Sunday, March 24, 2019


The Mueller Report & the Media

So, the Mueller report is finished and the findings are starting to be released. Given their track record in covering the Mueller investigation it is likely that mainstream media outlets such as National Public Radio and the New York Times will be unable to adhere to the truth when discussing the report.

By this, I mean that, initially, they are likely to get the bare bones of the report correct then they will devolve into spins, distortions, and fabrications. I am not suggesting that the people who write, edit, and report the news will deliberately be dishonest—although there will likely be some of that—but rather that they will be overcome by their own bias.

Just about two weeks ago there was a striking example of this cognitive impairment in action. The Daily is a program produced by the New York Times that airs on National Public Radio stations. On March 11, The Daily aired "Part 2: What to Expect When You’re Expecting (the Mueller Report)". Host Michael Barbaro spoke with "Michael S. Schmidt, who has been covering the special counsel investigation for The New York Times."

Here's an excerpt from the transcript of the program (the highlights in bold below are mine):
Michael Schmidt: ... So if Mueller says, there's nothing here to be seen, then the Republicans — we know where they're going to be. They're going to be standing next to the president.
Michael Barbaro: So in that case, do you expect the Democrats would proceed with these [Congressional] investigations, but they would kind of limp along and there wouldn't be a ton of political support for anything approaching impeachment, no matter what is found? Or is it possible these investigations would literally just start to shut down?
Michael Schmidt: I don't think they shut down. I think that they limp along, because the Democrats will still have a base that thinks that Trump has done a lot of things that are terrible. And there will be pressure on them to continue to press. Democrats will say, Mueller may not have enough evidence to show the president broke the law, but we know that he has abused his power and done X and Y and Z. And they'll go on and on and on, and they'll say we can not ignore this.
In the next segment Barbaro raises the possibility that Mueller's findings will do something other than fully exculpate or fully inculpate Trump.
Michael Barbaro: So Mike, what could possibly be the third option? Because in our legal system, when it comes to the special counsel, there only seems to be two options — charge the president with a crime or not charge the president.

Michael Schmidt: For lack of a better term or to make up a term, I would call it the Comey hybrid.

Michael Barbaro: What is — (CHUCKLES) what is the Comey hybrid?
At this point Barbaro and Schmidt discuss former FBI Director Comey's July 2016 press conference. Their conversation is interspersed with recordings of Comey from the press conference. I'm going to skip most of that and get to my point.
Archived Recording of James Comey: There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position, or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about those matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.

Michael Schmidt: But that at the end of the day —

Archived Recording of James Comey: Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.

Michael Schmidt: It didn't meet the high bar of indicting her.

Archived Recording of James Comey: We cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.

Michael Barbaro: So a Comey hybrid is to come out and say no charges are going to be filed against the subject of an investigation, but here are all the things we found. Here are all the implications — essentially not prosecution, but a kind of scolding.

Michael Schmidt: It's not even about scolding. It's — we're not going to charge, but I'm going to give you a rare look underneath the hood.

Archived Recording of James Comey: Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system in violation of a federal statute that makes it a felony to mishandle classified information, either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way.
I have omitted about two minutes of the program here. The next part is the really striking bit.
Michael Barbaro: So the conclusion was that it [i.e. Comey's press conference] was an unnecessary, kind of gratuitous sullying of Hillary Clinton, even though there was no evidence she had committed a crime.

Michael Schmidt: Correct. They're saying if the F.B.I. investigated the average American and found that that person had not committed a crime, we don't then stand up and say, hey, look at all the unsavory things they did — which we didn't think rose to something they should be charged with.
In case you missed it, just moments earlier Barbaro and Schmidt had listened to a recording of Comey saying: "there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information". Comey also makes a case of sorts that Clinton was grossly negligent in her handling of classified material which he later points out is a violation of the federal statute.

In other words, Comey clearly indicated there is evidence of a criminal violation. Yet less than three minutes later Barbaro is on to "there was no evidence she [Clinton] had committed a crime" and Schmidt is agreeing with him.

In coming days, we can expect the mainstream media and Democrats to do a sort of inversion of this. It will probably go kind of like this: 'Well, yes, Mueller found no evidence of collusion but he clearly failed to exonerate the President on obstruction of justice.' They will focus on the possible obstruction of the investigation of the non-existent crime of collusion. Then, in short order, they will omit or undermine the finding that Mueller found no evidence of collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign.

As somewhat of an aside, Dana Milbank, writing in The Washington Post last Monday, has given us more evidence of the extremes to which Trump Derangement Syndrome has driven liberals, Democrats, etc.

In "Trump is right. This is a witch hunt!" Milbank actually takes up the defense of witch hunts (Milbank is not alone). He asserts: "The treatment of Trump by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and other investigators does have characteristics of a witch hunt. This is because Trump has characteristics of a witch."

He continues, quoting a community college history professor: "if what is happening to Trump is a witch hunt, 'it is only in a good sense, that is, this is society policing the boundaries that they believe to be ethically and morally right.' " You see, "witch hunts weren't all bad, and their targets weren't always innocent."

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