During a panel segment on NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday morning, Kimberly Strassel of The Wall Street Journal took MSNBC’s Joy Reid to task when discussing reports that White House advisor Jared Kushner may have suggested establishing a communication back channel with Russian officials.
Strassel explained that while Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, his team set up a secret communication line with Iranian officials to sow the seeds for diplomatic negotiations that would eventually become the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Let me set the scene for you: It’s 2008, we are having an election and candidate Obama, he’s not even president elect, sends William Miller over to Iran to establish a backchannel, and let the Iranians know should he win the election they will have friendlier terms. Okay? So this is a private citizen going to foreign soil, obviously in order to evade U.S. intelligence monitoring and establishing a backchannel with a sworn enemy of the United States who was actively disrupting our efforts in the military in the Middle East.
Reid pushed back with questions about Kushner’s reported actions.
“We don’t know the answers to any of those questions because what we’re getting here are half leaks and anonymously by sources,” Strassel replied.
Reid was visibly rattled toward the end of the exchange, and used her own show on MSNBC “AM Joy” later that morning to trash Strassel.
“The only source I could find was a Breitbart news article,” she said, referring to article that cited a column penned by Michael Ledeen, a former consultant to the National Security Council and U.S. Defense Department.
She described the longtime American Enterprise Institute scholar and writer as an “extremist, to be sure, as a sort of anti-Islamic sort of figure on the far right,” and proceeded to attack the idea that Obama established contact with Iran before he was sworn into the Oval Office.
She then quoted an excerpt of New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler’s book “Alter Egos,” explaining what a back channel is. The book explains that Obama did indeed set up a “back channel” to negotiate with Tehran privately. As The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius points out in the very same article that flashed across the screen as Reid spoke, Obama’s back channel with Iran was shrouded in secrecy.
Reid insisted the Obama administration’s back channel with the Iranians is different than the form of communication Trump’s team reportedly established with Russian officials because the former president established this line of communication in league with the State Department, whereas Trump’s team reportedly did not.
Russian officials routinely spread misinformation via communications they know are being monitored. Just because one Russian official said to another Russian official on monitored lines that Kushner wanted to set up a back channel with the Kremlin, that doesn’t mean it’s true. In other words, the Post’s reporting could be not only inaccurate, but further Soviet objectives.
“At the heart of this charge, of this accusation on the other side is that one couldn’t trust the outgoing administration because they are Democrats,” Reid said. “Essentially we are not one country, right? We’re two countries in which there’s a revolution every four years and the new regime takes power.”
Since Trump was elected, news outlets have published stories about his team’s relationship with Russian officials, typically citing unnamed sources, who are likely Obama administration holdovers. These reports frequently end up being completely false, which would give Trump’s team every reason to not want the Obama administration to help establish a back channel with Russian officials.
But that context didn’t stop MSNBC viewers from going after Strassel.
— Samantha Sanderson (@SamSanderson123) May 28, 2017
— Peter Madsen (@PeteSweetTweet) May 28, 2017
— Rachel London (@FlowergirlTV) May 28, 2017
— gurlinthewurld (@gurlinthewurld) May 28, 2017
Some of these responses are more coherent than others. . .
— lizzie (@LizzieWithA_Z) May 28, 2017