a victory lap at this point is really, really strategic. Taibbi, Greenwald et al. joining in the celebration is useful idiocy.
Eye-opening to see all the folks here singing kumbaya with Oliver North, Elliott Abrams, John Bolton. It’s almost as if they believe the most reactionary factions of the deep state will “save us” from the deep state. Interesting theory.
True enough and fair enough. However that’s all the information we have now, and it does lead one to think the report might be a dud.
First, you just made it obvious you didn’t read the post in full or else deliberately straw manned it. Either one is a violation of our written site Policies.
Taibbi only mentions the Barr report at the top briefly to show how the NY Times was trying to spin it. This was a n 8000 word chapter from a book he had already written eviscerating the shoddy reporting on Russia!Russia!, and only used Barr as an update as further confirmation of press bias that he documents in gory detail
Second, the BBC, hardly a fan of Trump, read the Barr memo and pointed out that Barr quoted the report for avoidance of doubt. The BBC also volunteered that the report did in fact come as close to an exoneration as you ever get for this kind of document.
Third, as Glenn Greenwald pointed out, Mueller himself and members of his team would have been sure either directly or via leaks to have corrected Barr if his summary were inaccurate. There has been zero on this front.
Better trolls, please.
It was nice to learn, though, that in the good old days before the Steele dossier turned everyone into side-choosers, the corporate media functioned as “an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.”
None of these people have sided with Trump. They’ve sided with truth; not being willing to shred what’s left of The Republic™ in the name of removing Trump.
There was no ‘collusion’ with Russia. It was a bullshit excuse conjured up by a bunch of Clinton staffers in a desperate search for why their Queen lost to an orange reality TV host. in fact I recall it first being suggested by Clinton during one of the debates that Trump was a Putin agent. The ludicrous claim predates her loss to the idiot.
And I’ll go further: there is no evidence that the Russian government interfered in our election. The internet Research Agency bears all the signs of being nothing more than a commercial clickbait revenue scheme. ‘Russians’ does not equal ‘Kremlin’, the blurring of the distinction is one of many ugly features of the hysteria over the last three years.
Pardon me? Why are you “arguing” with me by not addressing the simple, clear point I raise and instead changing the subject?
“that in the good old days before the Steele dossier turned everyone into side-choosers”
You’re either a troll or an idiot.
Quoting from the story:
The New York Times ran a story that Atta was in Prague in late October of 2001, even giving a date of the meeting with Iraqis, April 8, or “just five months before the terrorist attacks.”
To which I say:
Wasn’t Atta in one of the planes that was flown into the Twin Towers on 9/11? And didn’t he, along with everyone else on those planes, die on that date?
IMHO, we are paying an enormous price for this display of malice on the part of the DNC in its efforts to distract the people from contemplating the absolute failure of the democratic party’s adopting Third-Way, Clintonite tactics back in the early 90s.
The DNC is engaged in end-game hysteria, and behaving like the cornered rats they are.
Reminiscent of Scott Walker and WI republicans trying to change a future they’ve already lost.
I’m bracing myself for the inevitable full-court-press aimed at Bernie.
To the democratic ‘leadership‘;
“At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
pretty good restatement here:
Taibbi mentions in passing the Whitewater investigation in which the mainstream media (led by the NY Times) created a scandal by “connecting” dots. Arkansas reporter/columnist Gene Lyons documented it all in Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater and his later book and documentary film with Joe Conason The Hunting of the President. And that foolish and bad mainstream media behavior bled into the nearly two-year war against Al Gore during which the mainstream media (with the NY Times “news” reporters and columnists leading the way) ably assisted in getting eventual loser-of-the-popular-vote George W. Bush installed in the White House. Now didn’t that work out well? And no shame and introspection by the mainstream media. Indeed, they won’t even mention Whitewater or the Gore campaign misbehavior or, when rarely confronted over the years, will ostracize the speakers. The difference with the Mueller-led investigation on the Russian collusion allegation is that the “target” and his Republican supporters–the Executive Branch and half of the Congress–will be hitting back hard right now. How will the NY Times, WaPoo, CNN, MSNBC, et al. react?
It’s also interesting how “______ Derangement Syndrome” also started with the Clintons. Lest we forget, a large subset of Republicans were, and continue to be, driven insane by them . Yes, they were and are awful, but Starr and those he represented had some deeply irrational motives for pursuing Bill, and we’ve seen the same inquisitorial spirit moving about since.
That Derangement Syndrome intensified under Obama, and continues now under Trump; political affiliation and education levels seem to have little to do with it.
Collective madness, credulity and folly know few barriers.
I’m a little late here to comment but here’s my quick take which I will repeat maybe in the Water Cooler. This is one GREAT account of the matter by one of the few relatively mainstream reporters that is honest. It’s well-put together and I will be spreading this as wide as I can. However, Taibbi, in his attempt to not fall into Chomsky-an obscurity and make himself a non-person a la Chris Hedge, Sy Hersh and other has to say something like this: “Reporters repeatedly got burned and didn’t squawk about it.” I can only answer to this “really”? Because you, Matt and here I’ll address you directly, hang out with the presstitutes who moan on command (and you should know this intimately) from the Intel services and their editors and publishers and speak the same kind of measured upper-middle-class accent as you, you to call them to account as presstitutes. I’ve know some of these characters they’re good fathers and mothers, take their kids to soccer games, are friendly and sincere because they lie to themselves and the public, you can trust them to watch you pets and so on–but, surely you’ve heard the famous Hannah Arendt phrase “the banality of evil?” You’re fellow reporters have dramatically changed history with their sleazy handling of this situation. Russia is now forever imprinted into the citizenry ad “the enemy” and this means billions more for the fraud known as the defense budget thanks to those smiling faces over lunch–make sure you thank them for me.
Always consider the source.
Tabbi’s business is to tell the world journalists are dividing the country – he is writing a serial book to that end. He may be right or he may be shooting the messenger. Imho. the low voter participation rate in combination with the primary system promotes speaking to a narrow captive base. Emotions sell and the more extreme the better it works.
If Tabbi would be right the problems he has with journalists were less pronounce in social media. But they are worse there. Narrow-casting to a captive audience. The media landscape (traditional and social) has fractured and the business case for middle of the road is gone.
I think Matt ran out of column-inches at that point (was the first draft mercilessly trimmed by an editor?), and maybe we’ll see the subject appear in a separate piece that focuses on the issue: or in an extended interview on Jimmy Dore or Joe Rogan.
The VIPS assessment (and updates) of the source of the leak will probably be the final trustworthy word on the matter, unless we get hold of the raw NSA data for that period (which is unlikely to happen in my lifetime).
Authored by Matt Taibbi, excerpted from his serial book Hate Inc.,
They never thought she would lose. After Hillary’s 2008 performance, nothing appeared to be off the table when looking for ways to ensure a victory. There was an element of stooping-to-conquer when comparing and contrasting the candidates, and in that stooping there was plenty of tripping over shoelaces, steps, sidewalk cracks, dust motes and what have you.
They include plenty of “journalists” (Query: what is escalation path beyond scare quotes?) in Taibbi’s piece.
Now that Mueller is free, let’s dial him into the #ClimateChangeGate hoax. I’m serious, look at the sheeple who just parrot what their told to feel… the feels are reels! IPCC=#russiagate Connect the dots please! When storytime becomes prayer vigil… check yourself. Apparently, AGW caused frigid weather and snow, caused flooding, causes crop failure, causes hunger, causes death. LOGOS please. They’re trying to scare you into submission. Come back me fellows
Thank you for making the obvious connection between the Russia hoax and the Climate Change hoax. Next, we need to bring in the Cultural Marxists, multiculturalism and political correctness. Not to mention vaccination and chem trails.
Lyndon LaRouche may be dead but his spirit marches on.
A man of few words, for whom it is too bad they aren’t even fewer.
Welcome to MAGA, comrades!
Not that it matters to you all, but the framing of the whole Russia collusion fiasco and its coverage by the MSM was orchestrated by the “victim” of the “witch hunt.” The Deputy Attorney General who wrote the memo providing cover for the firing of James Comey was the same DAG who initiated the Mueller investigation. The purpose of the investigation was to normalize the Trump administration by establishing a “process” that would “get to the bottom of things.”
Ever hear of a red herring? “No collusion! No collusion!” Now why would the victim of a witch hunt be the one orchestrating it? Because the obstruction of justice was not about “collusion” — it was about half a dozen or so other things, some of which were criminal and others merely politically damaging.
Comey was FBI. The President can direct the FBI to do whatever the hell they want, at any time. ‘Obstruction of justice’ case was always nothing more than bad civics.
“The President can direct the FBI to do whatever the hell they want, at any time.”
“Director, go kill my enemies.”
The FBI is an intelligence service directly accountable to the Executive Branch. The President can start and stop FBI investigations at will. Watergate comparisons don’t hold water since at that time the investigator who was fired was appointed by Congress.
Presidents can’t direct people who report to them to do something illegal, which obstructing justice by interfering with an investigation would be. When there’s been a dispute over whether a president obstructed justice (Nixon, Clinton), the Congress decided in hearings, not the AG in a memo.
What I find interesting is when one goes to sites like REDDIT, none of these honest pieces ever see the light of day.
And if you link to them the paid posters beat you down.
The same thing happened with Smollet. Until the evidence was so overwhelming people turned on him.
Beware the Trumpenleft!
“Angela Nagle’s recent piece in American Affairs is a perfect example. Nagle (who is certainly Trumpenleft) puts forth the fascistic proposition that mass migration won’t help the world’s poor, and she claims that it creates “a race to the bottom for workers” in wealthier, developed countries and “a brain drain” in poorer, less developed countries. After deploying a variety of Trumpenleft sophistry (i.e., fact-based analysis, logic, and so on), she goes so far as to openly suggest that “progressives should focus on addressing the systemic exploitation at the root of mass migration rather than retreating to a shallow moralism” … a shallow moralism that reifies the dominant neoliberal ideology that is causing mass migration in the first place”
I actually quoted from the Nagle article and the problems, like brain drain and economic issues, involved with immigration.
His next paragraph sums up the replies I received.
“This is the type of gobbledegook the Trumpenleft use to try to dupe real leftists into putting down their phones for a minute and actually thinking through political issues! Fortunately, no one is falling for it. As any bona fide leftist knows, there is no “mass migration problem.” The whole thing is simply a racist hoax concocted by Putin, Alex Jones, and other Trumpian disinformationists. The only thing real leftists need to know about immigration is that immigrants are good, and Trump, and walls, and borders are bad! All that other fancy gibberish about global capitalism, Milton Friedman, labor markets, and national sovereignty is nothing but fascist propaganda (which needs to be censored, or at least deplatformed, or demonetized, or otherwise suppressed).”
Yes, the big subreddits are all heavily filtered and sanitized for your protection. Trump fans complain the loudest, but the same filtering applies to actual leftist content. Even r/SandersForPresident is heavily controlled (IMO) and follows the MSM line. Its tenor changed noticeably in June 2016 when everyone was instructed to fall in line behind Clinton. r/WayOfTheBern is one of my current favorites, it has links to similar minded subreddits.
Trump is corrupt and he will face justice upon leaving office Jan 20 2021
This has been a colossal farce from the beginning and the “press” has used it as a vehicle to either inflame or defame many people. This story is what has become of the mainstream news media particularly since 9/11. The mainstream and leading Democrat leaders should now cleanse themselves of self-righteousness and admit they lost the 2016 election because of their own asininities and a very poor campaigner, HC. Trump is Trump. Period. But, he would not have won if the Democrats had not avoided “fly-over” country. Taibbi is correct in showing the major media leaders as nothing but story-tellers. Anybody who believes anything on any major media “news-show” deserves to be duped. Most all these shows have been totally intellectually corrupt since the First Iraq War in the early 1990’s. And, into overdrive after 9/11. We now have two rotten major political parties to “lead” this country. Good luck with that! We will pay dearly to have such a narrow political vision; we will be lucky if we do survive the next couple election cycles before a civil war engulfs us. I personally gave up on either party more than 40 years ago observing that the system was even then turning it’s back on the common people and embracing a destructive domestic policy to destroy all the good social parts that were weaved into the system since the Great Depression and the murderous foreign policies we were/are conducting overseas. We had promise. No more.