We have now reached the “false equivalence” act of the NeverTrump Show. In this episode, we find the president’s foes on the Right equating the outrage of his supporters over potential corruption at the FBI regarding the Hillary Clinton email investigation with the outrage his detractors over Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia election-collusion investigation.
For months, many NeverTrumpers willfully avoided any mention of the now crisis-level misconduct that occurred at President Obama’s Justice Department in the months before and after the 2016 election. (I ask you to scan the Twitter timeline of your most reviled NeverTrumper to compare the number of tweets mentioning Stormy Daniels versus Peter Strzok.) Thanks to the exceptional work of Chairman Devin Nunes’ House Intelligence Committee and fearless reporters such as Sara Carter and Andrew McCarthy, we learn more unsettling news each week about how the top players in these two crucial investigations have conducted themselves.
The latest scandal involves retrieved and missing texts between Peter Strzok, a top FBI official who was instrumental in both the Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations until he was demoted in August 2017, and his mistress Lisa Page, a Bureau lawyer also working on the Trump-Russia probe. Aside from the damning content in several texts between the two, the FBI now claims it did not “capture” messages sent between the lovers’ phones from December 16, 2016—a few days after Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest laid out a long narrative to the White House press corps about the evidence pointing to the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia and suggesting Congress investigate it—and May 17, 2017, the exact day Mueller was appointed special counsel.
This, in addition to last week’s intelligence committee vote to make available to all House members a four-page memo detailing how the politically funded and motivated Steele dossier was used to gain FISA authority to spy on the Trump campaign, has most Republicans justifiably infuriated. Typically mild-mannered congressmen called the memo “jaw-dropping,” “deeply disturbing,” “shocking,” and compared it to tactics used by the KGB. Pundits and editorial boards, including the Wall Street Journal, are demanding the House make the document public. A #releasethememo hashtag even trended on Twitter last week.
Jonah Shrugs . . .
But this drama is eliciting a big meh in some quarters, particularly on the anti-Trump Right.
In a post Wednesday afternoon, Jonah Goldberg seized the middle ground between what he sees as the MAGA-crazed plebes on Fox News and talk radio, and folks on the Left who are convinced the Mueller investigation will result in Trump’s ouster.
Concerning the new Strzok-Page and FISA memo revelations, Goldberg says, “there’s just too much theatrics and chest thumping involved. Again, there are some legitimately disturbing facts (and allegations of facts) swirling around the FBI, the Mueller investigation, etc. But there’s also an astonishing amount of manufactured outrage, absurd dot-connecting, and near-hysteria.” How dare people be angry about what could be one of the biggest presidential scandals in U.S. history involving our most trusted law enforcement agency! Goldberg also says the #releasethememo campaign is “obviously a PR stunt” and that it “will look not just absurd but dishonorable if the memo doesn’t live up to the hype.”
To bolster his view, Goldberg misrepresents a Fox News interview Tuesday night between U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and anchor Bret Baier. After discussing a text from Page mocking Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s statement that she’ll accept any referral from James Comey on the Clinton email investigation—“yeah, it’s a real profile in couragw [sic] since she knows no charges will be brought”—Johnson called it “further evidence of corruption at the FBI. And that secret society . . . we have an informant that is talking about a group that were holding secret meetings off-site. There’s so much smoke here, there’s so much suspicion . . . .”
When Baier interrupted him to clarify “a secret society, secret meetings off-site at the Justice Department?” Johnson replied: “Correct.” Baier: “And you have an informant saying that?” Johnson: “Yes.”
. . . And Misrepresents
It was not a nebulous claim from the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee. Johnson isn’t exactly a firebrand or rabid partisan. But here’s how Goldberg assessed the interview:
But when Senator Ron Johnson got over his skis last night asserting not just bias but “corruption” at the FBI and hyping claims from an “informant” of a “secret society” scheming to do . . . something, I got a bad feeling. Asked by Bret Baier to clarify what, exactly, the senator was insinuating, Johnson responded with little more than a shrug and a statement that the matter needs to be dug into.
That is an intentional distortion of the context of Johnson’s comments. Furthermore, Johnson isn’t the only one making the “secret society” reference. House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) told Fox News’ Martha McCallum on Monday that “the day after the election . . . there is a text exchange between these two FBI agents, saying, ‘Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society.” Rep. John Ratcliffe also tweeted about a “secret society” text he viewed:
— John Ratcliffe (@RepRatcliffe) January 23, 2018
Sara Carter, an award-winning journalist who has helped expose much of this scandal, also backed up the “secret society” texts. So it’s not as if Johnson pulled it out of thin air.
Other NeverTrumpers took a break from bashing evangelicals and pushing the Stormy Daniels smut to give an assist to Trump foes on the Left to discredit the FBI scandal. Here’s Bill Kristol with a masterful non-sequitur:
That was a hell of a pro-Clinton conspiracy the Obama Administration, Comey and the FBI we’re engaged in, which culminated in Comey tipping the election ten days out…to Trump.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) January 24, 2018
Death of Expertise author and serial tweeter Tom Nichols bit down hard on the Russian-bots-are-pushing-the-release-the-memo ruse authored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.):
The Russians are attacking us, quite intelligently, at our two most vulnerable (and related) points: our fascination with social media, and our staggeringly low level of cultural and political literacy. They’re using the net to spread stuff they know Americans will believe.
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) January 23, 2018
Over at MSNBC, Nicolle Wallace couldn’t even get through an interview with NBC News reporter and suspected Fusion GPS mouthpiece Ken Dilanian without calling the missing text uproar “bat-bleep crazy” and then, “let me do the loons justice and play the secret society sound. Let’s roll Ron Johnson.”
Mounting Evidence of a Genuine Conspiracy
So the NeverTrumpers on the Right can keep trying to push a false balance—or worse, stare intently at the shiny swaying Democrat pendulum—and equate the Clinton email investigation and the Trump-Russia investigation. Here’s the main difference: There is little evidence so far that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election. Even the Democrats have largely abandoned that narrative, pivoting to Trump’s health, obstruction of justice accusations, and the laughable offense of Trump asking FBI Director Andy McCabe who he voted for.
On the other hand, more evidence emerges every week of how the Clinton investigation was politicized at best, corrupted at the very worst. Overlooked by the NeverTrumpers this week is Andy McCarthy’s explosive revelation that officials removed any reference to President Obama’s correspondence with Clinton on her unsecured server: “All cleaned up: no indictment, meaning no prosecution, meaning no disclosure of Clinton-Obama emails. It all worked like a charm . . . except the part where Mrs. Clinton wins the presidency and the problem is never spoken of again.”
That is only the latest bombshell—and proof—that there is more to the FBI “conspiracy” than there is to the Trump-Russia “conspiracy.” Goldberg again declares a pox on both houses: “It’s as if everyone who shouts about the other side being conspiracy theorists needs to have a conspiracy theory all their own as well,” and warns the GOP that “if you go all in with this conspiracy mongering, the only way to be vindicated is if the conspiracy is 100 percent verified. How often does that happen?”
But, to crib an old political adage, everyone is entitled to his own conspiracy theory but not his own facts. This “side” might not be 100 percent verified yet, but we are much closer to it than the other side. NeverTrumpers often accuse Trump supporters of being so blinded by loyalty to the president they purposefully ignore his flaws and shortcomings, but we continue to see how they are vulnerable to the very same myopia.
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