The Media Is Ever Happy to Be Gaslit by Republicans
... I’ve marvelled at how ingenuous and pliable so many media voices have been in the face of spin that was entirely predictable. The Times has been among the most credulous, more or less taking at face value the Barr/Trump claim of blanket exoneration. Interestingly, Roll Call has been among the most cautious and focused. But most of the mainstream outlets have taken the Barr letter almost entirely at face value, a decision that seemed ill-considered yesterday and even more so today.
The Russia scandal isn’t a story in isolation. It’s part of a larger story about the rise of plutocratic corruption and right wing authoritarianism in the US, something Donald Trump has both embodied and catalyzed. In that sense it’s not separate from the rest of Trump’s scandals or, contrary to the claims of many, the range of right wing policies he and his Republican Party have advanced. With that said, I don’t think even this story – Trump’s relationship with Russia, the 2016 campaign and his efforts to obstruct and coverup – are really close to over.
On the obstruction question, what we have is a unilateral and unexplained decision on the part of an Attorney General recently appointed on the basis of a memo in which he argued that it was essentially impossible, as a matter of law and the constitution, for the President to obstruct justice. In other words, he’s already told us that he doesn’t think there’s any set of facts that could amount to obstruction or, more specifically, that there’s no way that the President could do so by the corrupt use of his legitimate executive powers.
His judgement tells us nothing as a substantive matter and asks us all collectively to pretend we didn’t see what we all saw happen before our eyes. As I wrote when Barr was nominated, he’s a partisan with a record of putting his hands on the scales for the President he serves. I said I thought he would do everything he could – that’s why he was appointed – to protect Trump short of destroying his reputation in Republican DC or breaking the law. This all fits that prediction to a T.
On the question of collusion or coordination, again, Barr’s gloss on the report similarly asks us to believe that none of us saw what we saw with our own eyes – numerous instances of covert communication, offers of assistance, back channels, business deals being secretly negotiated while the President aggressively pushed the Russian line, a campaign manager handing over campaign data to a Russian intelligence asset and planning peace deals and sanctions relief that was Russia’s top foreign policy goal.
The quote from the report says the investigation did not “establish” conspiracy or coordination. I think we need to take this at face value – they did not find sufficient evidence to prove that a crime had occurred. Was there no evidence? Did they not believe it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? Were they unable to gain the cooperation of key players?
As I said yesterday, these are questions the report likely answers. Perhaps when we see the report it will turn out that the story is quite different than we thought. But I tend to doubt it. Everything I see here tells me that the Barr letter looked its best on day one and will look worse on every succeeding day.---------------------
The crescendo of furious gaslighting following Barr's propaganda summary suggests a plan was place to exploit the gap between the submission of the report and public revelation of what's in it to delegitimize Mueller's actual findings and the ongoing investigations.
Trump cronies are incoherently claiming BOTH (a) that the report exonerates him AND (b) the investigation was so ethically compromised and politically biased nothing that came of it can be taken seriously and shouldn't be made public. Obviously can't be both.
Trump's "one weird trick" is the shameless public delegitimization of anyone aligned against his interests. Once again, we're seeing he's the GOAT at this evil art. It's what's made him the Houdini of industrial-scale white-collar theft.
Our idiot media still isn't capable of understanding how to not be co-opted by Trump's reality-bending propaganda machine, and continues to get played like a burgled Stradivarius.
Barr's cover-up gambit means Mueller will certainly be called to testify under oath in the House. That's why we're getting the full-on blitz to mischaracterize his findings: to lock the media and public into a favorable narrative nowhere in evidence, before he actually speaks.
The Trump machine's rush to assert an adamantly conclusive interpretation of the investigation on nothing but a crony appointee's spin on it, and then using this to discredit the larger attempt to uphold the rule of law and separation of powers is completely poisonous.
The media's atrocious gullibility, which is letting this happen without serious resistance, is even more scandalous than the credulity that herded public opinion behind the invasion of Iraq. Because we already *know* this administration does nothing but lie.
This Trump campaign memo seeking to de-platform Democrats constitutionally duty-bound to check executive abuses of power, on the basis of claims consistent with Barr's gloss on Mueller's report, gives away the aim of the game: no rule of law, no oversight.
The Trump machine is making a lot of political hay with necessary legal distinctions. Barr says Mueller didn't establish conspiracy or coordination b/w the campaign &"the Russian government," which doesn't imply there wasn't plenty with Russians hard to pin as agents of Putin. He says Mueller didn't establish that any Trump associate or U.S. citizen "knowingly coordinated" with the IRA to influence the election. Which doesn't imply that Stone (not part of the campaign) didn't coordinate with anonymous agents of the IRA, or with Assange (not American.)
Barr says Mueller supplies evidence of obstruction, then uses the fact that he doesn't establish conspiracy to a certain legal standard (which doesn't at all rule it out, in fact) to argue in a shady way that there was nothing to obstruct, so he let's Trump off scot-free.
The Trump admin/campaign then uses it's own opportunistic judgment as a fixed fact to leverage an attack on the legitimacy of Dem oversight officials in Congress. But Congress's constitutional oversight authority is wholly independent of the executive's findings about itself. Trump has gone to pains to confuse people into accepting that the legitimacy of congressional oversight depends on a prior, narrow legal finding of criminality, which it has done everything it can to prevent.
Having done it successfully, it's attacking the separation of powers. But congressional power over the executive under the constitution is entirely political. If it decides as a body that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, that settles it. Trump's hand-picked AG (confirmed by a lapdog Senate, with a record of shielding presidents from scandal) telling us what the report says & sitting on it doesn't settle anything. But spinning it like it does to prevent congressional oversight tell us a lot.
This is far from over.