On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller returned a multi-count indictment charging 12 Russians and the Russian military agency, GRU, with crimes related to hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s computers and seeking to use the information to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. When the news broke, pundits quickly used Mueller’s latest charges to chastise Trump for claiming the special counsel investigation is a “witch hunt.”
The New York Times claimed “[t]he 37-page indictment — handed up by a federal grand jury in Washington — amounted to a detailed rebuttal of Mr. Trump, who has sowed doubts that Russia interfered in the election and dismissed questions about its meddling as ‘fake news.’” CNN’s Jake Tapper and Josh Campbell used the criminal indictment to counter Trump’s “witch hunt” charge.
Tapper tweeted: “New Mueller indictments come just hours after POTUS called the Mueller probe, again, a ‘witch hunt,’” while Campbell quipped, “What do we call a Witch Hunt that actually leads us to witches?” The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig soon joined the clique, adding a dose of humor: “Oh, *now* I understand. It’s a ‘-vich’ hunt!”
Zweig’s tweet was amusing, but represents a media pile-on in feigning confusion over the “witch hunt” Trump complained about. The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway pointed out their folly, replying: “Well, in Salem Witch Hunt 200 people were accused, 20 were executed, 5 died in prison. As you well know, ‘witch hunt’ refers not to finding bad Russians but to media/intel campaign of suggesting Trump is a ‘Salem witch’ who treasonously colluded with Russians to steal election.”
Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller, concurred, noting “Trump critics have done an excellent job of blurring the lines on this.”
Trump keeps reiterating this point, but to no avail. In February, he stressed, “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” rather, “[t]he Russian ‘hoax’ was that the trump campaign colluded with Russia—it never did!” The media responded, not by reporting that Trump has conceded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, but by “fact checking” the president’s claim that he never said Russia did not meddle. The New York Times catalogued Trump’s comments dating back to June 2016.
Of course, Trump shares some blame, given his 2016 comments and continued media-baiting with tweets he knows the press will misrepresent, such as his June 28 one: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!”
Predictably, and without forethought, the press pounced, reporting that “Trump sent out an early-morning tweet once more calling into question the conclusion of the US intelligence agencies that Russia was involved in the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails during the election.” That narrative quickly germinated in the Twittersphere, but as I pointed out at the time, Trump “DIDN’T say Russia had nothing to do with meddling! He said RUSSIA ‘says’ they didn’t AND Trump points to evidence Obama’s folks ignored that could PROVE Russia interference.”
Had the media paused even momentarily, they would have realized that the president’s reference to the DNC server refutes claims he was denying Russian interference in the election. But they didn’t. So instead the press handed Trump another example of fake news.
By intentionally treating Trump’s denial of colluding with Russia as a repudiation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the liberal media seeks to accomplish three goals, one silly and two significant. First, by painting the president as a “Russian interference denier,” the press attempts to make Trump look foolish, incompetent, or both. While this may be music to Manhattan, Main Street America has long ago tired of this tactic and writes it off as the fake news it is.
Conflating allegations that Trump colluded with Russia with evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election also serves two more nefarious purposes: One, it allows the media to ignore Trump’s true criticism of the special counsel’s investigation into his presidential campaign. Two, it allows the press to pretend evidence of Russian misconduct equates to proof that the Trump campaign was complicit in Russia’s interference in the election.
For instance, in Friday’s New York Times article on the indictment, after summarizing the special counsel’s charges, the newspaper of record pivoted to Trump: “Mr. Mueller has gathered extensive evidence of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign: Mr. Trump’s eldest son met with a Russian lawyer in hopes of receiving political dirt on Mrs. Clinton; one adviser has admitted being tipped off in advance to Russian hacking of Democratic emails; another was in contact with a Twitter account used by Russian hackers; a federal judge found probable cause that a third adviser was an unlawful Russian agent. And the Trump campaign repeatedly and falsely denied any contacts with Russia. Whether any of that violated federal law is the weightiest question facing Mr. Mueller, and Friday’s indictment did not answer it.”
This passage alone deserves four Pinocchios. The “one adviser” refers to George Papadopoulos, but contrary to the Times’ claim, Papadopoulos denied advance knowledge of the Russian hack of the DNC emails. The federal judge finding “probable cause that a third adviser was an unlawful Russian agent”? That would be a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act judge, who issued a court order allowing the DOJ to conduct surveillance on Carter Page.
However, Page has not been charged with a crime, and the probable cause finding relied heavily on the now-debunked Christopher Steele dossier. Further, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is investigating potential abuse of the FISA process, and evidence continues to mount that the Obama administration and career DOJ and FBI employees wrongly surveilled Page.
Even ignoring these prevarications, the purpose of the article shines clear: to portray the recent indictment as evidence that Trump colluded with Russia. Yet, contrary to the mainstream media’s narrative, Friday’s indictment does not implicate Trump, but exonerate him.
Specifically, the indictment alleged Russian intel began its efforts to hack the DNC in March 2016, which was “before Super Tuesday II and the Florida/Ohio/Illinois primaries,” and thus before Trump became the presumptive nominee. Additionally, the indictment did not include any allegations that Trump campaign members colluded with the Russians.
Thus, while Mueller has brought more than 80 criminal charges against 20-plus people and three companies, as Andrew McCarthy quipped in response to the media misdirection: “There are 144 million more people in Russia who will never see the inside of an American courtroom. If Mueller indicts all of them, his stats will be *really* impressive . . . and there’ll still be no Trump espionage conspiracy against the election.”
This all goes to prove what Trump has been saying all along—that the special counsel’s investigation collusion between his campaign and Russia is a witch hunt.
The media may believe it is hurting Trump by continuing the Russia collusion charade, but it is not. The Left’s trial by ordeal will not destroy Trump, but it may well hurt our country and achieve Russia’s goal of sowing discord. Friday’s indictment of Russian nationals and Kremlin’s military agency should have united Americans in outrage over Russia’s attempts to influence our election, but instead a sideshow ensued, all to put Trump in his place.
What the press doesn’t realize, however, is that if it continues these efforts, Trump’s place will be the White House for another term.