When Progressive Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone says the Mainstream Media screwed up royally and Trump was in the right, that is really something remarkable!
You know what was fake news? Most of the Russiagate story. There was no Trump-Russia conspiracy, that thing we just spent three years chasing. The Mueller Report is crystal clear on this.
He didnâ€™t just â€œfail to establishâ€ evidence of crime. His report is full of incredibly damning passages, like one about Russian officialdomâ€™s efforts to reach the Trump campaign after the election: â€œThey appeared not to have preexisting contacts and struggled to connect with senior officials around the President-Elect.â€
Not only was there no â€œcollusion,â€ the two camps didnâ€™t even have each othersâ€™ phone numbers!
In March of 2017, in one of the first of what would become a mountain of mafia-hierarchy-style â€œTrump-Russia contactsâ€ graphics in major newspapers, the Washington Post described an email Trump lawyer Michael Cohen sent to Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov. They called it â€œthe most direct interaction yet of a top Trump aide and a senior member of Putinâ€™s government.â€
The report shows the whole episode was a joke. In order to further the Trump Tower project-that-never-was, Cohen literally cold-emailed the Kremlin. More than that, he entered the email incorrectly, so the letter initially didnâ€™t even arrive. When he finally fixed the mistake, Peskov didnâ€™t answer back.
That was â€œthe most direct interaction yet of a top Trump aide and a senior member of Putinâ€™s governmentâ€!
As outlined in his initial mandate, Mueller explored â€œany linksâ€ between the Russian government and the campaign of Donald Trump. His conclusion spoke directly to the question of whether there was any kind of quid pro quo between the two sides:
â€œThe investigation examined whether these contacts involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future.â€
In other words, all those fancy org charts were meaningless. Because there was no conspiracy, all those â€œwalls are closing inâ€ reports â€” and there were a ton of them â€” were wrong. We were told weâ€™d hit â€œturning pointâ€ after â€œturning pointâ€ leading to the â€œthe beginning of the end,â€ with Trump certain, soon, to either resign in shame, Nixon-style, or be impeached.
The â€œRNC platformâ€ change story was a canard, according to Mueller. The exchanges Trump figures had with ambassador Sergei Kislyak were â€œbrief, public, and non-substantive.â€ The conversations Jeff Sessions had with Kislyak at the convention didnâ€™t â€œinclude any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.â€ Mueller added â€œinvestigators did not establish that [Carter] Page conspired with the Russian government.â€
There was no blackmail, no secret bribe from Rosneft, no five-year cultivation plan, no evidence of any kind of any relationship that ever existed between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Michael Cohen â€œnever traveled to Prague.â€
The whole Steele dossier appears to have been bunk, with even Bob Woodward now saying the â€œhighly questionableâ€ document â€œneeds to be investigated.â€ The Times similarly is reporting, two-plus years late, that â€œpeople familiarâ€ with Steeleâ€™s work began to have â€œmisgivings about [the reportâ€™s] reliability arose not long after the document became public.â€
Reporters are going to insist all they did was accurately report the developments of a real investigation. They didnâ€™t imply vast criminality that wasnâ€™t there, or hoodwink audiences into thinking a Watergate-style ending was just around the corner, or routinely blow meaningless episodes like the Sessions-Kislyak meeting out of proportion, or regularly smear people who not only werenâ€™t part of a conspiracy but had no connection to anything (see here for an example).
Theyâ€™ll also claim they didnâ€™t spend years openly rooting for indictment and impeachment via wish-casted predictions disguised as reporting and commentary, or denouncing people who doubted the conspiracy as spies and Putin apologists, or clearing their broadcast panels and op-ed pages of skeptics while giving big stages to craven conspiracy-spinners like Malcolm Nance and Luke Harding.
Thatâ€™s fine. In the short term, a significant portion of the country will probably agree coverage was appropriate, probably the same sizable plurality of poll respondents who say they disagree on some level with Muellerâ€™s findings. A lot of people out there despise Trump, and at least right now will be inclined to sympathy for broadcasters and editorialists who gave full quarter to the most damning theories of conspiracy and criminality in the Russia case.
… [N]ews audiences over time lose trust in news organizations that tell them what they want to hear politically, but get the substance of things wrong.
The Mueller report makes clear reporters were sold wolf whistles over and over, led by reams of unnamed official sources who urged them to see meaning in meaningless things and assume connections that werenâ€™t there.
Reporters should be furious about being fed these red herrings. They should be outraged at all those people who urged them to publish the Steele report, which might have led to career-imperiling mistakes in print. They should be mad as hell at CIA chief Gina Haspel and the other unnamed officials who told them disclosing the name of already long-ago exposed government informant Stefan Halper would â€œrisk lives.â€
More than anything, reporters should be furious at the many sources close to the various investigations who (it now seems clear) must have known pretty early there were serious holes in many areas of this story, and that a lot of these â€œdotsâ€ were dead ends, but didnâ€™t warn their press counterparts. For instance, the papers should be mad those who supposedly had misgivings about the Steele report didnâ€™t warn them earlier.
But theyâ€™re not mad, which makes it look like a case of intentional blindness, in which eyes and ears were shut among other things because the Trump-Russia conspiracy tale made a ton of money. Media companies earned boffo ratings while the Mueller probe still carried the drama of a potential spectacular ending, with blue-state audiences eating up all those â€œwalls are closing inâ€ hot takes.
This fiasco will surely end up being a net plus for Trump. The obstruction parts of the report make him look like a brainless goon and thug, but the absence of what Mueller repeatedly calls â€œunderlying crimeâ€ make his ravings about an elitist mob out to get him look justified. This is not an easy thing to achieve, but weâ€™re there, and the press is a big part of that picture.
I cannot help comparing the way this one came out with the Anti-Bush Intelligence Operations, the PlameGame (in which the Bush Administration was blamed for supposedly leaking the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame, and Scooter Libby convicted of lying to prosecutors, when Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald knew all along that it was the disloyal-to-Bush Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who revealed Plame’s identity to Robert Novak), and the “Bush-Lied-People-Died” Missing Iraqi WMDs view of the war, which successfully discredited both the Iraq War and the Bush Administration with the presently concluding “Stolen Election/Russian Collusion” attempted coup against Trump.
The difference is that Trump fought back, while George W. Bush stood there like a punching bag, taking every hit, and treating the hostile media and his Deep State opponents as if they were the legitimate authorities.
Trump may not be the ideal President in every respect, but at least he is a fighter.