During the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee secretly bought and paid for an information campaign alleging treasonous collusion between Donald Trump and Russia to steal an election belonging to Clinton.
The campaign was run by Fusion GPS, which specializes in spreading information into the media. Fusion GPS principal Glenn Simpson and British ex-spy-for-hire Christopher Steele secretly met with myriad media companies during the campaign and after the election to spread their dramatic tales claiming that Trump campaign affiliates were working hand-in-hand with Russian operatives, and that the Russians had compromising information on President Trump.
They also got the information — which they claimed came from Kremlin operatives and other Russians with ties to Vladimir Putin — into the U.S. government to secure widespread spying on the Trump campaign.
Literally nothing of significance alleged in the information campaign has been proven to be true. Yes, Russia is a country with Putin as a leader, and yes Carter Page visited Russia, but two years into one of the most thoroughly investigated issues of our time, no evidence has been provided to come even remotely close to proving Page is a mastermind spy who secretly coordinated with Russian officials to bring down America’s next president. Or that Michael Cohen went to Prague to make arrangements with the Russian officials. Despite the dramatic claims of Paul Manafort’s involvement in this Russian plot, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has told the court that nothing in Manafort’s money-laundering trial will touch on this claim.
Still, that weaponized information campaign was so successful that it spawned widespread spying on the Trump campaign followed up by a special counsel investigation without limits. At best, the media fell for the information campaign hook, line, and sinker. At worst, they were complicit in spreading information they knew to be false. Rather than admitting any gullibility or error, many media figures are absolutely desperate to save face.
The only way the country knows that the Russia conspiracy theory was a Clinton campaign operation that was weaponized and subsidized by the country’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies is thanks to congressional oversight. Two committees in particular have done actual work to uncover facts in the face of media misinformation: The Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). Nunes has taken most of the heat for doing congressional oversight rather than congressional complacency.
Rachel Maddow last week aired secret audio obtained at a Republican fundraiser that featured Nunes. He spoke about the importance of Republicans keeping the House if they want to keep doing oversight rather than complacently accept a Clinton-funded and directed narrative of treasonous collusion. He also said that while he supports impeaching Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has obstructed congressional oversight of the FBI, the timing is bad since the Senate needs to confirm a Supreme Court justice nominee. You can watch or read his remarks here.
It surprises no one that Maddow reported this secret audio breathlessly on her show, even if his comments were obvious. Of course the only people holding the FBI accountable for using Clinton campaign research to spy on the Trump campaign are a couple of Republican-led congressional oversight committees. Of course they can’t continue to hold those institutions accountable if they’re out of power. So obviously Republican victory to accomplish this goal is a perfectly normal thing to discuss at a Republican fundraiser where participants are probably aware that if Democrats take the House, they’ll promptly go after Trump.
The ostensibly less excitable media, however, aped Maddow’s spin entirely. They claimed that there were two dramatic aspects of the “secret” audio. One is that Nunes has a crazy idea that Democrats want to impeach President Trump and that the media and a politicized Justice Department are not the best protection against the plot. The second is that Nunes has political reasons for opposing Rosenstein’s immediate impeachment.
Here’s Marc Ambinder:
If that’s “least biased” I honestly can’t imagine what “most biased” would be.
The Washington Post headline was “Devin Nunes, in secretly recorded tape, tells donors GOP majority is necessary to protect Trump: ‘We’re the only ones.’” The article by Isaac Stanley-Becker is downright hilarious. It makes Maddow seem calm.
It notes that Nunes publicly speaks in the same way he was “caught” speaking at the fundraiser, but adds that there is a nefarious new step of coming up with the crazy idea that Democrats might want to impeach the president even though the aggressive special counsel has not provided any reason for impeachment:
… Nunes took the new step of tying the investigation to the midterm elections this fall. In comments captured in an audio recording aired Wednesday by ‘The Rachel Maddow Show,’ Nunes laid out in stark terms the rationale for preserving the GOP majority in Congress.
‘If Sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones, which is really the danger,’ Nunes said at an event for Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, referring to Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, and Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. Sessions said last year that he would keep his distance from inquiries related to the 2016 election, owing to his role in Trump’s campaign — a move that has frustrated the president, leading him to blame his own attorney general for the ‘Russian Witch Hunt Hoax.’
‘I mean, we have to keep all these seats,’ Nunes added. ‘We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.’
First off, maybe Nunes is crazy to think that Democrats plan to impeach the president within 30 seconds of taking the House. Or, you know, maybe he got the idea that Democrats are thinking pretty intently on impeaching the president the moment they take the House from statements they’ve made here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here. One or the other.
And I think at this point we can all agree that The Washington Post is not going to hold the FBI or DOJ accountable for any misdeeds in recent years. This is the paper, after all, that has yet to have one of its own reporters even mention the latest news with Bruce Ohr, much less write the dozens of hard-hitting investigative pieces people have every right to expect at this stage.
Ohr is the Justice Department official demoted last year who has been called to testify before a joint House Committee investigating his work on behalf of Fusion GPS. He had failed to mention the income his wife received as an employee of — well, what are the odds of this right here, Fusion GPS — while he also funneled dossier information to the FBI from Steele after Steele was supposedly fired as a source for lying about his many contacts with the media.
The Post did manage to put on its website an AP wire story headlined — and I must clarify that I’m not joking here — “Rain pouring, Trump rages on Twitter and hangs with bikers.” The brief and completely inadequate mention of Ohr’s name occurs in the 19th paragraph.
Instead of explaining who he really is, or why President Trump was actually mentioning him, the AP wire copy is that Trump “criticized senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who was friends with Chris Steele, the former British intelligence officer commissioned by an American political research firm to explore Trump’s alleged ties with the Russian government.” Almost as if democracy dies in darkness, no?
As for the supposedly shocking thing Nunes said about Rosenstein on “secret audio,” it happens to match quite closely with what Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said when the idea of impeaching Rosenstein first arose.
NBC News manages to contradict itself in its own story on the matter. Here’s the top of NBC News‘ story, headlined, “Secret recording shows GOP’s Nunes saying Rosenstein impeachment would delay Supreme Court pick,” with the subhead, “‘Do you want them [the Senate] to drop everything and not confirm the Supreme Court justice?'” Rep. Devin Nunes said at a recent fundraiser.” And please enjoy the modifier of “conservative” that Phil Helsel chose for his “news” story:
Hard-line conservative Republicans in the House recently hit a roadblock in their effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when Speaker Paul Ryan opposed the move. But one of those conservatives, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, gave a different explanation to donors recently when asked why the impeachment effort had stalled.
He said it’s because an impeachment would delay the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
LATER IN THE SAME STORY:
Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., commented a day after the resolution was introduced: ‘Do I support impeachment of Rosenstein? No, I do not.’
He also said at the time that if an impeachment resolution were to pass the House, it would ‘tie the Senate into knots,’ and could delay the confirmation of Kavanaugh.
Well, I’m sure glad we got a breathless story that tells us Nunes is so extreme that he agrees with Ryan about the problems with impeaching Rosenstein in the next few months.
Note the bias inherent in all these stories. It’s never that Nunes and other Republicans are too wimpy to demand an end to the obstruction and delays that the FBI and Department of Justice have foisted on the American people and their House of Representatives. No, it’s very nearly the opposite. That any and all attempts to restore Article 1 authority or constitutional governance are nefarious and must be stopped in service to the administrative state.
In any case, if it wasn’t controversial for Ryan to say impeaching Rosenstein would harm Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle, it’s not controversial for Nunes to say the same thing, even if Nunes is doing congressional oversight of the FBI and DOJ in the face of media opposition.
It is worth noting that Nunes’ and others’ work doing real congressional oversight has deeply embarassed the media. Without congressional oversight, the country would not know:
- That Clinton and the DNC secretly funded Fusion GPS’s dossier.
- That Trump affiliates were wiretapped during the campaign.
- That a $50 million public relations operation is ongoing to feed Russia stories to the media and government even now.
- That the FBI is working with this group running the PR operation.
- That Bruce Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS.
- That top officials were leaking to CNN.
- That the unverified dossier was used to justify FISA warrant applications.
- That no official intelligence was used in Peter Strzok’s electronic communication launching the investigation.
And much, much more. Yes, Nunes makes the media’s role in this story look just terrible. Still, their derangement toward him is getting ridiculous.