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April 25, 2019

No, the Press Didn't Get The Big Things Mostly Right on Collusion

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone:

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 didn't just "fail to establish" evidence of crime. His report is full of incredibly damning passages, like one about Russian officialdomís efforts to reach the Trump campaign after the election: "They appeared not to have preexisting contacts and struggled to connect with senior officials around the President-Elect."

Not only was there no "collusion," the two camps didnít even have each others' phone numbers!

In March of 2017, in one of the first of what would become a mountain of mafia-hierarchy-style "Trump-Russia contacts" graphics in major newspapers, the Washington Post described an email Trump lawyer Michael Cohen sent to Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov. They called it "the most direct interaction yet of a top Trump aide and a senior member of Putinís government."

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 didnít even arrive. When he finally fixed the mistake, Peskov didn't answer back.

That was "the most direct interaction yet of a top Trump aide and a senior member of Putinís government"!

As outlined in his initial mandate, Mueller explored "any links" 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:


"The 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."

In other words, all those fancy org charts were meaningless. Because there was no conspiracy, all those "walls are closing in" reports -- and there were a ton of them -- were wrong. We were told we'd hit "turning point" after "turning point" leading to the "the beginning of the end," with Trump certain, soon, to either resign in shame, Nixon-style, or be impeached.

The "RNC platform" change story was a canard, according to Mueller. The exchanges Trump figures had with ambassador Sergei Kislyak were "brief, public, and non-substantive." The conversations Jeff Sessions had with Kislyak at the convention didn't "include any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign." Mueller added "investigators did not establish that [Carter] Page conspired with the Russian government."

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 "never traveled to Prague."

The whole Steele dossier appears to have been bunk, with even Bob Woodward now saying the "highly questionable" document "needs to be investigated." The Times similarly is reporting, two-plus years late, that "people familiar" with Steele's work began to have "misgivings about [the reportís] reliability arose not long after the document became public."


Reporters are going to insist all they did was accurately report the developments of a real investigation. They didn't imply vast criminality that wasn'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 werenít part of a conspiracy but had no connection to anything (see here for an example).

They'll also claim they didnít 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.

...

But as conservatives found out in 2016, news 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 [sic] over and over, led by reams of unnamed official sources who urged them to see meaning in meaningless things and assume connections that weren't there.

Read the whole thing. At the end, he begins pointing out that the press should be the most interested in how they were deceived, not the least interested -- unless they were "willfully blind," or, I'd say, part of the information operation from the start.

I think Taibbi has that "wolf" metaphor wrong at the end, there, or his editor didn't understand his correctly-worded reference and erroneously changed it to something that he had heard of, but was wrong in context.

The current slang is "sold them wolf tickets." Or: sold tickets to the wolf show.

The reference is to the boy who cried wolf -- if you're selling wolf tickets, you're selling tickets to see a wolf that just doesn't exist, something that you exaggerated or are straight-up making up.

That's one of the few bits of current internet lingo I know (and I actually like it).


digg this
posted by Ace of Spades at 03:11 PM

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